Within the respective tabs below, you will find links to a number of resources about pretrial, probation, parole, and victims’ issues. In addition, information on re-entry, job services for supervisees, the history of community corrections, and recent statistical reports from the field are listed.
Pretrial services programs have the unique responsibility to supervise individuals involved in the criminal justice system prior to adjudication. An estimated 300 jurisdictions including the federal system have some kind of pretrial services program. In a 2009 survey of these jurisdictions, 35 percent reported administratively housing their pretrial services program within probation departments.
These programs generally perform three primary functions: (1) collect and analyze defendant information for use in determining risk, (2) make recommendations to the court concerning conditions of release, and (3) supervise defendants who are released from secure custody during the pretrial phase.
The first U.S. pretrial services program was the Manhattan Bail Project. Established in 1961, the program was designed to help defendants who were unable to post the financial surety bond conditions set in New York City. The program interviewed defendants to gather information on community ties to determine a defendant’s likelihood of appearing in court. Based on these interviews, low risk individuals were recommended for release on their own recognizance, or the defendants’ promise to appear without financial obligation. An evaluation of the project found that defendants who did not have to post bond were just as likely to return to court as those who did post surety bond.
With the success of the Manhattan Bail Project, several other jurisdictions across the country began to implement pretrial services programs. These early pretrial services programs were primarily for low-risk indigent defendants, unable to pay a financial bond.
The role of pretrial services programs changed after the passage of the Bail Reform Act of 1966, which required judges to consider several factors in determining individualized pretrial release. Rather than targeting only those defendants who could not afford to pay a financial bond, pretrial services programs were now responsible for providing information on all defendants to aid the judge in his or her release decision. The new law also created a presumption of release on the least restrictive conditions to ensure appearance in court. This lead to pretrial services programs supervising defendants to ensure compliance with various condition of release. While most states followed the federal model and updated their bail laws to include a list of factors that the court had to consider in making a pretrial release decision and a range of non-financial pretrial release options, most jurisdictions at the time lacked a pretrial services program to provide the required information and supervision to the courts.
In 1984 Congress passed the Bail Reform Act of 1984 as part of the Omnibus Crime Control Act. The key change in bail law from this act was the inclusion of public safety as a factor in determining bail. Three years later, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legislation in the case of United States v. Salerno. The majority of states since Salerno have adopted similar legislation, further extending the need and responsibility of pretrial services programs to not only assess risk, but to provide supervision to those released pretrial.
The American Bar Association first developed standards on pretrial release as part of their Criminal Justice Standards in 1964. In 1972, the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies, a membership organization of pretrial services practitioners and others interested in pretrial justice reform, was established in San Francisco. Five years later NAPSA published its first standards of pretrial release. The standards, based on the ABA standards, outlined the ideal function of a pretrial services program. These standards have been periodically updated, with the most recent standards being published in 2004 by NAPSA and 2009 by the ABA.
In 1977, the non-profit Pretrial Services Resource Center was founded to provide pretrial services programs and other justice system agencies information, training, and technical assistance on the bail process and pretrial services. The Center would continue in this primary mission for the next 30 years until it became the Pretrial Justice Institute, or PJI, in 2007. PJI’s new mission was broadened to include a primary focus on the systemic culture and process in which pretrial services agencies operate and system practices spanning the time from law enforcement contact to case adjudication.
For more than 100 years, the accomplishments, struggles, and victories of the field of probation and parole are many. We've come a long way! A brief history of probation and parole are available. This information can be incorporated into speeches, brochures, or other public outreach activities throughout the year.
John Augustus, a Boston cobbler, is credited as the "Father of Probation." In 1841 he persuaded the Boston Police Court to release an adult drunkard into his custody rather than sending him to prison -- the prevalent means of dealing with law violations at that time. His efforts at reforming his first charge were successful, and he soon convinced the court to release other offenders to his supervision. However, this first unofficial probation officer did not perform his altruistic work without controversy. His efforts actually were resisted by police, court clerks, and turnkeys who were paid only when offenders were incarcerated (Klein, 1997).
In 1843, Augustus broadened his efforts to children when he took responsibility for two girls, ages eight and ten, and an 11-year-old boy, all of whom had been accused of stealing. By 1846, he had taken on the supervision of about 30 children ranging from nine to 16 years old (Binder, Geis, & Bruce, 1997). In his own words he describes his ongoing work with children before the court:
In 1847, I bailed nineteen boys, from seven to fifteen years of age, and in bailing them it was understood, and agreed by the court, that their cases should be continued from term to term for several months, as a season of probation; thus each month at the calling of the docket, I would appear in court, make my report, and thus the cases would pass on for five or six months. At the expiration of this term, twelve of the boys were brought into court at one time, and the scene formed a striking and highly pleasing contrast with their appearance when first arraigned. The judge expressed much pleasure as well as surprise, at their appearance, and remarked, that the object of the law had been accomplished, and expressed his cordial approval of my plan to save and reform. Seven of the number were too poor to pay a fine, although the court fixed the amount at ten cents each, and of course I paid it for them; the parents of the other boys were able to pay the cost, and thus the penalty of the law was answered. The sequel thus far shows, that not one of this number has proved false to the promises of reform they made while on probation. This incident proved conclusively, that this class of boys could be saved from crime and punishment, by the plan which I had marked out, and this was admitted by the judges in both courts.
By Augustus' (1852) own account, he bailed
eleven hundred persons, both male and female. He also recounted that he had secured the release by the courts of many children:
. . .of this number one hundred and sixteen were boys under sixteen years of age; eighty-seven were under the age of fourteen; twenty-seven were under twelve years, and four were only seven years old. Of this number only twelve were incorrigible,. . . I have always endeavored to send these persons to school, or some place of employment, and but two, to my knowledge, have stolen since I bailed them, and this shows that nine out of ten have behaved well. . .
By 1869, the Massachusetts legislature required a state agent to be present if court actions might result in the placement of a child in a reformatory, thus providing a model for modern caseworkers. The agents were to search for other placement, protect the child's interests, investigate the case before trial, and supervise the plan for the child after disposition. Massachusetts passed the first probation statute in 1878 mandating an official State probation system with salaried probation officers (National Center for Juvenile Justice [NCJJ], 1991). Other states quickly followed suit (NCJJ, 1991):
Today, probation is authorized in all states and is an integral part of the juvenile justice system. Many foreign nations also have adopted approaches based on the United States prototype.
Read further to learn more about the history of probation:
Excerpted from the first part of a two-part article titled, Parole and Prisoner Reentry in the United States, by Joan Petersilia, PH.D. Part one of this article appeared in the Summer 2000 issue of Perspectives. The second part of this article appeared in the Fall 2000 issue of Perspectives.
To read the entire two part article, click on the links below:
Parole comes from the French word parole, referring to
word as in
giving one's word of honor or promise. It has come to mean an inmate's promise to conduct him or herself in a law-abiding manner and
according to certain rules in exchange for release. In penal philosophy, parole is part of the general 19th-century trend in
criminology from punishment to reformation. Chief credit for developing the early parole system is usually given to Alexander
Maconochie, who was in charge of the English penal colony at Norfolk Island, 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia, and to Sir Walter
Crofton, who directed Ireland's prisons (Cromwell and del Carmen 1999).
Maconochie criticized definite prison terms and developed a system of rewards for good conduct, labor and study. Through a classification procedure he called the mark system, prisoners could progress through stages of increasing responsibility and ultimately gain freedom. In 1840, he was given an opportunity to apply these principles as superintendent of the Norfolk Island penal settlement in the South Pacific. Under his direction, task accomplishment, not time served, was the criterion for release. Marks of commendation were given to prisoners who performed their tasks well, and they were released from the penal colony as they demonstrated willingness to accept society's rules. Returning to England in 1844 to campaign for penal reform, Maconochie tried to implement his reforms when he was appointed governor of the new Birmingham Prison in 1849. However, he was unable to institute his reforms there because he was dismissed from his position in 1851 on the grounds that his methods were too lenient (Clear and Cole 1997).
Walter Crofton attempted to implement Maconichie's mark system when he became the administrator of the Irish Prison System in 1854.
Crofton felt that prison programs should be directed more toward reformation, and that
tickets-of-leave should be awarded to
prisoners who had shown definitive achievement and positive attitude change. After a period of strict imprisonment, Crofton began
transferring offenders to
intermediate prisons where they could accumulate marks based on work performance, behavior and educational
improvement. Eventually they would be given tickets-of-leave and released on parole supervision. Parolees were required to submit
monthly reports to the police, and a police inspector helped them find jobs and generally oversaw their activities. The concepts of
intermediate prisons, assistance and supervision after release were Crofton's contributions to the modern system of parole (Clear and Cole 1997).
By 1865, American penal reformers were well aware of the reforms achieved in the European prison systems, particularly in the Irish system. At the Cincinnati meeting of the National Prison Association in 1870, a paper by Crofton was read, and specific references to the Irish system were incorporated into the Declaration of Principles, along with other such reforms as indeterminate sentencing and classification for release based on a mark system. Because of Crofton's experiment, many Americans referred to parole as the Irish system (Walker 1998).
Zebulon Brockway, a Michigan penologist, is given credit for implementing the first parole system in the U.S. He proposed a two-pronged strategy for managing prison populations and preparing inmates for release: indeterminate sentencing coupled with parole supervision. He was given a chance to put his proposal into practice in 1876 when he was appointed superintendent at a new youth reformatory, the Elmira Reformatory in New York. He instituted a system of indeterminacy and parole release, and is commonly credited as the father of both in the United States. His ideas reflected the tenor of the times - a belief that criminals could be reformed, and that every prisoner's treatment should be individualized.
On being admitted to Elmira, each inmate (males between the ages of sixteen and thirty) was placed in the second grade of classification. Six months of good conduct meant promotion to the first grade - misbehavior could result in being placed in the third grade, from which the inmate would have to work his way back up. Continued good behavior in the first grade resulted in release. Paroled inmates remained under the jurisdiction of authorities for an additional six months, during which the parolee was required to report on the first day of every month to his appointed volunteer guardian (from which parole officers evolved) and provide an account of his situation and conduct (Abadinsky 1997). Written reports became required and were submitted to the institute after being signed by the parolee's employer and guardian.
Indeterminate sentencing and parole spread rapidly through the United States. In 1907, New York became the first state to formally adopt all the components of a parole system: indeterminate sentences, a system for granting release, post-release supervision and specific criteria for parole violation. By 1927, only three states (Florida, Mississippi and Virginia) were without a parole system, and by 1942, all states and the federal government had such systems (Clear and Cole 1997).
Over the past 15 years, probation and parole agencies have worked diligently to improve their services to crime victims, and to help them understand and exercise their rights. Crime victims and survivors, and those who serve them, are excellent potential partners for observing the 2015 Pretrial, Probation, Parole Supervision Week.
A good starting point is to become aware of all crime victim services within your jurisdiction. The Office for Victims of Crime sponsors an On-line Victim Services Directory, where contact information about victim assistance programs can be accessed by state, city, zip code, and/or types of services provided. To help create a roster of victim services within a jurisdiction, visit the Directory of Crime Victim Services.
There are a number of excellent resources available from Justice Solutions that address crime victims’ needs and offender programming and that engage victims and survivors, including the following:
These resources can be accessed free from Justice Solutions’ website, under “Articles and Publications,” at www.justicesolutions.org.
Finally, Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Week is a good time to recommit your agency’s energies to consideration of victims as “clients” of probation and parole, and to enhance efforts to partner with victim assistance programs to promote “justice for all,” including crime victims.
Forward these links to staff and co-workers for review and possible continuing education credits.