It’s All About The Money: An Exploration of Probation Fees


Individuals on probation have to comply with as many as 25 to 30 general conditions to avoid revocations.

Texas relies on supervision fees from probationers to recuperate operating costs for their probation program; failure to pay can result in additional sanctions and ultimately, revocations. This study used focus groups and interviews of individuals on probation in Texas to explore how the collection and enforcement of probation fees affect their experiences. Probation fees can consume a large share of a probationer’s budget, reducing an individual’s ability to accumulate wealth and meet basic needs. In addition, the use of threats of revocation as a compliance tool in probation has made probationers feel like giving up and that their probation officers only cared about enforcing the probation fee conditions. The feeling of stress was shared amongst the sample of individuals on probation and consistent with other studies that show that some individuals would choose prison over probation because of probation’s strict requirements.

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Key Findings:

  • Probation fees make up over 30 percent of Texas’ probation operating budget.
  • Interviews with ex-offenders found two-thirds of these individuals were delinquent in their payments. 
  • Monthly supervision fees range from $10 to $65 per month across the United States.
  • Half of the income of individuals interviewed in this study who had full or part-time employment went towards paying probation fees.
  • Participants reported prioritizing probation fees over rent and other needs for fear of revocation. 
  • Along with participants being threatened with revocation or having their sentence extended for falling behind on their probation fees, they also face community service sanctions, increased reporting, and mandated classes.


  • Abolish the use of probation and correctional fees.
  • Move the collection and enforcement of probation fees to another entity outside of probation.
Ebony Ruhland
Corrections: Policy, Practice and Research