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BJS Looks at Probation, Parole in 2002

By the end of 2002, more than 6.7 million adults were incarcerated, on probation, or parole. This amounts to 3.1% of all adults in the United States, or about 1 in every 32 U.S. adults under correctional supervision. This is according to an August 2003 report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. The numbers represent an increase of 150,700 adults from year-end 2001 and are, according to the BJS, "a new high."

The BJS report, surveying parole and probation populations, found that by December 31, 2002, 753,141 adult men: and women were on parole, up 2.8% from 2001, while 3,995,165 adults were on probation, a 1.6% increase. The growth in the parole population for 2002 was nearly twice the rate of increase of 1.5% seen annually since 1995. Compared to the increases in jails (4.0% annual growth), prisons (3.5%), and probation (3.1%), parole populations are the slowest-growing segment of America's carcereal population. In an interesting contrast, the probation population in 2002 grew at half its normal annual rate.

The five states with the largest probation populations, in order, were Texas, California, Florida, Ohio, and New York. The five states with the largest percentage increase in probation populations were New Mexico, South Dakota, Kentucky, Ohio, and Mississippi. Only New Mexico (13.3%) and South Dakota (11.1%) showed double-digit increases in probationers. Only Idaho, which has the third-highest rate of probation supervision, showed a double-digit decrease in probationers (12.1%). The Federal probation population declined by 0.7% in 2002. Washington State supervises 3,819 adults on probation per 100,000 adult residents, the highest rate in the nation. New Hampshire (387 per 100,000) had the nation's lowest probation rate.

The parole population rose sharply from previous years. As the BJS noted, however, over half of the increase came from mandatory releases under sentencing statutes or good-time provisions. Twelve states had double-digit increases in parole populations, led by North Dakota (27.4%), New Mexico (25.5%), Kentucky (22.9%), Oklahoma (21.0%), and Montana (19.0%). Eighteen states saw parole population decreases, led by Washington (down 38.7%), South Carolina (14.4%), Florida (12.8%), Vermont (11.4%), and Virginia (7.0%).

A contrast appears between probation and parole populations' racial composition. Every year since 1995, Whites have comprised over half of all probationers (55% in 2002), while Blacks have remained a steady 31% of the probation population. In 2002, Hispanics made up 12% of the probation population, and all other groups, 2%. By contrast, Whites have been consistently less than half of the total parole population and less than the Black parole population. In 2002, the racial composition of parolees nationwide was 39% White, 42% Black, 18% Hispanic, and 1% all others. Women constituted about 1 in 5 probationers, but only 1 in 7 parolees. In 2002, 62% of adults successfully completed probation, compared to only 45% of parolees.

The report is titled Probation and Parole in the United States, 2002, report number NCJ 201135, published August 2003. One copy of the report is available for free by writing NCJRS, Post Office Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20849-6000. The report can be downloaded in ASCII or PDF format at the BJS Web site:

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