This week we’re diving into the history of probation. So far we’ve covered Early Probation and The Great Shift, we’re wrapping up the series with at look at the 80s and 90s and the rise of strict correctional control.

The Rise of Strict Correctional Control: 1980s and 1990s

The controversy and doubt stirred up by Martinson’s article laid the foundation for drastic probation shifts during the 1980s and 1990s.

New sentencing policies, born from legislation like 1984’s Sentencing Reform Act, drastically increased the number of individuals in prison and the number of individuals on probation. Between 1980 and 2000, the number of adults on probation in the U.S. grew from 1 million to 4 million, a 400% increase in 20 years.

As caseload numbers grew, so did control of individuals on probation. In 1982, Georgia launched its Intensive Supervision Probation (ISP) Program, which became a model for probation programs around the country. ISP programs were created to “emphasize reduced caseloads, a high level of surveillance, and specialized interventions.” By 1989, a survey conducted by the Government Accounting Office showed that “all 50 States ha[d] adopted intensive probation and other intermediate sanction programs.”

The surveillance requirement of ISP programs quickly surpassed the physical abilities of program staff, which led to the advent of electronic monitoring (EM) in probation. In 1983, the first probation EM pilot launched in New Mexico, followed by a larger pilot in Florida. By 1991, EM was used by probation programs nationwide.

The new legislation and program types meant that, by 2000, there had been a fundamental shift in the focus of U.S. probation programs, from rehabilitation to control. In the next part of our series, we’ll examine the correlations between these changes and issues faced by modern probation programs.



A Fireside Chat with Chief Wendy Still 

Our CEO Sam Hotchkiss is kicking off Reconnect’s 2021 Webinar series with a one-on-one conversation with Wendy Still, Chief Probation Officer of Alameda County (Oakland, CA) and former Chief Probation Officer of San Francisco county as she prepares to retire later this year.

During her career, she has witnessed drastic policy shifts, the evolvement of effective evidence-based strategies and practices, budget and staffing cuts, and countless other industry milestones, while being a relentless advocate for change and progress within the system.

Spaces for the chat are limited and filling up fast, register now!