National Examination of Probation & Parole Fees Finds Widespread Imposition in Nearly All 50 States
Momentum to Eliminate Probation & Parole Fees Growing in Red & Blue States Alike
Today, the Fines and Fees Justice Center (FFJC) and REFORM Alliance are co-releasing a new publication revealing the widespread imposition of probation and parole supervision and programming fees in nearly all 50 U.S. states.
“Probation and parole fees set people up for failure,” said Tim Curry, research director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center. “When states and localities impose parole and probation costs directly on the people in the system, it creates a regressive tax on those least likely to be able to pay. This vicious cycle of punishment and poverty is bad for public safety and bad for states’ bottom lines.”
Millions of adults—approximately 1 in every 75 people—are under probation or parole supervision in the U.S. In most states, people on probation or parole are required to pay supervision fees that can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. People also must often pay additional programming fees for mandatory mental health counseling, electronic monitoring, and drug testing. When people can’t afford probation and parole fees, they are often re-incarcerated and the length of supervision can be extended.
Probation and parole fees routinely trap individuals and their families in debt. Nationwide, two of every three people on probation make less than $20,000 per year, with nearly 40% of those making less than $10,000 annually.
Imposing criminal fees is correlated with higher recidivism rates and declines in overall public safety. Millions of dollars in fines and fees go uncollected around the country — making them poor bases for court budgeting — and the cost of collections can outpace the revenue generated.
“It makes no sense to add financial strain and additional debt on people who are least able to pay,” said Jessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy Officer at the REFORM Alliance. “Supervision fees do not make our communities safer. In fact, they make us less safe, as research shows that supervision fees are correlated with higher rates of reoffending. People on supervision already feel as though probation and parole set them up for failure. Fees contribute to that mistrust and their anxiety. Instead, supervision should prioritize addressing the underlying causes of crime and give people the support they need to be successful.”
“I was on probation for 10 years and despite working two jobs, I could barely afford to survive because of my probation fees,” said Amanda Strickland, Social Media Fellow at REFORM Alliance. “I would often fall behind on payments and would face the difficult choice of paying my fees or paying bills and providing for my children. At one point, I tried to go back to school and pursue a degree, but because I had to work full-time to afford my fee payments, I could not juggle my mandated rehab courses, work, college, and motherhood. Every time I fell behind, I became sick with shame and a deep fear that I would be sent back to prison and separated from my children. Instead of helping me, my entire experience on probation, especially the burdensome fees, kept me trapped in poverty and forced me to remain in an abusive marriage. It wasn’t until I completed my probation that I was able to establish my independence, finish my bachelor’s degree and truly flourish.”
In 2022, several states are following in the footsteps of Oregon and California, which in 2020 became the first states to eliminate probation and parole fees. Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul have leveraged their executive budgeting power to try to eliminate the need for supervision fees, while the Oklahoma Senate has also approved legislation aimed at eliminating probation fees.
At the local level, several municipalities have also eliminated supervision fees, including Minnesota’s Ramsey County. “Supervision fees undermined the success of people on probation and placed additional economic hardship on our clients,” said Jan Scott, Assistant Deputy Director for Adult Services for Ramsey County Community Corrections. “In the end we realized that the revenue we expected from fees in our budget was unrealistic because people couldn’t pay the fees. We didn’t know what to expect when we got rid of the fees, but we were overwhelmed by the number of calls we received from people thanking us.”
- 47 states have laws allowing probation supervision fees.
- 38 states charge a monthly supervision fee, seven states charge a single flat fee, and two states allow local jurisdictions to determine the amounts and payment schedules.
- Only three states do not authorize probation supervision fees.
- California and Oregon passed laws removing supervision fees, while Alaska’s laws are silent on the issue.
- Whether or not authorized by state statutes, probation programming fees — for mandatory conditions of probation such as drug testing, mental health treatment, classes, community service participation, or electronic monitoring — are imposed in every state.
- Most states allow for sanctions against people on probation who fail to pay court-imposed costs.
- 32 states allow for probation revocation and/or extension if fees aren’t paid.
- Only eight states explicitly do not allow probation revocation and/or extension if fees aren’t paid.
- 6 states have statutes that are unclear, while four states have statutes authorizing non-criminal responses to unpaid probation fees.
- 37 states have laws allowing parole supervision fees.
- 33 states charge a monthly supervision fee, while four states charge a flat fee.
- Only 10 states do not authorize parole supervision fees.
- California and Oregon passed laws removing supervision fees.
- Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii and Maine laws are silent on the issue.
- Only New Jersey expressly provides that parole supervision shall be paid by the state.
- Delaware and Wyoming allow supervision fees on those placed on a heightened form of parole supervision, but not for general parole supervision.
- Like those on probation, people on parole also face a wide range of programming fees as a condition of parole.
- 30 states allow for parole revocation and/or extension if fees aren’t paid.
- Only nine states explicitly do not allow parole revocation and/or extension if fees aren’t paid.
- 7 states have statutes that are unclear, while four states have statutes authorizing non-criminal responses to unpaid parole fees.
Read and download the full report.
About the Fines and Fees Justice Center:
The Fines and Fees Justice Center (FFJC) is catalyzing a movement to eliminate the fines and fees that distort justice. Our goal is to create a justice system that treats individuals fairly, ensures public safety and community prosperity, and is funded equitably. We work together with affected communities and justice system stakeholders to eliminate fees in the justice system, ensure that fines are equitably imposed and enforced, and end abusive collection practices.
About REFORM Alliance:
REFORM is committed to transforming probation and parole throughout the United States by changing laws, systems, and culture. The organization is working to replace America’s criminal justice system with a restorative approach that is fair, accountable, and invested in rehabilitation. Our goal is for people to reenter society with dignity, create meaningful pathways to work, and equip them with the tools to succeed, all while making families and communities safer and stronger.
The nonprofit organization was founded in the wake of the #FreeMeek movement by award-winning recording artist Meek Mill; Philadelphia 76ers partner and Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin; Arnold Ventures co-founder Laura Arnold; entrepreneur and business mogul Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter; Kraft Group CEO and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; Galaxy Digital CEO and founder Michael E. Novogratz; Vista Equity Partners founder, chairman, CEO Robert F. Smith; Brooklyn Nets co-owner and philanthropic investor Clara Wu Tsai; and CNN host and activist Van Jones. Veteran criminal justice advocate Robert Rooks leads the organization as CEO, and, most recently in October 2021, philanthropist, pediatrician, and criminal justice reform advocate Dr. Priscilla Chan joined the organization’s Board of Directors.