U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Probation and Parole in the United States, 2003

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EDT Bureau of Justice Statistics
SUNDAY, July 25, 2004 Contact: Stu Smith 202/307-0784
  After hours: 301-983-9354


WASHINGTON, D.C. - The nation's combined federal, state and local adult correctional population reached a new record of almost 6.9 million men and women in 2003, an increase of 130,700 people since December 31, 2002, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today.

The correctional population of 6,889,800 includes people incarcerated in prisons and jails as well as those on probation and parole. On June 30, 2003, 1,387,269 adults were incarcerated in federal and state prisons and 691,301 inmates in local jails. And as of December 31, 2003, 4,073,987 adults were on probation, a period of supervision in the community following a conviction, and 774,588 on parole, a period of conditional supervised release following a prison term.

About 3.2 percent of the nation's adult population, or 1 in every 32 adult residents, were incarcerated or on probation or parole in 2003. The adult probation population grew by 49,920 men and women, slightly less than half the average annual growth of 2.9 percent since 1995. The nation's parole population grew by 23,654 men and women in 2003, or 3.1 percent, almost double the average annual growth of 1.7 percent since 1995.

At the end of last year, the number of adults on probation or parole reached a record high of more than 4.8 million, which was 70 percent of all persons under federal, state or local correctional supervision. More than 1 million of the nation's probationers and parolees were in Texas (534,260) and California (485,039).

Four states had an increase of 10 percent or more in their probation populations in 2003- Kentucky (up 17 percent), Mississippi (up 15 percent) and Nebraska and New Hampshire (each up 12 percent). The adult probation population decreased in 19 states, led by Minnesota (down 10 percent).

As of last December 31, more than half of the probationers were white, 30 percent were black, 12 percent were Hispanic and 2 percent were of other races. Women comprised 23 percent of all adults on probation.

About 71 percent of probationers were under active supervision and were required to regularly report to a probation authority in person, by mail or by telephone. Forty-nine percent of all probationers had been convicted of a felony, 49 percent of a misdemeanor and 2 percent of other infractions. Twenty-five percent had been convicted of a drug offense, 17 percent for driving while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol, 12 percent for larceny or theft, 9 percent for other assault, 7 percent for domestic violence, 6 percent for minor traffic infractions, 5 percent for burglary, 4 percent for fraud and 3 percent for sexual assault.

Of the almost 2.2 million probationers discharged from supervision during 2003, about 3 in 5 had successfully met the conditions of their supervision. About 16 percent were incarcerated because of a rule violation or a new offense, and 4 percent had absconded.

Seventeen states had double-digit increases in their parole populations in 2003. Five states had increases of 20 percent or higher: North Dakota (53 percent), Alabama (31 percent), Kentucky (27 percent), New Hampshire (25 percent) and New Mexico (23 percent). Twelve states had decreases, led by Hawaii (down 11 percent).

Of those in the community last year who were on parole, 13 percent were women. Forty-one percent were black, 40 percent were white, 18 percent were Hispanic and 2 percent were of other races. About 83 percent of all parolees were under active supervision and were required to regularly contact a parole authority in person, by mail or by telephone.

About 470,500 parolees were discharged from supervision during 2003. Forty-seven percent had successfully met the conditions of their supervision, 38 percent were returned to incarceration with a new sentence or because of a rule violation, and about 9 percent had absconded.

The bulletin, "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2003" (NCJ-205336), was written by BJS statisticians Lauren E. Glaze and Seri Palla. Following publication this document can be accessed at:


For additional information about Bureau of Justice Statistics reports and programs, please visit the BJS Web site at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist crime victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises five component bureaus and two offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education, and the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed program. Information about OJP programs, publications, and conferences is available on the OJP web site, www.ojp.usdoj.gov.

Date Published: July 25, 2004