Our Legislative Approach:
REFORM works with local grassroots organizations and lawmakers across the country on both sides of the political aisle to build more effective state parole and probation models. We focus on common-sense legislative reforms that prioritize rehabilitation, families, and safe communities.
Our priorities are threefold — to safely shorten probation and parole terms, to reduce the overall number of people on supervision, and to modernize the system and change the culture of supervision agencies with evidence-based best practices. REFORM has built bipartisan support for these priorities because both parties recognize the current system’s failings. We are proud to bring leaders together to change it.
Legislative Success to Date:
Changing laws that perpetuate injustice is one of our core tenets. Since our founding in 2019, our bipartisan, solutions-based approach has helped us win transformative legislative victories in nine states, including California, Michigan, Georgia, New York, Louisiana, Virginia, Mississippi, New Jersey, Florida, and Pennsylvania. To date, we have passed 16 bills in these states and have created a pathway for 650,000+ people to exit supervision.
These reforms, all of which received bipartisan support, will help move us toward a justice system that holds people accountable, incentivizes good behavior, encourages success, and saves taxpayers millions of dollars, all while making neighborhoods safer.
Florida has the fifth-largest probation population in the United States and approximately $212 million is spent annually on Florida’s supervision system. But the true cost is much higher: fractured families, employers, and hurting communities all bear the impact of probation’s failures. In 2022, REFORM passed legislation to improve outcomes and success rates for people on probation, safely shorten probation terms and reduce the overall size of Florida’s probation system. REFORM formed a bipartisan coalition made up of directly impacted people, law enforcement, reentry service providers, business leaders, and worked with lawmakers to craft new legislation. Organizations such as the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Police Benevolent Association, Americans for Prosperity, American Conservative Union, and Operation New Hope played a critical role in the process. After receiving unanimous votes of support in both the Florida House and Senate, SB 752, the final legislative vehicle for our provisions, was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis. Thanks to our partners.
In 2020, REFORM Alliance worked with a bipartisan coalition to pass 3 bills that will transform California’s probation and parole systems. There are 350,000 people on probation and over 90,000 people on parole in California. REFORM’s transformative bills reflect widely accepted, data-driven solutions to make supervision more effective, ensure accountability, encourage success and stability in communities, and reduce recidivism. REFORM’s CA bills mandate evidence-based limits to probation and parole terms, increase pathways for sick and elderly people to safely return home, and expand the use of effective alternatives to incarceration and supervision, all while saving the state millions and keeping Californians safe. Thanks to our partners that helped make these victories possible American Conservative Union, Californians for Safety and Justice, Cut50, Dream Corps:
In 2020, REFORM joined a broad bipartisan coalition to pass a package of effective supervision reforms aimed at revamping Michigan’s probation and parole systems. Michigan ranked as the state with the fifth highest rate of probation in the country, and a bipartisan task force convened to examine necessary and overdue changes to Michigan’s criminal justice systems, including the state’s supervision system. In 2020, REFORM Alliance worked with the broad bipartisan coalition to advance a package of essential supervision reforms in Michigan.
In 2021, REFORM Alliance worked with advocates in Georgia to improve the state’s supervision system. These reforms come at a critical time: Georgia has the highest supervision population in the nation, with more than 200,000 people, or 1 in 18 Georgia adults, living on probation. REFORM’s bill, SB105, which was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp, closes loopholes in Georgia law and creates a pathway to early termination for tens of thousands of Georgians on probation. Thank you to our partners, including the Georgia Justice Project and RestoreHER, among many others.
On any given day in New York, there are 10,678 people incarcerated as a result of a supervision violation, at an annual cost to the state of $815 million. For every 10 successful completions of parole, there are 9 cases that result in reincarceration. In 2021, REFORM Alliance worked in partnership with New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) to evaluate New York’s parole system and establish effective and sensible solutions. Through NYUJ’s Legislative Committee and the Women and Families Committee, we supported supervision reforms, including successfully championing New York’s Less is More Parole legislation. The bill was signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul and resulted in the immediate release of nearly 200 people held for technical parole violations on Rikers Island. The legislation will impact more than 35,000 people on parole across the state.
In 2020, REFORM Alliance answered the call from our conservative allies to support bills that reduce unnecessary and complex conditions and limit never-ending and counterproductive supervision terms to encourage successful, safe, and stable Louisiana communities and families.
Virginia was one of only five states that did not limit the possible length of probation terms for either misdemeanor or felony offenses. Virginia’s lengthy and unnecessary probation terms and use of prison time for technical probation violations created a probation-to-prison pipeline where 40% of the state’s prison population consists of people incarcerated due to supervision violations. In 2021, REFORM Alliance partnered with Del. Don Scott (D-VA) and other lawmakers and organizations across the Commonwealth to support the passage of HB 2038. Thanks to the legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam, the state’s probation population will be reduced significantly, recidivism curbed, wasteful spending decreased, and supervision will become more effective and efficient, all while increasing community safety and workforce stability. The REFORM collaboration in Virginia originated when Justice Forward VA and the bill’s author Delegate Don Scott reached out to REFORM founding partner Meek Mill, asking for support.
Mississippi has the second highest incarceration rate in the country, with approximately 1,000 out of every 100,000 Mississipians behind bars. In 2021, REFORM Alliance helped secure bipartisan legislation that will reduce Mississippi’s disproportionately high imprisonment rate, reduce the state’s excessive prison population, and make Mississippi communities safer. Thank you to our partners FWD.us Mississippi, Empower Mississippi and Americans for Prosperity Mississippi, among others.
New Jersey has 138,000 people on probation and 14,000 on parole. The state continues to sentence people to onerous mandatory minimums while simultaneously narrowing pathways to release by prohibiting or denying parole in most instances. In 2020, during the height of the COVID pandemic, REFORM worked alongside a powerful statewide coalition to increase pathways to freedom by broadening compassionate release and instituting public health emergency credits. In 2021, we supported legislation that would have eliminated harmful and wasteful mandatory minimums for several non-violent drug and non-violent property crimes. Although the legislation passed through the Assembly and the Senate, it did not become law. However, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal implemented most of the recommendations through an administrative directive, thereby safely reducing incarceration and providing a fair pathway to freedom and a meaningful second chance. Thank you to our partners the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice, ACLU of New Jersey, and Salvation and Social Justice, among others.