National Report Points to Successes in California Reform
California Stands Out with Prison Revocation Reforms that Lead to Better Outcomes According to New National Report


The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center released a national report—which shows significant progress has been made in California on the number of offenders returning to prison while on probation supervision. The report points out that the State of California stands above the rest with rates lower than the nationwide average.

“California Probation has been a leader in the nation by enacting reforms and policies that use scientific risk-assessment tools that are centered around rehabilitation,” said Karen Pank, Executive Director for the Chief Probation Officers of California. “Prior to sponsoring reforms such as SB 678, California was among the worst in the nation with some of the highest prison revocations, but now we have a significantly low number of people who violate probation and must go back to prison. The facts demonstrate that our reforms have resulted in tremendous progress.”

California’s Probation Reform Journey

  • In 2009 Probation Chiefs sponsored SB 678 (California Community Corrections Performance Incentives Act) which is a first-of-its-kind in California incentive-based funding to reduce revocations for people on probation.

  • Following the implementation of SB 678, Public Safety Realignment (AB 109) took another step in 2011 by significantly reducing parole revocations to prison.
  • In 2010, the first full year after county probation departments implemented the program, the daily population in state prison, on average, dropped by an estimated 6,008 offenders as a direct result of SB 678 according to the California Judicial Council’s findings.
  • Judicial Council also found the state’s overall probation failure rate dropped from 2006-2008 baseline rate of 7.9% to 6.1% a 23% reduction rate. And in 2011, the probation failure rate continued to decline to 5.5%. 
  • Probation currently sends nearly 70% fewer people to state prison than in 2008 (25,903 down to 8,329 in 2017).
  • Long-term investments in evidence-based supervision programs from the incentive funding structure of SB 678 have led to more options to address criminal behavior.
  • Probation technical violations resulting in a prison admission have declined from 11,000 in 2011 to 5000 in 2017.  

Other Key Findings

  • Nationwide, violations of supervised release accounted for 45 percent of the 590,200 admissions to prisons and jails in 2017, according to the Council of State Governments analysis. One out of four of those was for a technical violation of probation or parole.
  • While in California, only about 3 percent of the incarcerated population is in prison due to technical probation violations.
  • California is not among the 13 states that were named in the report that currently has “more than one in three people in prison on any given day there for a supervision violation.”