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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

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.

2 hours ago - World

Biden huddles with European allies on Ukraine ahead of Putin call

Putin in the Kremlin. Photo: Grigory Sysoyev/Sputnik via Getty

President Biden will seek to convince Russia's Vladimir Putin in a phone call Tuesday that the price of invading Ukraine would be steeper than anything he's faced in the past.

Driving the news: Biden held a call on Ukraine this evening with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., while Secretary of State Tony Blinken called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer America's "unwavering support."