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51 Fed. Probation 56 (1987)
Probation and Felony Offenders

handle is hein.journals/fedpro51 and id is 152 raw text is: Probation and Felony Offenders
The Rand Corporation

The Rise In Felony Probation
VER THE last two decades, several trends
have converged to change the nation's proba-
tion population. Rising crime rates have led to
public demand that criminals get harsher treat-
ment; just deserts and incapacitation have
displaced rehabilitation as the primary aim of cor-
rections. Consequently, more felons are being im-
prisoned than ever before in our history. At the
same time, budget limitations have made it impossi-
ble for prison construction to keep pace with felony
convictions. Prison crowding has become so critical
that the courts have increasingly used probation to
catch the overflow. As Figure 1 shows, between
1974 and 1983, the prison population increased by
48 percent, but the probation population jumped
by 63 percent.


capable of rehabilitation through a productive,
supervised life in the community. Given its intent
and structure, can probation accommodate more
serious offenders, supervise them properly, and
keep   them  from   committing   more crimes?
Understanding how well probation works for felons
is a compelling public safety issue.
The Research Context
Unfortunately, there has been little research on
probation itself and virtually none on felony proba-
tion. A recent Rand Corporation study, funded by
the National Institute of Justice, used data from
California to look at basic assumptions about proba-
tion and its mission, to examine the public risks of
putting felons on probation, and to consider alter-

ids                                            change
-             Prison population +48
Parole population
I  1 l            I    I   I    I    I  __I____

1974  75   76   77   78   79    80   81   82   83

Figure 1

Probation sentences for adult felons have become
so common that a new term has emerged in criminal
justice circles: felony probation. Today, over one-
third of the nation's adult probation population con-
sists of persons convicted in Superior Courts of
felonies (as opposed    to misdemeanors). This
phenomenon raises some serious questions. Proba-
tion was originally intended for offenders who pose
little threat to society and were believed to be
*This research was Natured by the National Institute
of Justice as an NIJ Research in Brief (March 1985).

native means of punishing them. This article sum-
marizes the study findings.1
California's probation system is one of the largest
in the nation and was once regarded as the most in-
novative. Most probation systems acrosss the coun-
try have experienced budget cuts because of fiscal
limitations and the shift from rehabilitation to
punishment. With Proposition 13 and other fiscal
'Complete results are contained in Granting Felons Probation Public Risks and
Alternatives by Joan Petersilia, Susan Turner. James Kahan, and Joyce Peterson.
R-3186-NIJ. The Rand Corporation. January 1985. The report can be obtained by
writing Rand, 1700 Main Street. Santa Monica. California. 90406.



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