Probation Supervision

Need for Evidence-Based Probation Supervision
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reports the state's prison population was 171,085 in December 2008, only slightly lower than the all-time high reached in October 2006 with 173,479 inmates. Facilities are bursting at the seams with prisoners being double- and triple- bunked in prison gyms and day rooms. This has become a huge financial burden to California as the state spends more on corrections than on higher education.

Approximately 40 percent of California's new admissions to state prison are felony offenders who have failed on probation supervision. Probation is a judicially imposed suspension of sentence that attempts to supervise, treat, and rehabilitate offenders while they remain in the community under the supervision of the county probation department. It is a linchpin of the criminal justice system.

How it started/Budget Act of 2009
This initiative was included in the Budget Act of 2009 and provides a $45 million appropriation of federal Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funds to be distributed over three years to all 58 California county probation departments for the purpose of providing evidence-based supervision, programs, or services to adult felon probationers.

The objective of the initiative is to provide immediate funding to county probation departments to jumpstart development of evidence-based probation supervision practices (EBP) in order to improve felony probation performance and reduce the likelihood that these probationers will commit new crimes or other violations and be sent to prison.

County probation departments can determine what specific evidence-based practices-including, but not limited to, risk/needs assessment, use of graduated sanctions, and provision of cognitive behavioral therapy-fit their county needs. County allocations of the JAG stimulus funding are calculated based on each county's population of adults 18 to 25 years of age, the population most likely to be affected by the program.

Senate Bill 678
SB 678 will establish a system of performance-based funding that will share state General Fund savings with county probation departments when they demonstrate success in reducing the number of adult felony probationers going to state prison because of committing new crimes or violating the terms of probation. This initiative is designed to help lower California's prison admissions by reducing criminal behavior, and thus relieve prison overcrowding and save public funds. Prior to Senate Bill 678, the State had not previously funded services for adult probationers.

How it works
The Act creates a state fund- State Corrections Performance Incentives Fund (SCPIF)-which authorizes the state to annually allocate money into a Community Corrections Performance Incentives Fund (CCPIF) established in each county. Each county using CCPIF funds is required establish a local community corrections program developed and directed by the county's chief probation officer. These local programs are required to identify and track outcome-based measures and report their plans and progress to the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Based on a jurisdiction's success - measured in the reduction of felony probationers who are sent to prison - the state will share a portion of savings of costs to incarcerate and supervise those individuals on probation. At the end of every calendar year, beginning December 2010, the California Department of Finance (DOF) will determine the statewide and county specific probation failure rates. Using a baseline average probation failure rate of the years 2006-2008, DOF will then calculate a rate for counties to receive a portion of the state savings. County probation failure rates will be recalculated annually. Counties will receive funding quarterly in the following fiscal year. These funds are used for the specified purposes relating to improving local probation supervision practices.

An evaluation and report will be made to the Legislature regarding the effectiveness of this program and its impact on improving public safety. This program sunsets January 1, 2015 unless it is reauthorized by the Legislature.

Report on the California Community Corrections Performance Incentives Act of 2009: Findings from the SB 678 Program (April 2013) 
This report to the California Legislature:

  1. Presents background on the SB 678 program
  2. Provides results from the first three years of the program including the impact of SB 678 on probation failure rates and public safety, state savings and allocation of funding to the counties, and implementation of evidence based practices and use of funds by county probation departments
  3. Provides recommendations for improvement of the program

SB 678 Year 2 Report
This report examines the second year of SB 678 implementation. It includes data showing how county probation departments have further reduced their probation failure rates, describes steps taken by probation departments to implement the use of evidence-based practices, and examines corresponding crime rates for the year.

Senate Bill 678 Year 1 Report
This report examines the first year of implementation of SB 678. It includes data regarding the success of county probation departments in supervising adult felony probationers, examines corresponding crime rates for the year, and describes the use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds by probation departments as well as the role of the Community Corrections Program of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The Impact of California’s Probation Performance Incentive Funding Program
Pew Center on the States, February 2012

A Ten-Step Guide to Transforming Probation Departments to Reduce Recidivism
The Council of State Governments, August 2011.
The guide uses a case study of Travis County, Texas, to illustrate how probation leaders can implement evidence-based supervision and organizational strategies to improve success rates.

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