Politicians, activists and journalists routinely discuss America's eye-popping rates of incarceration. But what’s talked about less often is how many Americans live under probation or parole -- a sort of limbo within the nation’s criminal justice system.
A new report released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 4,708,100 adults live under community supervision, as of Dec. 31, 2014. That figure represents about 1 in 52 adults in the United States.
According to the report, the number of adults living under community supervision has decreased 1 percent from the same date last year. “Although this change was small, it was part of a larger trend,” the report noted. “In the past seven years, adults under community supervision declined between 0.5 percent and 2.6 percent annually, or by nearly 400,000 offenders.”
Parole is typically defined as a period of supervised release following a prison term, while probation is a court-ordered period of correctional supervision. In many states, parole and probation services are outsourced to private companies, leading many civil rights activists to argue that a for-profit community supervision system leads to more people being placed under probation and parole.
In this week’s report, the state of Georgia, which regularly contracts with for-profit probation companies, leads the nation in the number of adults placed under community supervision.
"Georgia leads the nation in the number of people on probation because of Georgia's booming private probation industry," Sarah Geraghty, an attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights, told the Associated Press this week. "About 80 percent of people on misdemeanor probation in Georgia are supervised by private companies. These companies have a profit motive to have as many people on probation as possible for as long as possible. It's as simple as that."