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Probation Supervision Fees: Shifting Costs to the Offender

NCJ Number
CR Ring
Date Published
36 pages
An analysis of arguments for and against the use of supervision fees suggest that most objections can be addressed either in enabling legislation or in the actual administration of the fee program.
Concerns that individuals might be incarcerated soley for their inability to pay can be resolved with provisions for indigency exclusions and community service alternatives. Fears that probation fees will compete with or displace restitutions, victim/witness fees, or other court-ordered payments can be allayed by establishing a formal procedure for determining the order in which various financial obligations will be satisfied. In other instances, objections raised by opponents are simply not borne out by the experience of States currently operating fee programs. While collecting and administering fees are not without problems, there is no evidence to support claims that such activities will be excessively time consuming, difficult, or costly. Officials in most jurisdictions contacted, as well as those in previous studies, report few problems and substantial benefits. Probation supervision fees force the offender to bear the financial burden of the offense, raise new revenues to improve and expand probation programs, and release general fund monies to meet other high priority needs. For instance, a $20 per month supervision fee in Massachusetts could generate between $6 and $10 million annually. 3 tables and 15 endnotes.