Bill to Limit the Length of Adult Probation Passes First Test in the Assembly

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

(Sacramento) – The Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday passed a bill to limit adult probation to a maximum of one year for misdemeanor offenses and two years for felony offenses. The legislation, AB 1950, authored by Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) passed by a 5-3 vote.  

“If the evidence showed that longer probation periods were more effective at helping people succeed in their communities, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” said Kamlager. “But research shows the opposite, 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.

Existing law authorizes courts to enforce misdemeanor probation terms for a maximum of three years. Felony probation may be enforced for as long as the maximum possible prison sentence for the offense. If the maximum sentence is five years or less, the probation period cannot be longer than five years.

AB 1950 recognizes that less is more in terms of probation supervision. A recurring issue with probation is that people free from incarceration often cycle back into the system due to a technical violation of their probation conditions, filling our prisons and burdening our stressed budget.

Technical violations include missing appointments, not paying fines or failing to sustain employment. Twenty percent of prison admissions in California are the result of probation violations, accounting for part of the $2 billion annual cost to incarcerate people for supervision violations. In 2018, 8 percent of people incarcerated in California prisons were behind bars for probation violations – nearly half of which were technical and minor in nature.

Probation is the most widely used form of correctional control in California.The state’s adult supervised probation population is about 356,000, one of the largest in the nation, more than twice the size of the state’s prison population, almost four times larger than its jail population and about six times larger than its parole population.

The daily cost of supervising someone on probation is about $12 – roughly $4,438 per person a year. Although California probation departments supervise the largest population, they receive the least amount of funding compared with other supervision departments (i.e., prison, jail and parole).

“COVID-19 has forced us to accept a new normal in regard to our jobs or social lives and more,” Kamlager said. “I challenge us to envision a new normal where justice is based on research, facts and figures, a new normal where supervision is not about how long someone’s term is, but rather how meaningful that term is.”

AB 1950 allows for the reinvestment of funding into supportive services for people on misdemeanor and felony probation rather than keeping this population on supervision for extended periods.

“Probation is a flawed business model. Counties need to design a system where the costs of the programs do not exceed the administrative expense,” said Kamlager. “That can happen when we have fewer people on probation; probation officers have lighter caseloads and perform their jobs more effectively, spending more quality time and resources on people on probation."

AB 1950 faces its next hurdle in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

To schedule an interview with Assemblymember Kamlager, contact Alina Evans at (916) 319-2054.

Assembly District 54 consists of Baldwin Hills, Cheviot Hills, the Crenshaw District, Century City, Culver City, Ladera Heights, Mar Vista, Palms, Rancho Park, Westwood and parts of South Los Angeles and Inglewood.