Set Up for Failure: The Impossible Probation System (Sedgwick County)

December 12, 2019

If Kansas were a country, its incarceration rate would be second only to that of the U.S.1 Kansas faces a significant overcrowding issue in its prisons. A notable contributing factor to the state’s high rate of incarceration is imprisonment due to technical violations of probation. 

Probation is meant to be a sentence that replaces incarceration for low-level, non-violent crimes. Yet many people on probation still end up serving time in a penitentiary due to technical violations of the conditions of their probation. A technical violation is not a crime. It is an act that is not unlawful, but simply violates the conditions of probation. 

In 2018, close to 1,250 Kansans’ probation was revoked without a new conviction. These Kansans make up over 10% of the total state prison population. In addition to the enormous pressure this number puts on the capacity of the state’s prisons, incarcerating individuals for technical supervision violations costs the state $39 million annually. 

In fact, the cost of incarceration is ten times that of probation: The cost to the state of probation per person per day is $7.10, versus the cost of incarceration which is $72.36 per inmate per day.

Incarcerating Kansans for technical violations of probation demonstrates an overreliance on the prison system and a failure to utilize rehabilitative resources for the benefit of re-entering Kansans and their communities.


1 The Prison Policy Project calculated the number of people in state prisons, local jails, federal prisons, and other systems of confinement from each U.S. state per 100,000 people in that state and the incarceration rate per 100,000 in all countries with a total population of at least 500,000. Institute for Criminal Policy Research’s World Prison Brief in May 2018 provided data for comparison. A detailed breakdown of their methodology can be found here: