The Impact of Sentencing Reform on the Trends and Nature of Probation Revocations Throughout the United States

Christopher D. Maxwell, Michigan State University
Sheila Royo Maxwell, Michigan State University
Yan Zhang, Michigan State University

The United States prison population began to increase rapidly in the early 1970s. While research has failed to show that demographic changes or crime rates have strong influences on the growth of the prison population, factors like the 'get tough' sentencing reforms are attributed as the critical reason. Many of these reforms included increasing probation supervision, increasing the certainty of probation revocation, and increasing the severity of sanctions after a revocation. Many have speculated and some have shown in a number of states that these changes account for a sizable percent of the overall increases in the prison population. This paper will present an analysis of the 1983 through 1998 National Correctional Reporting Program Admission databases using HLM to assess in a growth-curve format the impact of changes in sentencing structures on the trends and the nature of probation revocation across the entire United States. The paper will then test whether the changes in the revocation practices have impacted the overall prison population, and whether this impact varies by legal and social characteristics of the states.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006