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Connecticut incarceration rates are low, but probation rates aren’t

Detainees wait in a cell for a court appearance.
Rich Pedroncelli
Detainees wait in a cell for a court appearance.

Almost 1% of Connecticut’s population is on probation. That’s 30,000 people — and three times the amount of people incarcerated in the state.

According to a new report from the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, the state uses probation more aggressively than its peers, and it’s causing reincarnation rates to rise.

Connecticut has the 8th lowest incarceration rates per capita in the country, but the 20th highest probation rate, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

Katal report co-author Gabriel Sayegh said lawmakers should be concerned about the state using probation on individuals who shouldn't be free, and making it more likely that they will be incarcerated.

“It can be easy to miss an appointment with your probation officer, you relapse, something happens, life occurs, you're stuck in a traffic jam,” Sayegh said. “These things can lead to people being sent to jail.”

The report also showed that probation is disproportionately used on people of color and low-income individuals.

According to data from the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, in 2021, almost half of the people on parole were Black — even though only 13% of the state is Black.

Sayegh said that racism in the criminal justice system should not come as a surprise.

“We know that every single point within the criminal legal system, from point of contact with the police, to dispositions within courts, you know, how courts handle cases and the penalties associated to who gets sentenced to prison in jail to who gets sentenced to probation. I mean, every one of these measures, there are racial disparities, it is baked into the system,” Sayegh said.

According to Sayrgh, the state of Connecticut has the opportunity to fix this. He referenced New York, who passed the “Less Is More Act” last year to keep people from going to jail for technical parole violations.

“[The state legislature] could pass legislation before they end the session this year, send something up to the governor's desk for signature, that'd be a start. The governor, while waiting for that bill to hit his desk for signature, could direct the Department of Correction to implement some of these proposals as administrative changes in the Department of Corrections for parole. . . the court system in the state, they could start now by beginning to examine why it is that judges are using probation so expansively.”

Legislative change is unlikely this session. No legislation has been proposed, and the session ends on June 7.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.