The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) was conceived in Houston, Texas, in 1974. The organization was borne out of frustration and anger by probation practitioners due to a lack of national representation for their field. The late Walter Dunbar, one of America's most distinguished correctional administrators, chaired the Probation Committee of the American Correctional Association (ACA). It was thereupon agreed that probation could no longer exist without a national level association and that, accordingly, those persons present at the Houston meeting, along with any others so motivated, would create a new organization to be known as the American Probation Association. Immediately, however, the organizers realized that probation had a "twin", and it was wisely decided to rename the proposed organization as the American Probation and Parole Association. The birth of APPA took place in Louisville, Kentucky on August 19, 1975, as part of the American Congress of Corrections.
- The first edition of the journal Perspectives appeared in January 1976.
- On August 22, 1976, the association held its first annual Institute. The location was Denver, Colorado, and the theme was, "Probation and Parole: Can They Survive the Body Crunch of the '70s?"
- In 1977, Canada was welcomed into APPA
- In 1979, APPA published its first formal Recruitment Brochure, explaining the organization and seeking members at a cost of $10 per year.
- In 1981, APPA received its first grant, from the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), for a project entitled "Critical Issues, Strategies, and Missions in Probation".
- In 1984, the Association's had its first publication entitled "A Report on the Labours of John Augustus-Bicentennial Edition, 1984".
- By 1985, APPA's Annual Institute had emerged as America's preeminent meeting of probation and parole officials. Moreover, APPA now had members in all states except Idaho, and in most of the Canadian provinces, with a total of 1,512 members. In only ten years APPA had grown from a small assemblage of probation officers to a well-established, well-respected organization which provided leadership and an international voice for probation and parole.
- In 1987, the Council of State Governments had assumed Secretariat duties for APPA.
- By 1994, APPA had secured eight Federal grants totaling over $5 million to conduct research, develop standards, and provide training related to outcome measures, system coordination, adult and juvenile drug testing, interagency technical assistance, drug training, victim restitution, and intensive supervision.
- APPA had developed a community justice leadership program; brought into focus victim issues as part of the community Corrections Act; developed position statements on victims, staff safety, weapons, and alcohol and drug treatment; and provided on-site training to thousands of probation and parole practitioners.
- In 1999, the membership includes 3,000 individual members, 165 agency members, 55 affiliate members, 9 corporate members, 4 educational institutions, and 26 library subscriptions.
- In July 2000, APPA celebrated its 25th Annual Training Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.
APPA is committed to improving probation and parole practices at all levels by fostering the development of necessary knowledge, skills, resources and legislation for the most effective and realistic probation, parole and community-based correctional programming.