Courts Data Analysis Frequent Jail Users Incarceration Trends Probation Sanctions May 5, 2022

Trends in Jail Incarceration for Probation Violations

Rochisha Shukla, Ammar Khalid, Arielle Jackson

Urban Institute report on Trends in Jail Incarceration for Probation Violations

In partnership with the Adult Probation Department in Pima County, Arizona, and as part of broader research funded by the Safety and Justice Challenge to examine the impact on jail use of providing housing supports for people on probation in Pima County, the Urban Institute analyzed trends in jail incarceration for people with probation violations using datasets for overall jail bookings in the county from 2015 to 2020 and petitions-to-revoke for people on probation from 2016 to 2020. This case study summarizes our findings on patterns in overall jail bookings and petitions-to-revoke and, for the probation population in jail, analyzes average lengths of stay and patterns by race and ethnicity and sex.

A New “Tap In Center” Aims To Restore Community Trust

By: Miranda Gibson, Beth Huebner

Community Engagement Courts Diversion Featured Jurisdictions Interagency Collaboration Racial Disparities April 14, 2022

There is new hope in St. Louis County for people afraid to move on with their lives or engage with the criminal justice system because of unresolved warrants, municipal code violations, or having missed a court date.

The center, which is part of a national effort to lower jail populations in jurisdictions across the country as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), aids in responding to concerns raised by the Department of Justice (DOJ) about racial injustice related to municipal court practices in its 2015 investigation into the Ferguson Police Department—which is located in the northern part of St. Louis County.

The DOJ commissioned a report in the wake of the 2015 police killing of Michael Brown, which spawned a series of racial justice protests in Ferguson, attracting international attention. The report found that police practices were often unconstitutional and that municipal court practices imposed substantial barriers to the challenge or resolution of municipal code violations. The court also imposed “unduly harsh penalties for missed payments or appearances,” the report said. It also said the law enforcement practices in Ferguson were driven in part by racial bias and that they disproportionately harmed African American residents. So, it is evident that in St. Louis County any efforts to lower the jail population must go hand in hand with intentional efforts towards racial equity.

Minor legal issues are often part of the reason people “tap out” of trusting the criminal justice system. They stop people feeling proactively and collectively engaged with their community’s safety and security. But the new “Tap In Center” aims to rebuild trust between community members and the criminal justice system, with racial equity at its core. The goal is to help people to have a brief conversation and to help them re-engage with court cases and, more importantly, legal assistance.

Data helped with identifying the location for Tap In. It is taking place in the zip code where most African American people in the county’s jail system live. It is also located in a neighborhood that has historically been underserved in transit access, social services, and community supports. The center aims to take a humanitarian approach to the issues that people face when they must go to a court date every month, often for an extended period of time, until their case might be resolved.

The “Tap In Center” is more than just a place for people to resolve warrants. People can also meet with an attorney, learn their case status, apply for help from a public defender, or even access a cellphone. The center also connects people with other wrap-around services to help them with various challenges in their lives, from temporary housing to clothing to help with food.

Residents have spoken positively about their experience with the center, saying it allows them to continue their lives without fear of bench warrants or fear of arrest for this. Wakesha Cook told St. Louis Public Radio that after getting connected with a public defender and setting up a new court date, “I feel free.”

“When I first got to the center, I was a little nervous since I had this warrant on me, but when I started talking with the people, I was relieved,” said Earnest Holt, another person who visited the center, in an interview with the St. Louis American.

The Tap In Center is a community-based space in a public library. It’s located in a safe, neutral, calm, welcoming spot and is designed to remove barriers and worries that a person might have about going into a courthouse. It welcomes people who come in with warrant issues—people who have historically been wary about engaging with the justice system because they are afraid of, for example, serving jail time.

The center is the result of a partnership between the St. Louis County Library system, The Bail Project, the Missouri State Public Defender, and the St. Louis County Prosecutor, with support from the St. Louis County Courts 21st Judicial Circuit.

Criminal Justice reform strategies in St. Louis County go beyond the Tap In Center. They have focused on systemic case processing, including a population review team, enhanced pretrial reform, pretrial assessment, legal representation, and expedited probation handling. Each of the county’s reform strategies is meant to decrease the disproportionate burden that people of color face in the criminal justice system. St. Louis County is also advised by its own Ethnic and Racial Disparities committee, made up of criminal justice stakeholders, representatives from community advocacy groups, and individuals with lived experiences.

At the time of writing, St. Louis County had reduced the average daily population of its jail by 24% since joining the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2016. Nevertheless, racial disparities do persist. The average daily population of Black people in the jail has reduced by 15% from 2016 to 2021, according to the numbers, and the average daily population of White people has reduced by 41%. Length of stay has reduced for Black individuals who are seeing a 44% decline in the length of stay compared with 41% for White individuals. COVID has slowed progress because of court closures and other related delays. Now that things are reopening, the county is ready to continue its work.

The Tap In Center represents progress and provides motivation for the continued work to be done to address long-standing issues. We hope that other communities across the country will learn from the Tap In Center as they attempt to address their own racial equity issues and more.

New York, NY

Change in Jail Population 41%

Action Areas Bail Courts Data Analysis Diversion

Last Updated


In 2018, New York City had the lowest incarceration rate of any large city in the country. Despite the city’s success in reducing the overall jail population, certain fundamental inequalities persisted in the jail.

People of color were overrepresented in the jail. Black and Latinx people made up a little more than half of the city’s population yet comprised nearly 90% of the local jail population from 2013 – 2018.

While the number of people in custody with behavioral health needs was falling, it was falling more slowly compared to the overall number of people in custody. In 2018, 43 percent of individuals in New York City jails had behavioral health disorders.


Since joining the Safety and Justice Challenge, New York City has advanced a number of strategies to rethink and redesign its criminal justice system to make it more fair, just, and equitable for all.



The city updated the program model for supervised release and conducted trainings to inform the courts on the changes. The updates included expanding program eligibility to allow a younger population charged with serious offenses and expanding the range of charges that were eligible. State-wide bail reform legislation, which passed in 2019, required further expansion of the supervised release program to be made available to all individuals charged with a crime, at the discretion of the court.



Previously, incidents involving intimate partners were not permitted within the supervised release program. However, since bail reform legislation passed, and these individuals were now accepted by the program, a class specific to intimate partner violence (IPV) was developed and implemented to respond to the needs of this population. It encourages judges to allow defendants charged with IPV to participate in the supervised release program, as an alternative to jail.



The city has increased the use of alternatives to detention and incarceration for people in the jail. Specifically, the city expanded the uptake of diversion initiatives. To ensure people could be successfully diverted to these services, the city identified and addressed barriers to diversion in the arraignment process.



The city has also worked to provide enhanced information to judges in arraignments, which has included updating a release assessment tool that offers judges the likelihood that the individual will make all court appearances.



In light of criminal justice reforms, the city developed bail and discovery reform metrics. With the substantial changes made to state laws, these metrics can be used to track the implementation and progress of these reforms.


As a result of the strategies above, New York City has made progress towards its goal of rethinking and redesigning its criminal justice system. The jail population has been reduced while keeping the community safe.

Quartery ADP for New York (2016-2022)

40.9% from baseline

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Specifically, judges are using supervised release for a broader range of cases than they used to.

The city has built collaborations with other agencies, which has allowed the city to facilitate jail releases in response to COVID-19 while keeping the community safe and protecting public health.

Remaining Challenges

New York City is focused on addressing its remaining challenges in its local justice system.

With changes to the state-wide bail reform law, there is no longer a need to focus on expanding the supervised release programs. The challenge will now be to encourage judges to consider release for the more serious charges, for which bail still remains a legal option, and to continue to build out support services within the program.

The city has also been working to identify where racial and ethnic disparities occur in the justice system and will be working to address the issue going forward.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on every aspect of the city’s local justice system and continues to uniquely affect those incarcerated in local jails. The NYC jail population has seen a re-increase since the beginning of the pandemic, which requires a regular review of jail reduction approaches and their effectiveness.

The foundation of collaborative, data-driven strategies, including the necessary structures and collaboration from local stakeholders that are in place to support these strategies, has set the city up well to respond to the pandemic swiftly and effectively.

Lead Agency

NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice

Contact Information

Miriam Popper


Office of Court Administration, New York City, Criminal Justice Agency, Center for Court Innovation, CASES

Follow @CrimJusticeNYC

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Shelby County, TN

Change in Jail Population 2%

Action Areas Courts Pretrial Services

Last Updated


Shelby County, which contains the city of Memphis, is the most populous county in the state.

When Shelby County joined the Safety and Justice Challenge, the number of bookings into its jail was decreasing, but the average length of stay was rising, particularly for in-custody felony defendants.

The Shelby County Jail is a pretrial detention facility. In August 2017, 15% of the people had been in jail for more than 500 days.

Racial and ethnic disparities persisted in the county’s justice system. Specifically, Black and Hispanic people were overrepresented in the jail.

Case processing times continued to increase. Delays in the held-to-state process, which refers to those cases that are bound over to the grand jury and reflect mostly felony cases, and lengthy time intervals associated with continuances, were identified as two main factors contributing to this increase.

Overuse of detention causes disruption in the stability of arrestees’ families and communities, leads to higher re-arrest rates, and produces worse case outcomes with more back-end incarceration.


Since joining the Safety and Justice Challenge, Shelby County has advanced a number of strategies to rethink and redesign its criminal justice system to make it more fair, just, and equitable for all.



To reduce case processing time for in-custody felony defendants, the county used many approaches: developed a Differentiated Case Management plan; reviewed cases for people in custody 500+ days; established a third Grand Jury and a process for those cases that are bound over to the grand jury; and provided earlier appointment of counsel for felony defendants.



In July 2019, the courts began using a new research-based risk assessment tool, the Public Safety Assessment, to predict pretrial success and ensure people could be released from jail safely.



For people facing misdemeanor citations, there was an opportunity to make the system more efficient. The misdemeanor citation process was consolidated to one appearance date that now includes both processing and court.


As a result of the strategies above, Shelby County has made progress towards its goal of rethinking and redesigning its criminal justice system. The county has been able to reduce its jail population while keeping the community safe.

Quartery ADP for Shelby County (2016-2022)

2.2% from baseline

More Results

As of early 2021, the Public Safety Assessment tool was used to review more than 26,000 people in jail to assess whether or not they could be safely released back into the community while awaiting trial. In July 2019, the release on recognizance rate, which measures the amount of people who are safely released without paying bail, barely exceeded 15%. As of January 2021, the release on recognizance rate had nearly doubled to more than 31%.

As a result of efforts to improve case processing, the Differentiated Case Management plan was signed by all ten independently elected criminal court judges in September 2019. Two Differentiated Case Management Coordinators began in January 2020, and are working more closely with five of the ten criminal court judges, as of February 2021.

In addition, six jail population management reports were developed and completed by April 2019 to measure the length of time between various steps in the criminal justice system. Without data to understand the current situation, decisions about change could not be made.

The Criminal Court Clerk’s Office also reduced and began reporting the time between indictment returned and arraignment in criminal court. The time from arraignment to appointment of a public defender for felony cases in General Sessions Court began decreasing in May 2018, a change that was widely embraced by judges.

Remaining Challenges

Shelby County is focused on addressing its remaining challenges in its local justice system.

Access to data that would allow for both an analysis of what is happening now in the justice system and creating data-driven solutions remains a challenge.

To get there, the county will build case management dashboards that provide a current summary and detailed information for those in criminal court. Once the dashboard is completed, it will give people a better understanding of cases on each docket. Following this, the county will build pretrial dashboards, which will track information related to appearance rate, concurrent rate, success rate, pretrial length of stay, and recommendation rate among other key data.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on every aspect of the county’s local justice system and continues to uniquely affect those incarcerated in local jails. The foundation of collaborative, data-driven strategies, including the necessary structures and collaboration from local stakeholders that are in place to support these strategies, has set the county up well to respond to the pandemic swiftly and effectively.

Lead Agency

Shelby County Sheriff’s Office

Contact Information

Katy Mack


Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk's Office, Shelby County Criminal Court Judges, Shelby County Pretrial Services, Shelby County District Attorney's Office

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Ada County, ID

Change in Jail Population 26%

Action Areas Community Engagement Courts Pretrial Services Racial Disparities

Last Updated


Ada County joined the Safety and Justice Challenge to better understand its jail population and to implement impactful, data-informed changes across the system to reduce the jail population and disparities.

At the time, there was over-reliance on incarceration for lower-risk, non-violent offenders in the jail. The biggest contributors to the jail population were pretrial detainees, accounting for well over 50 percent of the overall population, as well as length of stay. The average length of stay for low- and low-moderate-risk defendants was 56 days.

This overuse of detention caused disruption to the stability of arrestees’ families and communities, and led to higher re-arrest rates.


Ada County advanced a number of strategies to rethink and redesign its criminal justice system so that it is more fair, just, and equitable for all.



To improve case processing, the county implemented additional “second look” practices through collaborative efforts by the jail population review team, which includes system stakeholders who meet on a regular basis to discuss case types that drive the jail population and determine potential cases for safe release; reducing timelines for pre-sentence investigations; and speeding up the processing of parole violations.



The county expanded its use of evidence-based risk assessments to help judges measure risk to the community. This helped judges make more informed decisions regarding pretrial release, instead of relying solely on a cash bail system.



The county facilitated direct, honest conversations with members of its community about their experiences. It also studied relevant arrest and booking data to understand racial disparities in jails. Moving forward, the county is working to engage with the community to develop effective and sustainable solutions to make the justice system more fair and equitable.



The county created a new text, email and call-based notification system to allow the Ada County Clerk of Courts staff to send alerts to people with upcoming court dates and ultimately, reduce failure to appear rates in court.



The State of Idaho opened a new Behavioral Community Crisis Center in Boise to provide support for people suffering from mental illness or substance use issues, a disproportionately high population in the jail. Ada County continues to work closely with the State of Idaho to ensure that the center will be able to serve as many citizens who need it as possible.


As a result of the strategies above, Ada County has made progress towards its goal of rethinking and redesigning its criminal justice system.

Quartery ADP for Ada County (2016-2022)

26.1% from baseline

More Results

Initially, the county struggled to achieve a meaningful decrease in the jail population. The jail facility was continuously over capacity and was burdened by a large state inmate population. Relentless and rapid local population growth as well as limited resources for pre-arrest support, intervention and diversion were also significant factors.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the strategies that were in place as a result of the Safety and Justice Challenge set the county up to respond quickly and meaningfully to the crisis. COVID-19 posed a serious health risk to the community, people being held in the jail, and staff. To reduce unnecessary exposure and transmission in our jail, the county was able to quickly and dramatically reduce the population to allow for proper distancing and quarantine space. Fortunately, the county had strong, collaborative relationships in place and was able to work with partner law enforcement agencies, public defenders, prosecutors, and the Department of Correction to reduce the jail population swiftly while maintaining community safety and protecting public health. The county continues to review its efforts to ensure that they are having the impact desired.

Beyond the jail reduction, the county also improved the Pretrial unit, by expanding the staffing and adopting the new pretrial assessment tool. The Pretrial program helped many avoid a return to jail after being released safely into the community.

For example, one man was charged with a Felony DUI when he was working as a full-time chef. Being released before his trial allowed him to keep working. During his sentencing hearing, the judge told him because he did well on Pretrial, he would not be serving time in prison. The Defendant now owns his own restaurant and food truck, and just recently opened a second location.

Remaining Challenges

Ada County is focused on addressing its remaining challenges in its local justice system.

Rapid local population growth — and corresponding jail population growth that follows — continues to be a challenge. While the county was able to safely reduce the jail population during the pandemic, the difficulties the jail faced pre-pandemic have not gone away. With all jury trials starting up again after being delayed, the county expects there to be some backup with people who have been in the jail long-term, until the courts can catch up. The COVID-19 pandemic did show what was possible with buy-in from law enforcement, prosecutors, and the District Court.

Another challenge will be continuing the system-wide commitment to the reduction of the jail population without the threat of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. The county is developing strategies and collecting data to show partners how crime rates have not gone up as the jail population has decreased, so the work can be sustained after the pandemic.

Overall, the county has learned that meaningful and lasting change is going to be a marathon. Ada County will continue to work towards achieving a more equitable, efficient, and safe system.

Lead Agency

Ada County Sheriff’s Office

Contact Information

Kristen MacLeod
Ada County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Justice Coordinator/Safety + Justice Grant Manager


Ada County Clerk's Office, Idaho 4th Judicial District judges and magistrate judges, Idaho Department of Correction, local law enforcement agencies, Ada County Prosecutor's Office, Ada County Public Defender, Ada County Trial Court Administrator, Ada County Commissioners, Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority, Boise State University, community leaders and service organizations, Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole, Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, mental health professionals, Pathways of Idaho Community Crisis Center, Idaho Black History Museum, state legislators

Follow @AdaCoSheriff

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