Public Safety Performance Project


Community Supervision

Nationwide, nearly 4.4 million people were under community supervision—mandatory oversight outside a secure facility, most commonly in the form of probation or parole—in 2018. That figure is more than double the number of incarcerated adults and makes supervision the largest part of the corrections system. Research has found that a substantial share of admissions to prison are people whose probation or parole was revoked for technical violations or new crimes.

The Pew Charitable Trusts works with policymakers, practitioners, and advocates, conducting research and providing data-driven technical assistance, to redefine the desired outcomes of community supervision and transform the probation and parole system into an alternative to incarceration rather than one of its leading drivers.

Pew’s research and analyses can help policymakers and other stakeholders better understand the evidence that supports reforms to protect public safety, reduce the supervised population, and improve long-term outcomes for people on probation and parole.


1 in 55 U.S. Adults Is on Probation or Parole

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More than a decade ago, policymakers around the country seeking to protect public safety, improve accountability, and save taxpayer dollars initiated a wave of bipartisan reforms that has reduced the number of people behind bars in many states. Because of their high costs and visibility, prisons garnered substantial public attention on criminal justice, while relatively little was paid to the largest part of the correctional system: community supervision.

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Policy Reforms Can Strengthen Community Supervision

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Since 1980, the nation’s community supervision population has ballooned by almost 240 percent. As of 2016, 1 in 55 U.S. adults (nearly 4.5 million people) are on probation or parole, more than twice the number incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails.