What Is Community Supervision?

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A 2015 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report showed that the United States (U.S.) confines more individuals in correctional facilities than any other nation. 

In fact, even though the U.S. population is less than five percent of the world’s, the country’s prisoners account for 25% of the global prison population.

Therefore, prison overcrowding is currently one of the criminal justice system’s concerns. 

One alternative to incarceration that may help ease overpopulation in U.S. correctional facilities is community supervision.

Community supervision, also known as community corrections, is when offenders have regulated access to community services.

lookupinmate.org is a one-stop online resource for information regarding inmates and correctional facilities nationwide. 

This article discusses essential information regarding community supervision, including its nature, terms, goals, types, and impact on its participants and the community. 

This article also explains how officers design and implement community supervision programs.

Continue reading to learn more about community supervision, how it works, and its possible advantages and disadvantages for the corrections system and public safety.

Community Supervision: Overview

In 2018, a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report noted that about 4.4 million individuals in Washington, the District of Columbia (D.C.), and the 50 states were under community supervision. 

The data above may indicate the growing significance of community-based programs as an alternative to imprisonment. 

What Is Community Supervision

Community supervision refers to a post-release or post-conviction period in which eligible offenders can access specific community services under the close surveillance of parole or probation officers.

What Is Mandatory Supervision?

When defendants receive a split sentence (community supervision and jail time), they may undergo mandatory supervision after their release from county jails. 

The conditions of supervision between mandatory and community supervision are generally similar. For example, community supervision officers are also in charge of individuals under mandatory supervision.

However, in California, counties run mandatory supervision programs. Therefore, the rules may vary depending on each county’s correction policies. 

Offenders typically receive mandatory supervision when their good conduct and actual calendar time equal the duration of their initial sentence.

Moreover, each state’s and county’s Department of Corrections credits the offenders’ participation in work and assigned treatment programs for their good conduct time.  

What Are Three of the Main Goals of Community Supervision?

The following list shows three primary goals of community supervision programs: 

  • Help offenders understand their situations. 
  • Assist offenders in looking for problem-specific solutions
  • Make connections between offenders and community services that are relevant to their problems.

Moreover, community supervision’s long-term goals may include reducing victimization and future recidivism (the tendency of an inmate to reoffend). 

For example, the Florida Department of Corrections views community corrections as a way to promote public safety by providing effective programs for offenders.

Is Community Supervision the Same As Probation?

Probation is a court-issued criminal sentence that places individuals under community supervision rather than in correctional facilities. 

The most common community supervision approaches are parole and probation.

How Long Does Community Supervision Last?

The duration of community supervision for each offender depends on the nature of their crimes. 

For example, community supervision may last up to five years for state jail felonies and up to 10 years for first-, second-, or third-degree felonies. 

On the other hand, for misdemeanor cases, the program may last up to two years. 

Termination and Discharge

The termination and discharge conditions for community supervision may be the same for parole and probation. 

However, these two community-based programs fall under the governance of different committees, which can lead to differences in specific procedures.

For instance, parole boards determine eligibility standards for releasing individuals serving under parole supervision. On the other hand, the court directly handles probation cases.

Moreover, some states have conditions for merit termination of community supervision. These programs allow offenders to get out of community corrections before their sentences reach the maximum expiration dates.

In New York, nonviolent offenders who meet the state’s Correction Law requirements are eligible to receive merit termination of a sentence. However, sex and violent offenders are not eligible for sentence termination programs. 

Can Community Supervision End Early?

Some court-ordered offender supervision programs have a clause for the possibility of reducing the length of time of an inmate’s sentence. 

However, other rulings do not allow early discharge for violent or high-risk criminals.

If you think you or a loved one no longer needs intensive supervision, you can partner with a defense attorney to petition the court for an early discharge.

Community Supervision in the U.S. Criminal Cases

Community supervision in the U.S. allows offenders to serve their sentences outside correctional facilities under strict supervision. 

This program can be an alternative to imprisonment or a way for inmates to get an early release from their prison sentences.

3G Offenses in the U.S.

Each state has a different criminal code governing its prison systems. These codes help states categorize crimes based on their severity and assist officials in identifying individuals eligible for community supervision. 

For example, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 42.12 Section 3g states that court-ordered community supervision programs do not apply to individuals convicted of criminal offenses like:

  • Capital murder
  • Aggravated robbery
  • Indecency with a child
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Aggravated kidnapping

Why Do We Need Community Supervision?

The correctional system in the United States requires community supervision for the following reasons:

  • Cost-saver: Community supervision programs are less expensive compared to institutional ones. For example, a 2017 report suggested community supervision costs less than incarceration.
  • Helps ease prison overpopulation: These programs can help ease prison and jail overpopulation by allowing offenders to have restricted access to community services.
  • Adaptable programs: Another advantage of community supervision is its programs’ adaptability. Correctional officers can implement this community-based approach at any time during the inmate’s sentencing period.

When Is Someone Sentenced to Community Supervision?

Offenders go immediately under the community supervision officers’ oversight soon after the judges’ parole or probation order.

After sentencing, the officers interview the inmate, explain the terms of supervision, and assign them to field offices. 

The location of these offices may depend on offenders’ risk levels to public safety and their residences.

Inmates usually have a limited number of days to visit their field offices, where they will meet the community supervision officers in charge of their cases.

What Are the Terms of Supervision?

Offenders must observe the terms of community supervision at all times. These regulations and the time they apply may depend on the offenders’ crimes and criminal records.

For instance, community supervision duration may be longer and more strict for felony offenders than those who have committed misdemeanors.

These are the typical community supervision requirements for offenders:

  • Reporting to a parole or probation officer regularly
  • Leaving the county only when the community supervision officer authorized the action
  • Paying restitution to crime victims
  • Completing  community service
  • Paying court and community supervision fees
  • Surrendering any firearms to law enforcement officers

Qualifying for Community Supervision

Courts usually decide whether convicted individuals are eligible for community supervision programs. 

However, this option does not apply to offenders who have received sentences with mandatory prison time.

Many states have policies indicating that officers must incarcerate individuals convicted of violent crimes. Therefore, these offenders may not be eligible for any community corrections program.

Reporting Conditions

Reporting conditions refer to rules individuals must follow while under community supervision programs. Usually, offender rehabilitation, parole, or probation officers explain these conditions to the program participants.

Sex Offender Registry

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA.) provides minimum national standards for sex offender registration procedures in the United States.  

Thus, states or jurisdictions may have different implementations of these requirements.

For example, the New York State’s Sex Offender Registration Act only applies to individuals who committed specific sex offenses on or after January 21, 1996. 


Individuals under community supervision must meet all the requirements of their sentences, such as payment of fines and compliance with restitution orders. 

Community supervision conditions can also depend on the committee or officer in charge of the offenders’ case.

Parolees must comply with parole boards and community supervision officers’ imposed conditions.

Offenders must follow all parole conditions, like refraining from using illegal drugs and communicating honestly and cooperatively with their community supervision officer.  


Individuals under community supervision who want to relocate to another location must seek approval from their current community supervisors. 

Offenders must send a request to the community supervision agency near the relocation site.

Afterward, relevant authorities may investigate the proposed residence and transfer the offender’s supervision to a community corrections officer in the receiving agency.

Out-of-State Travel

Probationers or parolees must seek the approval of their community supervisors before their departure date.

Individuals under community supervision programs have to provide the answers to the following questions:

  • Why and when do you plan to leave?
  • When and how do you plan to return?
  • With whom do you plan to travel?
  • Where do you plan to stay?

What Happens if You Violate the Terms?

Individuals under community supervision, such as probationers and parolees,  can face legal troubles if they violate the court-mandated probation or parole terms. 

Moreover, not meeting these expectations may lead to another court appearance and possible prison reentry.

Sometimes, courts can add prison time to the original sentence of probationers who did not experience imprisonment or the court can decide to re-incarcerate parolees who got an early release.

Moreover, the severity of community supervision violations depends on the context. For example, parolees and probationers sometimes commit direct infractions, which can be more challenging to defend. 

Still, some parole and probation violations result from misunderstandings or misconceptions between the parolees and probationers and their assigned supervisors.

Something as minor as failing to meet with a parole officer or probation officer on schedule may suggest violating release conditions. 

Whom May Citizens Contact Regarding Offenders Under Community Supervision?

Citizens who need information regarding offenders under community supervision may contact the supervisors’ office using the online directory of a particular corrections department.

What Action Should Citizens Take if They Observe Offenders Committing Crimes?

Citizens must report criminal acts to law enforcement officers as soon as possible. This move may help prevent the loss or destruction of valuable evidence. 

Immediate reports can also help the police to catch the offender, ensuring public safety. You can call 911 to report criminal incidents.

What Action Should Citizens Take if They Think They or Someone Else Is in Danger?

Citizens can contact an emergency service if they think someone is in danger. You can call 911 to request an ambulance if a person has a life-threatening injury.

What Action Should Citizens Take in Situations of Perceived Harassment by Offenders?

If citizens perceive clear harassment incidents, they should immediately call 911 for help. 

However, citizens should report supposed harassment incidents to the appropriate community supervision officers if the situation is less clear. 

These professionals will investigate and determine if there is a violation of the conditions.  

The Difference Between Probation and Parole in the United States

Probation is a court-imposed term of community supervision that usually serves as an alternative to prison or jail. In contrast, parole is a kind of community supervision following an offender’s release from incarceration.

A judge determines probation during sentencing. On the other hand, a parole board grants offenders parole after a parole hearing.

What Is Probation?

Probation is a court-issued criminal sentence that, subject to particular constraints, can result in the convicted individual’s early release into the community rather than confinement in corrections facilities.

Here are some examples of probation:

  • Unsupervised probation
  • Interstate compact
  • Supervised probation
  • Courtesy supervision
  • Intensive probation

Moreover, probation conditions may vary based on the kind of probation. 

For example, offenders under supervised probation need to report regularly to their probation officer for corrections. In contrast, unsupervised probation requires monthly home or office visits. 

Furthermore, a probation violation may result in an extended probationary period or stricter conditions regarding the offender’s activities.

What Is Parole?

Parole refers to the former inmates’ conditional release before the end of their sentences.

A parole officer oversees a paroled individual. Additionally, law enforcement agencies send parolees back to prison if they violate the parole conditions. 

Furthermore, parole boards usually grant parole to individuals with good behavior, provided the parolee consistently reports to a parole officer. 

A parole violation can suggest that the paroled person can still threaten public safety.  

Parole Officers

The list below shows the possible roles of parole officers:

  • Evaluating parole candidates’ criminal history, mental health, and prison behavior to determine if their parole eligibility
  • Reducing safety risks to the community by consistently monitoring paroled individuals’ activities
  • Proactively addressing parolees’ harmful behaviors, like implementing special curfews and substance abuse treatment procedures

The following list indicates parole officers’ job descriptions:

  • Help paroled individuals find stable employment
  • Supervise low-risk and high-risk caseloads
  • Implement advanced case management techniques to help rehabilitate ex-offenders
  • Refer parolees to social service programs, such as housing 
  • Ensure that parolees are attending to periodic drug tests

Probation Conditions in the U.S.

The following conditions may apply to you if you are a probationer. 

Leaving Town

Your probation officer (PO) must approve your plan before you can leave your town. Therefore, you should notify your PO regarding your travel plans ahead to give them time to evaluate your situation.


If you plan to move outside your local district, you must obtain permission from your probation officer. 

After you get your moving permit, your supervisors will set an appointment for you to report to the probation officer in the area where you will reside.

Changing Jobs

You should inform your probation officer immediately if you no longer have a job or are changing your profession or workplace.

Office Visits to Your Probation Officer

Can You Bring Your Kids During Probation Visits?

Many states do not allow probationers to bring their children to probation office visits. 

Some visits may last for hours, depending on the purpose of the office visit. Thus, you must ask trusted people to watch your kids before your visitation date.


You can vote upon completion of any criminal sentence, including probation and parole if you reside in the following places:

Electronic Monitoring

Community supervision officers may use electronic monitoring to improve their community-based oversight. 

Education and Classes

Do You Have to Finish a DWI Class?

Some correctional agencies can require you to complete a driving while intoxicated (DWI) class and refer you to a program for DWI classes. 

You must finish your DWI class within a fixed number of days, depending on the corrections office’s requirements. You may also need to pay for the entire cost of DWI classes.

What Do You Do if You Need Help With Your Education?

Many local educational programs are available for individuals who are under community supervision in the United States.

If you have trouble writing or reading, your probation officer can refer you to a beginner’s adult literacy class.

 Your probation officer can also refer you to an English as a Second Language (ESL) class if you want to learn how to speak English better.

What Do You do if You Want To Get A GED?

Suppose you do not have a high school diploma. In that case, your probation officer can refer you to general equivalency diploma (GED) preparation and testing.  

What if You Were Ordered to Finish a Class?

Officers may sometimes require you to complete community service classes that can help you address various issues. 

These programs include sex offender therapy and anger management classes. 

Substance Abuse Cases

Will You Be Tested for Alcohol or Drugs?

If you have committed a drug- or alcohol-related crime, you are required to undergo regular drug or alcohol tests during community supervision. 

These testing procedures may include submitting urine specimens.

What Happens if You Have a Substance Abuse Problem or Have Been Ordered to Complete Treatment?

Healthcare professionals may evaluate your drug or alcohol problem before you can receive a treatment procedure. 

This assessment determines the type of treatment that you will have to complete.

How to Complete Community Service Restitution Hours

Your probation officer will check on you if you have already completed your community service restitution (CSO) hours. 

You may be able to complete these community service hours through a nonprofit agency. 

What Kind of Probation Fees Will You Have to Pay?

The following list shows the court-mandated probation fees you may have to pay:

  • Fines
  • Court costs
  • Adult probation fees

The court can also add any of the following probation fees depending on your case:

  • Court-appointed attorney fees
  • Restitution (a fee you must pay equivalent to your victim’s loss)

Furthermore, parolees may also have to pay supervision fees. For example, New York state law requires parolees to pay a monthly supervision fee of $30. 

What Payment Methods Are Accepted?

Usually, community supervision offices accept payments through money orders, cashier’s checks, or credit cards, such as American Express, Visa, MasterCard, or Discover.

What Happens if You Get Behind on Your Probation Payments?

You may note that your probation payments are court-mandated, and you must make your payment on time. 

However, if you fail to pay your probation fees, your probation officer can recommend a new payment matrix to the court.

You should consult your probation officer immediately if you have any inquiries regarding your probation payments.

Should the Conditions and Intensity of Supervision Vary by Risk and Need?

Risk level evaluation helps determine the appropriate intensity of community supervision for eligible offenders. 

The risk assessment’s outcome determines how frequently parolees and probationers must report to their supervising officers. 

The following list shows the three considerations that may determine appropriate supervision intensity:

  • Supervision status 
  • The severity of the offense
  • Risk level

Does the Framework Support Supervision and Intervention Tailor to Risk Level?

Corrections agencies must adjust supervision levels based on risk. 

For example, requiring more intensive supervision conditions for higher-risk individuals is necessary but not enough. 

Research indicates that having intensive supervision without risk-reduction interventions can worsen outcomes.

Moreover, corrections officers must develop separate supervision pathways appropriate for people with various risk and need profiles. 

How Do You Translate Needs Assessment Information to Program Assignment?

Lowering probationer and parolee risk requires accurate matching of treatment to the degree of criminogenic need. This step requires case planning. 

The plan must involve the following activities:

  • Determine the most urgent criminogenic needs through assessment
  • Guide the community supervision officer or case manager to conduct program referrals and set objectives to address priority criminogenic need 

Have You Examined Existing Program Interventions to Determine the Criminogenic Needs They Address?

Case plans support organized decision-making at the individual level by emphasizing work for probationers and parolees, addressing their criminogenic needs.

Moreover, one practice that can help is to sort or categorize intervention options by target needs. 

This information must be available to case managers and supervision officers. A thorough examination of existing programs may help case handlers to do the following tasks:

  • Evaluate the evidence base on how effectively each program addresses criminogenic needs
  • Assess whether the officers implement intervention options accurately
  • Measure the number of existing program slots relative to the determined level and distribution of needs among the supervisee population

What Is the Use of the Risk and Needs Assessment Tool?

Risk and needs assessment tools help standardize corrections officers’ identification of correct intervention programs for parolees or probationers.

How Is Risk Integrated Into Responses to Supervision Violations?

Risk level can also be a critical input in addressing supervision violations. 

There are three factors that correctional officers may consider when making decisions regarding supervision violations:

  • The program participant’s reoffense risk
  • The severity of the supervision violation
  • The existing response options

For example, a verbal reprimand, curfew imposition, or a behavioral contract are typically appropriate responses to minor violations. 

On the other hand, referrals to intensive programs or recommendations for revocation are suitable ways to address high-risk offenders’ supervision violations.

Have You Established Performance Measures Tied to the Structured Decision-Making Framework?

Structured decision-making can help monitor several crucial aspects of system performance, such as:

  • The assigned programs should match the supervisees’ recidivism risk and address their criminogenic needs. 
  • The intervention options for supervision violations should be consistent with a sanction matrix’s suggested response. 

Officers Face an Uphill Battle

Community supervision officers may sometimes face hindrances from successfully doing their duties. 

Underfunding can result in officers assuming distinct job roles when interacting with supervisees. 

Some officers may also have to serve as social workers and law enforcement agents, even though they have limited or no power to apprehend supervisees.

Participants Stuck in an Endless Cycle

Around one-third of individuals under community supervision may fail to complete their programs because of technical violations or reoffense.

Today, probationers may have to meet between 18 and 29 different community supervision requirements. 

The information above suggests that community supervision participants may face requirements that are extremely difficult to follow. Consequently, many offenders may struggle to escape the community supervision cycle.


  1. Can I serve as a jury while on probation?

Jurisdictions in the United States typically prohibit individuals under community supervision from serving as jurors. 

For example, California citizens cannot serve as jurors if they are under any of the following programs:

  • Parole
  • Postrelease community supervision
  • Felony probation
  • Mandated supervision
  1. What is an ignition interlock device?

Ignition interlock devices (IID) or breath-alcohol ignition interlock devices (BAIID) are breathalyzers for individuals’ vehicles. 

This technology prevents people from driving their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol.

  1. What do I have to do to complete a DNA test if ordered?

You must give your blood sample on time to your probation officer if your terms of supervision require you to complete a DNA test.

  1. Can I get off probation early?

Some probation scenarios do not allow for early release. However, judges may make exceptions based on your circumstances.

For example, people with specific disabilities, such as blindness or leprosy, may receive early termination of their probation.

  1. If I have firearms and ammunition, can I keep them and buy more?

You should consult your probation officer regarding specific activities you may want to perform, such as buying firearms or ammunition. 

If you want to access more information regarding community supervision, you can browse your state’s online resources or visit national government sites such as the Office of Justice Programs’ website.

Remember that official government websites in the United States use “.gov.”


1. Overcrowding and Overuse of Imprisonment in the United States
2. Community Supervision
3. What is mandatory supervision?
4. Goal of Community Correction – A Redefinition (From Problems, Thoughts, and Processes in Criminal Justice Administration, 1969, P 117-135, Alvin W Cohn, ed. – See NCJ-84895)
5. Florida Department of Corrections
6. What is Community Supervision
7. Frequently Asked Questions
8. Community Supervision
9. Code of Criminal Procedure 42.12 on 5/27/2015
10. Incarceration Costs Significantly More than Supervision|
11. The National Guidelines for Sex Offenders’ Registration and Notification
12. Community Supervision
13. What are the different types of probation?
14. Voting Rights for People with a Felony Conviction
15. New York Consolidated Laws, Correction Law – COR § 201. Authority and responsibility for community supervision
16. Community Supervision
17. What is Community Supervision
18. Jury Service

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