AB 1950: Probation Reform
AB 1950 amends the California State Penal Code to limit adult probation to a maximum of one year for misdemeanor offenses and two years for felony offenses.
Background & Problem
Probation is a period of supervision granted at the discretion of a judge for a person convicted of a crime in lieu of jail or prison. Probation is the most widely used form of correctional control. California's adult supervised probation population is more than twice the size of its prison population, almost four times larger than its jail population and about six times larger than its parole population.
Existing law authorizes courts that have jurisdiction in misdemeanor cases to suspend the sentence and to make and enforce terms of probation. The misdemeanor probation term may be for a maximum of three years. If the maximum sentence imposed by law for the misdemeanor offense exceeds three years, then the probation term is not to exceed the time for which the person may be incarcerated.
Felony probation can be enforced for as long as the maximum possible prison sentence for the offense. If the maximum sentence is five years or less, however, then the probation period cannot be longer than five years.
If probation is granted, the judge will impose a number of conditions. These may include payment of fines, drug or alcohol treatment, anger management classes and the payment of restitution.
A 2018 Justice Center of the Council of State Governments study found that a large portion of people violate probation and end up incarcerated as a result. The study revealed that 20 percent of prison admissions in California are the result of probation violations, accounting for the estimated $2 billion spent annually by the state to incarcerate people for supervision violations. Eight percent of people incarcerated in a California prison are behind bars for probation violations. Close to half of those violations are technical and minor in nature, such as missing a drug rehab appointment or socializing with a friend who has a criminal record. And yet despite the fact that these technical violations (non-crimes) do not threaten our communities, they cost taxpayers at least $235 million per year.
Probation - originally meant to reduce recidivism - has instead become a pipeline for re-entry into the carceral system.
Research by the California Budget & Policy Center shows that probation services, such as mental healthcare and addiction treatment, are most effective during the first 18 months of supervision. Research also indicates that providing increased supervision and services earlier reduces an individual's likelihood to recidivate. A shorter term of probation, allowing for an increased emphasis on services, should lead to improved outcomes for both people on misdemeanor and felony probation while reducing the number of people on probation returning to incarceration.
AB 1950 would restrict the period of adult probation for a misdemeanor to no longer than one year, and no longer than two years for a felony. This does not include offenses falling under section 667.5 of the State Penal Code, crimes committed against monetary property (i.e., "white-collar crimes") valued at over $25,000 as well as any specific crimes with probation term lengths identified by statute.
AB 1950 creates reasonable and evidence-based limits on probation terms, while lowering costs to taxpayers, allowing for the possible investment of savings in effective measures proven to reduce recidivism and increasing public safety for all Californians.
AB 1950 will support probation officers in completing the duties of their job more effectively, by making their caseloads more manageable.
Alliance for Boys and Men of Color
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment
All of Us or None
American Civil Liberties Union/Northern California/Southern California and Imperial Counties
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California
Asian Pacific Islander Re-Entry and Inclusion Through Support and Empowerment
Asian Prisoner Support Committee
AYPAL: Building API Community Power
California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
California Immigrant Policy Center
Californians for Safety and Justice
California Public Defenders Association
Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants
Consumer Attorneys of California
Drug Policy Alliance
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Jewish Public Affairs Committee
John Burton Advocates for Youth
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Legal Services for Prisoner with Children
Mayor Eric Garcetti, City of Los Angeles
National Association of Social Workers, California
Oakland; City of
San Francisco Public Defender
Santa Barbara Women's Political Committee
The Family Project
Transgender Advocacy Group (TAG)
Voices for Progress
Young Women's Freedom Center
Op-Ed: Stop putting people in prison for small parole and probation rule violations (Los Angeles Times)
California's black lawmakers urge support for bills to address systemic inequality (Los Angeles Times)