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Home | Census of Adult Probation Supervising Agencies
Census of Adult Probation Supervising Agencies, 2014

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is working with Westat and the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) to implement the 2014 Census of Adult Probation Supervising Agencies (CAPSA). Westat will collect data for this census. CAPSA will be the first census of its kind in more than 20 years and will provide current information on the structure and nature of adult probation in the United States. CAPSA will gather information on agency functions, populations served, agency policies and practices (e.g., methods of supervision, risk and needs assessment, firearms policies, and arrest powers of officers), supervision authority (e.g., to impose conditions, to grant early positive discharge, and to impose a period of incarceration), funding sources, and branch and level of government (if a public agency). Policymakers, practitioners, and community corrections agencies at all levels of government will be able to use the information collected to assist in policy development and criminal justice planning.

General description and goals

The two objectives of CAPSA, a special project, are—

  • to develop a complete list of adult probation supervising agencies in the United States
  • to gather data to provide national and jurisdiction-level statistics that describe adult probation and the variation across jurisdictions.

A census of probation agencies was last conducted by BJS in 1991, but since then, the nature of probation may have changed in many significant ways. The community corrections field has identified CAPSA as an important source to fill current information gaps. CAPSA will provide a clear understanding of the—

  • current organization of adult probation supervision in the United States
  • operations of adult probation agencies and the types of individuals under supervision
  • policies and practices agencies have established for purposes of supervision.

CAPSA will enhance the utility of the probation population data that BJS currently provides through its Annual Probation Survey. The information collected through CAPSA can be used to improve understanding of the size and changes in the probation population, movements on and off supervision, the types of probationers supervised, and outcomes of supervision.

Scope and design

CAPSA includes all public agencies that supervise adults on felony probation and have the authority or operational responsibility to implement decisions about budgets, staffing, and policies or procedures of supervision. CAPSA also includes private companies that directly supervise adult probationers, either through in-person visits, electronic means, telephone, or other routine reporting methods. In advance of data collection, BJS, Westat, and APPA will develop a preliminary roster of entities that may meet CAPSA eligibility criteria. When CAPSA is fielded, all entities on the roster will be screened to determine their eligibility status. The primary mode of screening and data collection will be a web survey for public agencies and a paper survey for private companies. The agency or company head will be instructed to identify the appropriate staff to respond to CAPSA. Westat will follow up with designated respondents.


The purposes of the questionnaires are—

  • to screen entities on the preliminary roster to determine eligibility
  • to validate the roster of supervising agencies by relying on respondents to identify any agencies within their jurisdiction that may be missing from the roster
  • to collect information from eligible agencies that describes the organization and current nature of probation.

Stakeholders in the community corrections field provided significant input into the content of the CAPSA questionnaires. The questionnaires include items on—

  • organization (e.g., sector, branch, and level of government)
  • authority or operational responsibility (e.g., decisions about budgets, staffing, and policies or procedures)
  • supervision authority (e.g., to impose conditions or impose a period of incarceration)
  • policies and practices related to adult probationers and supervision officers (e.g., methods of supervision, risk and needs assessment, firearms policies, and arrest powers of officers)
  • functions, funding sources, and populations supervised.

To minimize burden on respondents, the questionnaire includes only a few questions that ask for aggregate counts. The public agency questionnaire is estimated to take about 65 minutes to complete; the private company questionnaire should take about 30 minutes.


In 2013, BJS completed a pilot test of CAPSA to determine the capabilities and functionality of the questionnaires and to assess the level of respondent burden associated with the request. About 60 entities across 40 states were asked to participate in the pilot test. Entities were selected based on particular characteristics, such as their sector (public or private), branch, and level of government to ensure representation of a variety of structures. The findings from the pilot test were used to make changes to the questionnaire to enhance the study procedures to increase reporting efficiencies and to reduce burden on respondents for the national study. The national CAPSA will begin in the summer of 2014 and will continue through early 2015.


The initial report will provide an overview of adult probation agencies in the United States. The report will also describe how adult probation is currently organized and how the structure of adult probation varies across the United States. Information on the various functions probation agencies perform and the different types of offender populations under supervision will be presented. It will also address specific policies and practices that agencies have established to administer adult probation.



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