Urban Institute Releases Report “Assessing North Carolina’s Changes to Supervision Revocation Policy”
This week, the Urban Institute released a report reviewing the impact of North Carolina’s changes to revocation policy as part of the Justice Reinvestment Act. These changes were prompted by bipartisan leadership in 2009 upon realizing the dramatic cost of the increasing prison population, coupled by estimates that the prison population would increase by another 10% by 2020, at a cost of $378 million to taxpayers.
North Carolina leaders requested technical support from the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a public-private partnership funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance and Pew Charitable Trusts. The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center provided technical support. The CSG Justice Center found that probation revocations were a huge contributor to the prison population:
“…in 2009, 53 percent of prison admissions in North Carolina were for probation revocations, and 76 percent of these did not involve a conviction for a new offense. Probation and parole officers also had limited options for responding to technical violations of supervision other than revocation to prison (Council of State Governments Justice Center 2011). In light of these findings, the CSG Justice Center reviewed options for addressing supervision revocations with more effective and less costly responses.”
The key finding presented in this updated analysis is that North Carolina has successfully reduced revocations since adoption in 2011 of the 90-day cap on revocation time and implementation of the Confinement in Response to Violation (CRV) centers.
- Revocations declined 35 percent between 2011 and 2017, driven by an 85 percent decline in revocations for technical violations.
- Revocations for violations of both probation and post-release supervision (PRS) have fallen, although revocations for technical violations have fallen more sharply for PRS than probation.
- While the time to an incarceration sanction (quick dip, CRV, or revocation) has increased due to the implementation of graduated sanctions, the total number of incarceration sanctions has increased and now exceeds pre-reform levels. This suggests that the new options available to DPS and the courts have resulted in some net widening.
- North Carolina should build on these policy changes by eliminating revocations for technical violations, reclassifying certain offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, shortening supervision terms, and eliminating certain fines and fees.
Particularly as we see a dramatic spread of covid-19 throughout NC prisons and jails, incarcerated individuals and the state employees that run these facilities are at increased risk when new individuals enter the prison system. By eliminating revocations for technical violation, this risk is decreased and the collateral consequences of incarceration are limited for individuals striving for success.
The Governor’s Task Force on Racial Equity and Criminal Justice recently released a report that recommended eliminating incarceration for technical violations of supervision and many other reforms to reduce the number of people on felony probation who are subject to costly revocations.
Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform welcomes this comprehensive data from the Urban Institute and hopes to see these findings lead to evidence based reforms in North Carolina that both keep our communities safer, while relieving the burden on taxpayers.