How Much Should Probation Cost?

Many see probation as an easy way out. As an alternative to jail, the practice requires someone to follow certain rules – like meeting with a probation officer every month or undergoing drug treatment — for a set period of time.

Probation is typically cheaper for the state than incarceration, and it sounds more rehabilitative for low-level offenders. However, the risk of ultimately getting locked up is high.

Half of Philadelphia’s jail populations, for instance, are people who violated their probation.

Furthermore, probation’s actual cost to the sentenced individual can be staggering. Much like private prisons, private probation companies in a number of states are profiting off of people staying on probation.

Take Jason Defriese. The Missouri college student ended up paying $10,000 for one company’s services after he got an automatic driving-under-the-influence conviction for refusing to take a Breathalyzer test.

The Human Rights Watch reports that Defriese said he was driving to grab fast food after an intramural softball game, got stopped for speeding and refused the test, remembering a family lawyer’s advice.

The judge sentenced Defriese to two years of supervision under Private Correction Services. If he stuck to the rules, he’d have the conviction wiped from his record.

Granted, Defriese and his family would end up paying $418 in court fees; $310 in miscellaneous costs; $50 a month for supervision fees; $46 to $96 fees for 68 drug tests; $1,000 for an ignition interlock system in his car; $500 for a probation violation fine; $90 for jail boarding fees for that violation; $91 a week to wear an ankle monitor for 90 days and then another five months tacked on; $671 for another ignition interlock; and the cost of eventually leaving his job when he had call a center daily to figure out if he’d get randomly drug-tested that day.

As HRW notes, Defriese tested negative on every drug test over those 18 months.

“Thankfully, I had the support of my parents,” Defriese told Human Rights Watch. “I was thinking about other people, how would other people do it?”

It’s a struggle. In Georgia, for instance, those who can’t afford probation costs right away “can pay over time, but the extra supervision fees can double their debts,” writes Akiva Friedlin for Slate. Keep in mind that minor traffic offenses are handled in criminal court there, as well. 

And it’s not likely those convicted can pay up.

It’s difficult to find income statistics for people on probation, but according to 2014 data from the Prison Policy Initiative, incarcerated people make a median of a little more than $19,000 a year. This is 41 percent less than the general population.

Photo Credit: Office of Public Affairs/Flickr

41 comments

Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

tks for sharing

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

Ty

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

Tu

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

Ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R6 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R6 months ago

ty

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Rachel -
Past Member 7 months ago

Idk what lawyer would advise not taking a breathalyzer if you haven't been drinking. Let me put it this way, there are a few things are almost impossible to fight and this is one of them because of the principle of implied consent. Meaning, the state sees driving as a privilege and by doing so you're consenting to them checking your blood alcohol content. That's why they can hit you with the same penalties for refusing as they do for DUI. You should always refuse the field sobriety test though.

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Winn A
Winn A7 months ago

Thanks

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Winn A
Winn A7 months ago

Noted

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