Across the US, probation agencies left a rehabilitative approach behind as mass probation ensued as a response to the 1972-92 crime wave. The practice mushroomed even as jail, prison, and parole populations grew, reaching a peak of four million in 2007, long after crime had plummeted. Jails and prisons monopolized the additional funding of corrections, leaving probation agencies struggling to serve their clients. Lengthy probation stipulations in lengthy terms served as a tripwire, all-too-common violations sending thousands into the prisons they hoped to have escaped.
The public's image of the practice has been influenced by its founding as an act of mercy rather than judicial sanction, yet the public also has little concept of how probation actually is administered.