About a quarter of people behind bars in the U.S. on any given day are there for violating parole or probation, often times because of technical violations such as missing supervision appointments or failing a drug test, according to new data collected by The Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG).

Expand chart
Data: The Council of State Governments Justice Center; Table: Harry Stevens/Axios

Why it matters: Probation and parole are alternatives to incarceration that are designed to help lower the prison population and allow people to more easily integrate back into their communities. But perfectly following the rules of parole and probation can prove difficult, and many violators end up back in prison.

In 20 states, more than half of prison admissions are for parole or probation violations.

  • "What it becomes after a certain period of time is a bunch of trip wires for people to fall over," reform advocate and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner told Axios on HBO..
  • There are times when people who have violated parole and probation should be detained, but it happens too often and for "very minor things," he said.

By the numbers: In 2018, there were an estimated 4.5 million adults under probation or parole — that's 1 in 55 American adults, according to study by Pew Charitable Trusts. Hundreds of thousands of those people end up back in jail or prison each year.

And it's expensive. Probation and parole violations cost state prisons $9.3 billion every year, according to the CSG study.

  • That doesn't include the costs of arresting and incarcerating offenders in local jails before they are sent to a state prison.
  • $2.8 billion of the cost is for technical violations of parole or probation, rather than someone committing a new offense while under supervision.
  • In Missouri, more than half of state prison admissions in 2017 were for technical parole or probation violations. Missouri has the 10th highest incarceration rate in the world, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

Go deeper

4 former CDC heads say Trump's undermining of agency puts lives at risk

CDC director Robert Redfield and President Trump. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Four former directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blasted the Trump administration's "repeated efforts to subvert" agency guidelines related to reopening schools, accusing the White House in a scathing Washington Post op-ed of undermining science with "partisan potshots."

Why it matters: The directors, Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan and David Satcher and acting head Richard Besser, served in parts of the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations. They said they "cannot recall over our collective tenure a single time when political pressure led to a change in the interpretation of scientific evidence."

Chinese students at U.S. colleges face deep uncertainty

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A new visa guideline issued last week would strip international students in the U.S. of their student visa if their college classes are online-only amid the pandemic.

Why it matters: More than 360,000 Chinese students are enrolled at U.S. colleges. Many of them could be forced to return to China if the rule change is implemented.

Pelosi "absolutely" would skip August recess to reach coronavirus stimulus deal

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told CNN on Tuesday she would "absolutely" be willing to forgo the House's August recess to reach a deal for another relief package to help the country battle the health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus.

The big picture: Pelosi indicated the package would earmark money for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, as well as assistance for state and local governments whose budgets are in dire financial straits due to revenue shortfalls caused by the recession.