Developed in 1937 and designed to regulate the movement of probationers and parolees across state lines, the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision (ICAOS) is enacted in all 50 states and three U.S. territories (District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico). Revised in 2002, the compact provides states the authority, accountability, and resources to track the supervision of offenders who move across state lines, thereby enhancing public safety and offender accountability. ICAOS has become a powerful and adaptive tool for promoting and ensuring cooperative action among the states and a single standard of supervision for offenders.
The Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision will guide the transfer of offenders in a manner that promotes effective supervision strategies consistent with public safety, offender accountability, and victims’ rights.
Governor appointed commissioners in every state act on behalf of the state, region, and broader national interest to promote the commission’s mission. Each commissioner represents one vote on the commission, exercising that vote to establish bylaws, operating policies, future initiatives, technological advancements, and compliance enforcement. In most instances, commission action requires a simple majority, defined as a majority of compact states. Every other year is a rule-making year for the national body; however, rules may also be established or amended by a special meeting. In any instance, the legislative process requires public notice and a period of public comment prior to open meetings that determine the fate of proposed rules or amendments. The national commission is the governing authority of the compact represented by the Executive Committee, which is composed of commissioners elected by their peers. Through the bylaws, rules, and processes established by commissioners, the national office acts to research, advise, and implement commission directives. Represented by the executive director and other national staff, the commission maintains technology assets, regulations, reporting resources, and training materials that facilitate the proper transfer of probationary or paroled adult offenders between states, territories, and districts within the U.S.
Tools of the Compact
A clear mission, distinct rule-making processes, defined authority, compliance audits, expansive and interactive training materials, uniform data standards, and innovative technology are the tools that help the commission succeed. The statutory language adopted in each state offers a clear definition of the Commission’s mission and specifies the Commission’s authority to regulate members through rules that have the force and effect of federal law, superseding state laws. The commission’s achievements do not belong to one person or group. Its success is collaborative and collectively shared by its commissioners, deputy compact administrators, and national office staff. Together, they make significant contributions to public safety by developing best practices for programs and processes that support the criminal justice system. The commission puts an emphasis on evidence-based practice and continuous process improvement, exploring solutions to enhance supervision strategies and improve outcomes for offenders and the public. Through years of work and refinement, the Commission now possesses a stable and prominent data system that processes more than 234,000 incoming and outgoing cases per year. That same system provides auditable and shared data between state, local and national officials who work daily to promote the interests of public safety.
A common concern of states to control the offender movement across state lines resulted in the formation of the first interstate agreement for the supervision of probationers and parolees in 1937. This agreement, the Interstate Compact for the Supervision of Parolees and Probationers, was the sole authority for regulating the transfer of supervision across state boundaries for almost 70 years. Entering the 21st Century, with over 4.5 million offenders on parole and probation and over 250,000 transferring to other states, the Compact was in need of significant revisions. Under the 1937 Compact, managing offender populations became increasingly complex. State and local governments passed measures to address special offenders and high-risk groups such as sex offender registration and notification to victims regarding offender locations. States were unable to satisfy compliance requirements, track the location of offenders, smoothly transfer supervision authority, or return offenders to the originating jurisdictions. Additionally, the compact had no ability to enforce compliance and the exchange of case information was slow and unreliable. Through a partnership with the Council of State Governments and National Institute of Corrections, a drafting team of state officials revised the model language of the Compact that created the national commission and included a mechanism for enforcement. The revised Compact was the result of nearly a year of public hearings, research and informed dialogue among legislators, attorneys general, parole and probation officials and victims’ rights groups. It became effective on the passing of the 35th state in June 2002.