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PUBLICATIONS

Adult Probation

THE ISSUE.When spending taxpayer money on criminal justice, it is counterproductive and wasteful to enact policies that create more criminals, rather than enacting policies that reduce the incidence of crime. Communities do not benefit from locking up low-risk offenders. In prison, the offender is surrounded by hardened criminals and removed from his family and community. Because the offender is unable to work and earn income, he may be unable to pay adequate restitution to the victim of the crime. Moreover, when he is released, he will face a tough transition back to life outside of prison due to regulatory barriers to reentry. If he does not transition effectively, the state may have facilitated the development of a low-risk nonviolent offender into a career criminal.  In effect, taxpayers will have spent more money to make their communities less safe.

As Mark Earley and Newt Gingrich have noted, “[j]ust as a student’s success isn’t measured by his entry into high school but by his graduation…celebrating taking criminals off the street with little thought to their imminent return to society is foolhardy.”

THE IMPACT. Probation presents an alternative to incarceration for certain low-risk offenders, and it carries three advantages when implemented appropriately. First, instead of sending low-risk offenders to prison, probation allows a chance to remain in the community, which keeps family structures together, workers available to the workforce, and allows offenders to be rehabilitated.

Secondly, because probation allows offenders to keep jobs and earn income, it increases the likelihood that they will be able to pay proper restitution to victims.

Third, because probation is significantly cheaper than incarceration, it can be a cost-effective form of rehabilitation. In Missouri, for example, incarceration is five times as expensive as probation, and the state has begun notifying judges of the costs of the sentences they administer. Lengthy and expensive sentences are necessary and unavoidable for serious offenders – but not necessarily for low-level, non-violent offenders.  For these individuals, probation may be offered, and it may be conditioned on the offender receiving important services, like regular attendance at drug or psychiatric counseling, which can reduce the likelihood of recidivism. Thus, in some cases, society’s public safety goals may be achieved without the costs of incarcerating, facilitating reentry, or tracking down and re-incarcerating offenders who have become career criminals.

Probation can be made particularly efficient through the use of risk assessments, which are inventories containing questions designed to predict whether the individual will recidivate. The risk factors inquired about may include age, criminal record, employment status, history of substance use, and age of first offense. A risk assessment instrument can be administered when an offender begins probation to determine the appropriate level of supervision.

THE CONSERVATIVE SOLUTION.

– Consider probation in lieu of incarceration for low-level, nonviolent offenders.

– Research and utilize evidence-based practices, such as risk assessments, to determine which offenders are low-risk for recidivism and thus better served by conditional probation.

– Enhance the use of problem-solving courts that address underlying issues such as substance abuse and mental illness. These courts can provide specialized oversight and victim-offender mediation that present a low-cost alternative to incarceration.

– Institute performance-based funding for probation departments. Local probation departments that are successful should receive additional funds in order to further develop their methods. Other departments will adopt proven successful methods in order to qualify for enhanced funding.

Rethinking Community Supervision: Moving from a Referee to Coach Model

Right on Crime | April 6, 2020
In this video discussion, Right on Crime’s Marc Levin talked with Brian Lovins, one of the nation’s foremost pioneers in community supervision to explore how innovative strategies can result…

Yes, Drug Courts Are Working in Louisiana

Scott Peyton | February 12, 2020
In 2017, the Louisiana Legislature, with overwhelming bipartisan support, passed ten reforms (sponsored by six republicans, two democrats, and one independent) supported by data and aimed at safely reducing…

Too Young to Succeed? Emerging Community Supervision Strategies for Emerging Adults

Right on Crime | January 6, 2020
Transitioning from being a youth typically living with a parent to establishing self- sufficiency as a mature adult is a challenging period, and how a person handles that transition…

Notes On Probation and Parole from New York City

Scott Peyton | December 19, 2019
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan described the Statue of Liberty as a “beacon of hope.” This icon of Liberty and Democracy has been a “beacon of hope” for so…

Getting Technical: Preventing and Responding to Technical Supervision Violations and Misdemeanors

Right on Crime | December 18, 2019
Many states have experienced stubbornly high rates of revocations from community supervision in recent years, especially for technical violations. This paper examines several of the best policies and practices…

Community Supervision in Tennessee

Julie Warren | June 17, 2019
Reforms to Tennessee’s community supervision system—including to parole, probation, and community corrections—are necessary and can lead to improvements in the challenges of overcrowding and reentry.

Community Supervision in Wisconsin

Thomas Lyons | June 11, 2019
Tom Lyons, Right on Crime’s state director for Wisconsin, provides a policy brief of the state’s community supervision apparatus and discusses some of its challenges – including the higher-than-average…

Results-Oriented Solutions for Probation Funding

Right on Crime | May 3, 2019
Right on Crime policy analyst Michael Haugen examines various performance-based probation funding models across the country, which base their formulas upon the ability of probation departments to expand supervision…

Tennesseans Agree with Governor Lee’s Call for Criminal Justice Reform

Julie Warren | April 8, 2019
Earlier this month, Governor Bill Lee used the State of the State addressto announce details of his criminal justice reform agenda. Underlying this agenda is the intent to make Tennessee…

Voters in Four Oklahoma Legislative Districts Signal Strong Support for Criminal Justice Reforms

Right on Crime | April 4, 2019
In new polling of registered voters in four Oklahoma legislative districts conducted for Right on Crime, voters have signaled their belief that there are too many Oklahomans in prison…

Oklahoma District Attorney Supervision: An Unpopular Patchwork Policy

Joe Griffin | March 12, 2019
While much attention has been given to Oklahoma’s large prison population, further attention needs to be focused on the fines and fees that fund the state’s criminal justice system…
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