The ASPP are BJS's most frequent and comprehensive source of information about offenders under community supervision, which accounts for the largest segment of the adult correctional population in the United States. At yearend 2013, over 4.75 million adults were on community supervision in the United States, including 3.9 million probationers and over 850,000 parolees. Seven out of 10 persons under correctional supervision in the United States lived in the community in 2012, rather than being incarcerated in a prison or jail. The ASPP fill a valuable role by annually documenting the number of persons in this population, how the population has grown or declined, movements onto and off community supervision, and characteristics of this population. These surveys collect information from large and small supervision agencies which are located in state, municipal, county, and court agencies and the federal government, and they have highly diverse data collection systems and resources.
From the ASPP, BJS annually obtains aggregate counts of the number of adults under probation and parole supervision at the beginning and end of the calendar year, and selected characteristics of the yearend population. These characteristics include sex, race, Hispanic origin, most serious offense, and status of supervision (active, inactive, absconder, etc.). The surveys also collect information on the number and characteristics of adults entering and exiting probation and parole supervision during the year. Although probation and parole are collectively the community supervision population, the terms refer to two distinct populations. Probation is a court-ordered period of correctional supervision in the community which generally serves as an alternative to incarceration. In some cases, probation can be a combined sentence of incarceration followed by a period of community supervision. Parole is a period of conditional supervised release in the community following a prison term.
Each component of the ASPP is referred to as a "survey"and is designed to completely enumerate its target population. Together these surveys provide BJS the total number of individuals under community supervison by state and federal authority. This limited geographical focus allows BJS to minimize the burden on the public by obtaining data from central state reporters wherever possible.
For the Annual Probation Survey, a central state reporter may be located in a state agency responsible for all probation supervision in the state or a state agency that also collects information from some or all locally operated probation agencies. BJS sent the 2013 Annual Probation Survey to 468 respondents, central state reporters, 435 separate state, county, or court agencies, including the state probation agency in Pennsylvania, which also provided data for 65 counties in Pennsylvania; the District of Columbia; and the federal system.