Five Evidence-Based Policies Can Improve Community Supervision


20 states cap probation terms to five years or less.

At the end of 2020, there were more than twice as many people under probation and parole supervision than people incarcerated in jails and prisons in the United States. Community supervision, a key component of correctional systems, presents a unique set of challenges not fully understood by policymakers and stakeholders. Driven by a goal of decreasing the number of people under supervision, decreasing the use of incarceration as a sanction for supervision violations, and improving outcomes for people on probation, The Pew Charitable Trusts and Arnold Ventures created a policy framework for community supervision and reviewed statutes from all 50 states to identify the extent to which states have adopted five key policies. Findings show that most states have not adopted policies to shorten lengthy supervision terms and most have not removed driver’s license suspension for nonpayment of fines and fees as a barrier to transportation and employment. This brief provides lawmakers with evidence-based policy options to create more efficient and effective community supervision systems and make better use of limited criminal justice resources.

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Key Findings:

  • 32 states do not have a statutory policy for earned compliance credits.
  • 12 states restrict the time a person can be incarcerated awaiting a revocation hearing to 15 days, nine restrict the time to 30 days, but 20 states do not have any statutory limitations.
  • 15 states ban the suspension of a driver’s license for failure to pay fines and fees (as of September 2021)


  • Decrease the number of people on supervision and people’s time on supervision to target higher-risk individuals.
  • Allow people to shorten their time on probation by adopting earned compliance credits.
  • Limit incarceration for technical violations before a violation hearing.
  • Limit incarceration for revocations based on technical violations.
  • End driver’s license suspension for inability to pay fines and fees.
The Pew Charitable Trusts