Probation and Parole Technical Violations
A technical violation of probation or parole is misbehavior by an offender under supervision that is not by itself a criminal offense and generally does not result in arrest (e.g., failing to report for a scheduled office visit, missing a curfew, lack of employment or attendance at school, testing positive for drug or alcohol use, or contacting a victim or co-defendant). Serious technical violations (e.g., escape or repeated failure to report, violent crime) or a pattern of misbehavior, however, while on probation or parole can result in re-imprisonment.
Some technical violators receive no sanctions and others may have their conditions modified to respond to the misbehavior, yet continue to be supervised in the community rather than sent to prison. Probation and parole officers have a range of graduated sanctions available to address technical violations from a verbal reprimand and increased reporting requirements to referrals to treatment or service programs, electronic monitoring, and re-incarceration.
Typically, research on the rate of recidivism does not track -- or measure -- technical violations of those offenders on probation or parole. This study did not include technical violations in the overall rate of recidivism, but provided this supplemental analysis of the rate of technical violations among the two cohort groups as a description of misbehavior in the community that does not rise to the level of an arrest.
Information on technical violations was collected for a randomly selected sample from each cohort group: inmates and probationers. There were 423 inmates and 1,211 probationers randomly selected. (The sampling process is described in detail in Chapter One of this report.)
Technical violation data for the inmate and probationer samples are not automated. Program review committee staff conducted a review of Board of Parole and judicial branch probation case files. The committee staff found information in the files to be missing, inconsistently recorded, often times inaccurate, and insufficient to fully identify the offenders' pattern of misbehavior. The lack of data impeded the analysis of the rate and type of technical violations among the offender samples.
Probationer sample. The offenders in the probationer cohort group were sentenced to one of several types of sentences. For the purposes of this analysis of technical violations, only those probationers on "regular" probation were included for review. This is because offenders sentenced to diversionary or alternative sanctions such as accelerated rehabilitation or community service labor program are not typically under active supervision by a probation officer and, therefore, there was no case file information available. In addition, the judicial branch was unable to locate the case files for 45 probationers in the sample. Of the 1,211 probationers randomly selected, 650 were on "regular" probation.
Of the 650 probationers, 51 percent (329) had at least one technical violation. On average, the probationers had three technical violations during the period of supervision.
The type of technical violations ranged from failing to report as scheduled, failing to report to or comply with the rules of a nonresidential treatment or service program, testing positive for drug or alcohol use, an unauthorized absence from a residential treatment or service program, violating any of the standard conditions of release such as notifying the probation officer of a current address and maintaining employment or attending school. The most common and repeatedly committed technical violation was failing to report as scheduled for an office visit with a probationer officer. Almost three-quarters of the probationer sample were cited at least once for missing a scheduled office visit.
About half of the probationer sample was cited for being rearrested for a new crime during their period of probation. In most cases, the offender remained in the community under the original sentence of probation pending the disposition of the new criminal charge. Less than 10 percent of the sample was incarcerated for a reconviction on the new charge. Most of the probationers remained on probation.
The most frequently imposed sanctions for a technical violation were a verbal or written reprimand by the probation officer (73 percent) and referral to a community-based, nonresidential treatment or service program (61 percent). Other sanctions that were imposed included increased level of supervision, a curfew, testing for drug or alcohol use, and removal of the offender from a treatment or service program.
Inmate sample. Of the 423 inmates randomly selected, 65 were released from prison on parole, but the Board of Parole was unable to locate the case files for 12 of the inmates. Information on technical violations was collected for 53 inmates.
The inmates on parole had a lower rate of technical violations than the probationer sample. Thirty-six percent of the inmates were cited for at least one technical violation while on parole. The inmates had on average two technical violations.
The most commonly cited technical violations were testing positive for drug or alcohol use, failing to report to or comply with the rules of a community-based, nonresidential treatment or service program, and being detained by the police or arrested for a new crime. The most frequently imposed sanctions increased reporting requirements, a verbal reprimand, referral to a treatment or service program, and extending the offender's participation in a program.
In general, the inmates' lower rate of technical violations can be attributed to the Board of Parole's authority to revoke parole release and return the offender to prison. The board's current practice has been to revoke parole and return the inmate to prison rather than impose a community-based sanction. Almost half of the inmates on parole were returned to prison for either a technical violation or a new arrest that occurred while under parole supervision.
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