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Lesser Known Facts About Probation in California

If you are facing criminal charges in Orange County or anywhere else in California, you may be interested in learning about probation. Why? Because, it is one of the major forms of “correctional supervision” and compared to the others – jail, prison, and parole – it’s the most attractive of the four.

When people are convicted of crimes in California, judges have options when it comes to sentencing; a judge can sentence an offender to supervised probation in lieu of jail or prison. How does a judge decide to sentence a convicted offender to supervised probation?

Judges issue decisions after listening to input from prosecutors, public and private defense lawyers, and the probation department. Here are some lesser-known facts about probation according to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC):

  • California’s probation population is more than double the state’s prison population.
  • There are nearly four times more offenders on probation in California than in jail.
  • California’s probation population is roughly six times greater than the state’s parole population.
  • At the end of 2014, 1 out of every 100 adults in the state were on probation.

Probation is Much Cheaper Than Incarceration

You may have heard how large the United States’ prison population is. It’s true, the U.S. ranks #1 as far as prisoners are concerned. With such a high lockup rate at the tune of billions of tax dollars every year, it’s understandable why lawmakers and judges view probation as an affordable alternative to jail and prison.

According to the PPIC, “Probation is the most widely used and least costly form of correctional control.” So, with probation costing a mere $4,438 per an offender compared to $38,650 for jail and $59,919 for prison, it’s abundantly clear why probation is the least costly form of correctional supervision.

In recent years, California has taken steps to reform its sentencing practices. In 2009 for example, the California Corrections Performance Incentives Act (SB 678) stressed the value in keeping probation violators on probation instead of revoking it and sending them to prison.

In 2014, Proposition 47 was approved by California voters, which took a large number of felony offenses and reclassified them as misdemeanors. A measure that cut down the probation caseload by 3 percent within a short period of time.

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