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Supervision Costs Significantly Less than Incarceration in Federal System

Infographic: Supervision vs Incarceration

Infographic: Supervision vs Incarceration

In 2012, the annual cost of placing an offender in a Bureau of Prisons institution or federal residential reentry center was roughly eight times the cost of placing the same offender under post-conviction supervision by a federal probation officer. Pretrial detention for a defendant was nearly 10 times more expensive than the cost of supervision of a defendant by a pretrial services officer in the federal system.

The cost of supervision has declined in recent years. That reduction is not due to fewer cases, fewer officers needed to supervise them, or cheaper treatment or monitoring services options. Instead, it reflects that the Judiciary had less money to invest in community supervision. When compared to 2011, the cost of post-conviction and pretrial supervision decreased in 2012— nearly 2.5 percent for post-conviction supervision and 1.5 percent for pretrial supervision.

Probation and pretrial services officers focused the cuts on cases presenting the lowest relative risk and preserved resources, as much as possible, to mitigate the risk of the remaining defendants and offenders. For example, offices established low activity supervision caseloads for low risk offenders who had not yet met the criteria for early termination. Early termination was recommended as soon as offenders met Judicial Conference approved criteria, and officers selected the most cost-effective treatment options and location monitoring technologies.

The cost of supervision is calculated using staffing formulas, salary costs of probation and pretrial services officers, obligations for expenditures associated with providing court-directed services for defendants and offenders, and miscellaneous operating expenses. The Federal Bureau of Prisons provided the figures for the cost of imprisonment and community corrections center placement. The Office of Federal Detention Trustee (OFDT) has provided the cost of pretrial detention in past years. While OFDT was unable to provide those figures for fiscal year 2012, they are computed at the prior year level with the same rate of inflation reported by the Bureau of Prison for imprisonment.





BOP Facility

$ 79.16

$ 2,412.33

$ 28,948.00

Residential Reentry Centers

$ 73.78

 $ 2,244.17

 $ 26,930.00

Supervision by Probation Officers

 $   9.17

  $   278.95

  $  3,347.41


Pretrial Services




Pretrial Detention

 $ 73.03

 $ 2,221.22


Supervision by Pretrial Services Officers

  $  7.24

   $  220.29

  $  2,643.50

For information on the duties and responsibilities of federal probation and pretrial services officers visit

Related Topics: Probation and Pretrial Services