How ICE and probation and parole detainers (or “holds”) contribute to unnecessary jailing

by Wendy Sawyer, Alexi Jones and Maddy Troilo,March 18, 2020

By now, most human being paying attention to the U.S. Criminal righteousness system have heard about problems with the overuse and misuse of local jails. Chief among these difficulties are the serious, also deadly, damages caused by even quick periods of jail detention. But one trouble has escaped the attention of the public and policymakers alike: the unnecessary jail detention led to by “detainers,” which account because that as much as one-third of part jail populations, if not more. This briefing defines how detainers (also often dubbed “holds”) contribute to unnecessary jailing, and offers a preliminary evaluation of easily accessible national, state, and also local data as evidence of a prevalent policy trouble that demands higher attention.

Detainers, described

Typically, people in jails room categorized together unconvicted (65% nationally) or judge (35%). In our Mass Incarceration: The whole Pie report, we have actually been maybe to go one action further, breaking apart the about 16% that are hosted for various other agencies that pay to save them boarded there. But an additional group of human being are still hidden by this failure of the jail population: civilization who are in jail for much more than one reason, who have actually what we’ll contact a “dual status.” A significant number of people are locked up due to the fact that of some sort of “detainer” or “hold” for your probation or immigration status, because that example, which makes them ineligible because that release. These people aren’t lugged into jail on a detainer, yet the detainer have the right to keep lock there once they otherwise can have unable to do home.

For example, if someone who is top top probation is charged v a new low-level offense, they deserve to be organized in jail without bail if the probation department has actually issued a detainer for violating your probation. In fact, this is a crucial part of Kalief Browder’s story: initially organized on unaffordable bail, that was later denied bail since the Probation department filed paperwork speak the brand-new charge supposed he had violated probation. It to be the “violation that probation” – or “probation hold” – that maintained Browder at Riker’s therefore long, resulting in irreparable injury that caused his ultimate death. There is no his twin status together a probationer, he probably wouldn’t have had actually money bail set in the very first place: his friend, who was arrested along with him yet was not on probation, was enabled to go residence the following day. Even with his probation status, the judge to be willing to collection bail. It was only once the Probation department stepped in to make their claim on his liberty that the referee remanded him without bail.


States provide them various names, but all detainers jail human being for reasons other than public safety.

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Before describing various varieties of detainers, it’s precious noting that jurisdictions don’t all use the same terms to describe the same scenario. Because that example, the governmental request the a human being be held in jail until a probation or special amnesty violation gets settled might be called a “detainer” in Pennsylvania, a “violation of probation” in brand-new York, a “blue warrant” in Texas (for technical violations), and, in other places, an ext generally described as a “probation or parole hold.” more complicating matters, world who are boarded in jails space often described as gift “held” for various other agencies, choose ICE, state departments of Corrections, the U.S. Marshals, etc. – these need to not be perplexed with detainers or the various other kinds of “holds” questioned here. The is another important, however separate, worry that we have written around elsewhere.


Detainers or “holds” room an overlooked policy difficulty that carries far-reaching personal, social, and also fiscal costs. They frequently expose detained people to the hurts of incarceration for longer periods the time than they would certainly be otherwise. This has innocent people like Browder, whose situation was dismissed three years right into his time in ~ Riker’s, ~ tremendous damage had currently been done. By delaying prison releases, detainers likewise contribute come avoidable public prices by pour it until it is full up local jails, often with people who are accused that low-level offenses. Detainers threaten the work of neighborhood jurisdictions do the efforts to mitigate unnecessary detention v pretrial reform, keeping world locked up for essentially bureaucratic reasons fairly than public security reasons.

Detainers that influence jail populaces most: Probation & parole holds and also ICE detainers

As we touched upon above, probation and parole hurt account for a most detainers. These have the right to be because that either “technical violations” or new violations of law. Technical violations are behaviors that break probation or parole rules, such as missing curfew, failing a drug test, or missing a check-in meeting; they are not habits that would count as “crimes” for someone no under neighborhood supervision. However, when people who are under neighborhood supervision are charged v a new crime, that likewise constitutes a violation of your probation or parole, and also typically have to be reported.1 Individuals deserve to be preserved in jail there is no bail because that either type of violation top top a probation or special amnesty detainer.

In a 2019 report, the the supervisory board of State federal governments (CSG) uncovered that “45% that state jail admissions nationwide are as result of violations of probation or parole.” technical violations alone account because that 25% of prison admissions; even less (20%) are for brand-new criminal offenses. There is no comparable analysis for jails, but the truth that community supervision violations contribute so substantially to prison populaces is suggestive the these violations might be responsible for big numbers of civilization locked up in jails as well.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also uses detainers to keep world in local jails to offer ICE time to take them right into federal custody for eventual deportation. This detainers, or “immigration holds,” request that local officials to educate ICE prior to a certain individual is exit from jail custody and then to store them there for as much as 48 hours after their relax date. This detainers essentially ask local law enforcement to jail people even when there are no criminal dues pending.


In enhancement to ICE and also probation special amnesty holds, many human being in prison have detainers because that unresolved dues in various other jurisdictions.


Detainers additionally apply to world in prisons with twin statuses – including ICE detainers for those the federal federal government believes may be “removable” – yet in prison, the is much less likely that someone would be retained in custody solely because another company wants them to stay behind bars. More often, people serving state jail sentences have actually detainers for untried charges in other states or in the federal court system. These other jurisdictions lodge detainers so they have the possibility to take custody of people with unresolved cases, in order come prosecute them, before they are released.

Unlike world in jails through detainers, though, people aren’t frequently held in jail solely because another agency wants them organized for their very own purposes. And also unlike world in jails, civilization in prison can resolve your outstanding situations while they offer their sentence, many thanks to the Interstate commitment on Detainers. That Agreement allows either the incarcerated person or a prosecutor from an additional jurisdiction to initiate disposition the the unresolved charges, so the they don’t need to wait until the sentence is over. This also way that the human in jail may be able to serve any new sentence simultaneously or have actually all their superior court issues worked out before they room released.

Because these detainers have actually such a various effect than the ice detainers and also probation and also parole stop keeping civilization in jails, we concentrated our attention on the prison detainers because that this analysis.


These detainers space the subject of boil debate, as numerous local jurisdictions room reluctant to take on the danger of litigation and also liability connected with the constitutional pertains to they advanced (and/or wake up to support the trump administration’s immigrant policy), which is reflect in the growing number of detainer refusals. Part of your reluctance may be the these dangers are often taken top top unnecessarily: ice cream doesn’t repeatedly take these individuals into its very own custody, also when it issues a detainer because that them. The critical time ice cream released data on this point, the company was just assuming custody in 35% of all cases where they issued a detainer – meaning that many of the time, jails that kept world locked up on ice detainers did so for no factor at all.

How many civilization are in jail because of probation and parole detainers?

(The brief answer: the varies, but in some areas it’s over a 3rd of the prison population, and also we need better data to yes, really answer this question.)

Because of miscellaneous data difficulties, explained below, the is currently impossible come determine precisely how many world in the U.S. Are organized on detainers and might otherwise have been exit from jail. However, we have actually compiled part preliminary data from cities and counties approximately the country, including both rural and urban jurisdictions, to gain a feeling of how much detainers add to prison populations. We specifically concentrated on probation and also parole detainers as we found these data were more widely available.

National data

First, in an attempt to gain a sense of the trouble on the national level, we looked at the data from the most recent survey of Inmates in neighborhood Jails (SILJ), which was performed in 2002. The survey permits people in jails to carry out details about why they room in jail, including world who space there for multiple reasons (i.e. Double statuses). Although this data are currently nearly 20 years old, and are no as tidy as we’d favor (again, see data problems, below), over there is no various other nationally representative data that gives these details. Ours findings should be understood as historic context because that jail detainers, together the re-publishing of world held on detainers nationwide has an extremely likely adjusted since 2002.

Our evaluation of the SILJ data finds that in 2002, 20% of the total jail populace were top top probation or special amnesty at the moment of their arrest, and therefore could have been organized on a detainer because that a violation.2 Moreover, 44% that the unconvicted populace were under community supervision once they were arrested and also could have actually been on probation or parole detainers. This second point is important because it illustrates that many world (like Browder) are held pretrial at the very least in component because of a probation or parole hold, and may be ineligible for release on bail also if the is set. To get rid of unnecessary pretrial detention, political decision-makers will require to deal with these holds in enhancement to the money bail system.

Statewide data: brand-new York and Texas

In terms of widely representative data, statewide data is the next ideal thing to national. We found two states, new York and also Texas, have published current statewide data on human being held in jails because that parole violations.3 In new York, just data on technical parole violations was obtainable statewide; civilization on special amnesty with brand-new criminal charges room not reported separately other than in brand-new York City. Statewide, technical parole violations accounted for an ext than 1 in 12 people, or 8.6%, in new York jails in 2019. Troublingly, regardless of a 20% decrease in the complete jail custody population over the past 4 years, there has been a 5% increase in the number of people hosted on technical parole violations. These trends are much more pronounced in brand-new York City jails 보다 in various other parts of the state; in the city, the total population is under 25%, while jailing for technical violations is up 12% due to the fact that 2016.

Texas’s jail data reporting stands out from other states; it posting detailed, statewide jail population statistics broken down by ar every month. Texas’s data reports also distinguish in between people detained on “blue warrants” (their term for technological parole violations) and also people accused of violating parole for brand-new charges. Together of February 1, 2020, human being on parole made up 8.3% of the jail populace statewide. Technological parole violations accounted for simply under fifty percent of this group (3.4%), when those on special amnesty who likewise had a brand-new charge consisted of the remainder (4.6%).

Jails in big urban counties

We likewise looked at other huge urban counties that have published data top top probation or parole holds. Us submitted FOIA requests come the ten biggest counties in the U.S., and supplemented these requests v data from other urban counties that was easily accessible online. Us were able to analyze recent data native 10 city areas, including new York City. To summary the results (detailed in the Appendix), we uncovered that across those 10 metropolitan areas, the share of world held at the very least in part for probation or parole reasons ranged widely, indigenous 6% come 58% the the average daily jail population.

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Rural jails

Finally, us reviewed jail populace data from end 30 landscape counties throughout 5 states to see just how probation or special amnesty violations impact rural prison populations. For this, us relied on data accumulated between September 18 and also October 18, 2019 through the Vera institute of Justice’s In our Backyards project.4 The data display that in this rural counties, charges concerned supervision violations account because that an mean of 14.6% of all charges against people organized in jail. The share of probation and also parole violate in jails different widely between counties, however; two counties hosted no one with a supervision violation, while these violations do up much more than 25% of all charges in 5 various other counties’ jails. (For details, watch the Appendix.

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State and also local policies affect how many civilization are jailed for supervision violate

Differences in policy and practice define much the the sport in jailing human being for probation and also parole. Because that example, Kansas permits some human being accused the violating parole to be moved from regional jails to state prisons come await your hearing creating “probable cause” because that the violation. These transfers relieve some of the strain on jails brought about by special amnesty violations, yet only transition the website of incarceration and also the source burden come state facilities.

In other states, neighborhood jails are provided for short, carceral punishments for probation or parole violations. In Alabama, this are referred to as “dips”; in California, they’re referred to as “flash incarceration.” whatever they are dubbed locally, these quick jail stints are had in the number of people in jails for supervision violations. That course, unlike some various other probation or parole detainers, this “dips” reflect a officially policy choice of making use of of jails for the enforcement the probation or parole conditions. Unfortunately, the is not always possible to discern in the data just how much jail detention for supervision violate is knowingly punishment, and also how lot is one unintended consequence of administrative practices.5

Finally, regional decisions around how the jail must be used impact the variety of people detained because that probation and parole violations. At the time of a jail populace analysis in Salt Lake County, because that example, supervision violations comprised a shockingly short 0.4% of the jail population. However this to be a direct an outcome of the sheriff’s refusal to accept civilization accused that probation or special amnesty violations in ~ the jail.

Jail data inconsistency makes it tough to assess the range of the difficulty

One difficulty with addressing the problem of detainers is that there is a significant amount of sports in just how local jurisdictions law them, both in practice and in their system’s data. This is often as result of what we contact the dual-status problem: is an unconvicted human being with a detainer categorized as “pretrial,” a “hold,” or both? part jurisdictions, prefer Philadelphia, have permitted for these twin statuses in your data infrastructure; Philadelphia have the right to – and regularly walk – analysis its jail population across 14 different categories of conviction and also hold status. In others, the decision come categorize someone together “pretrial” matches a “hold” could vary, making it difficult to compare these numbers throughout jurisdictions. Furthermore, as soon as the new charge is fixed (i.e. Dismissed or acquitted), their status might change from “pretrial” to “hold,” even if they to be in custody every along due to the fact that of the detainer.

Another problem comes from a absence of specificity around probation and parole detainers; the public records hardly ever distinguish between technical violations and new law violations. This makes it complicated to identify whether someone held for a “violation of probation” is accused the a low-level violation for which they would have actually been eligible for pretrial release, to be it no for their probation status. Finally, the data can additionally become confound where world being boarded for various other agencies (such various other counties, the state jail system, or the us Marshals) are also categorized or described as “holds.”

Next measures

The statistics presented below – from the 2002 nationwide survey, the statewide data from brand-new York and Texas, and also the tiny sampling that urban and also rural counties – space by no method representative of all jail populaces in the U.S. However we sell this initial evaluation as evidence of an overlooked policy difficulty that is contributing come unnecessary prison detention and also demands an ext attention, indigenous local and state policymakers, sheriffs and also courts, and also from reform advocates.

A an essential first step is to assess how detainers and also people with dual statuses are captured and reported in local data, and also to deal with ambiguities so that the data have the right to meaningfully notify decisions around when and also why world are jailed. Neighborhood jurisdictions that find they space using their jails to detain human being unnecessarily – for immigration reasons, for technological violations the supervision, or for low-level offenses since of a dual status – should build non-carceral options (and, in the case of ice cream detainers, just refuse them). Meanwhile, counties holding civilization on detainers should create an reliable “‘holds’ resolution process” through the sheriff’s staff, probation and also parole offices, and the county prosecutor’s office, to minimization the burden on regional resources as well as the hurts of unnecessarily jail detention.

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Acknowledgements

Special many thanks to the ar Justice Exchange for useful early conversations, come the Vera academy of justice In our Backyards job for share rural jail populace data, come Roxanne Daniel for added research support, and also to David Bennett because that directing united state to added sources and also providing beneficial insights.