Connecticut has a high rate of probation usage, with over 30,000 people currently on probation, As reported in a report by the Prison Policy Initiative and the Katal Center. This is nearly 1% of the state’s population and over three times the number of people in jail or prison. Connecticut ranks 20th nationally in its use of probation, ahead of most other Northeast states, but has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the nation. However, the high probation rate can mean the state is granting probation to people who might otherwise be incarcerated, or imposing probation on people who would otherwise receive no punishment.
As reported in recent reports by the Prison Policy Initiative and the Katal Center, Connecticut has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the United States. However, the state uses probation more aggressively than most of its peers. The reports show that Connecticut currently has more than 30,000 people on probation, nearly 1 percent of the state’s population. This number has risen over the past two years, after declining for more than a decade.
“I don’t know how many folks know in Connecticut that there are 30,000 people on probation and that the use of probation is very, very widespread,” said Gabriel Sayegh, cofounder of the Katal Center, who co-authored the report. “It should be a red flag for all of us, but especially for lawmakers, that a state of this size is using probation at the extent to which it’s currently being used.”
In a separate report examining parole and probation nationwide, the Prison Policy Initiative found that Connecticut incarcerates fewer people per capita than all but seven other states but ranks 20th nationally in its use of probation, ahead of most other Northeast states. In view of all the above, Connecticut ranks 36th nationally in the share of its population involved in the justice system, ahead of neighbors New York and Massachusetts, among others.
Leah Wang, a Prison Policy Institute research analyst who helped author both recent reports, said a high probation rate can mean a state is granting probation to people who might otherwise be incarcerated or that it’s imposing probation on people who would otherwise receive no punishment.
Wang argues that while probation may not sound like a significant consequence, it “basically sets people up to fail with dozens and dozens of rules that they have to follow that the rest of us don’t.”
“In theory, we see probation and parole as sort of lenient approaches to incarceration or alternatives to incarceration,” Wang said. “But as most people who have been impacted or work in the field know, they really are just alternative forms of incarceration.”
Over time, probation in Connecticut has seen a roughly similar trend as incarceration: After years of steady decline, the numbers have begun to increase over the past two years, as per the state data.
The reports have raised concerns among lawmakers and advocates who argue that the state’s aggressive use of probation is counterproductive and undermines efforts to reduce incarceration rates. They also argue that probation can be a costly burden on individuals and communities.
Connecticut’s probation system has been criticized for being overly punitive and for failing to provide adequate support to individuals on probation. Critics argue that the system relies too heavily on surveillance and punishment, rather than rehabilitation and support.
The reports suggest that Connecticut should rethink its approach to probation and explore alternative models that prioritize rehabilitation and support for individuals who have come into contact with the justice system.
To sum it all up, while Connecticut has a relatively low incarceration rate, it uses probation more aggressively than most other states. The state’s high probation rate has raised concerns among advocates and lawmakers who argue that it is counterproductive and undermines efforts to reduce incarceration rates. The reports suggest that Connecticut should reevaluate its approach to probation and prioritize rehabilitation and support for individuals who have come into contact with the justice system.