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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.

Grover Norquist on Michael Medved radio show

Right on Crime | May 9, 2013
Here is a partial transcript from a recent Michael Medved radio show, where he interviewed signatory Grover Norquist about our work on criminal justice reform. They discussed the conservative…

TPPF and Marc Levin in Texas Monthly

Right on Crime | May 6, 2013
Check out this great article about Right on Crime principles and policies in Texas. It features Marc Levin and the Texas Public Policy Foundation for their work fighting crime…

Senator Rand Paul talks criminal justice at Howard University

Right on Crime | April 10, 2013
Read the full text of Senator Rand Paul’s speech at Howard University today. He focused on how conservative values, including those that deal with criminal justice reform, can better…

New Cascade Policy Institute paper on criminal justice reform in Oregon

Right on Crime | April 3, 2013
Check out the brand new paper released by the Cascade Policy Institute in Oregon. It’s entitled, “Protecting Public Safety and Reducing Correctional Costs in Oregon.” Here is an excerpt:…

Good article on mandatory minimums

Right on Crime | April 2, 2013
Check out this article from an activist in Arizona about mandatory minimums. The writer makes some good points and mentions the Right on Crime campaign! It is for this…

West Virginia Senate Passes Criminal Justice Reform Bill

Right on Crime | March 28, 2013
A few days ago, the West Virginia State Senate passed criminal justice reform bill SB371 by an overwhelming vote of 33-0. It’s unusual for any legislative body to pass…

Reason Magazine mentions our work

Right on Crime | March 26, 2013
This morning on Fox News Sunday Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave his most extensive answer yet on how he feels about U.S. drug laws. The short version: He doesn’t endorse…

Two Smart on Crime States Post Results

Right on Crime | February 8, 2013
Taxpayers in Pennsylvania are footing the bill for 454 fewer inmates this month than they were a year ago, while South Carolina’s citizens are paying for 2,700 fewer inmates.…

Texas Diversion Funding Correlates with Reduced Crime

Right on Crime | December 10, 2012
Recent Legislatures in Texas have diverted some funding from state lockups to community-based supervision and diversions. Reallocating funding in this way continues to better protect the public safety and…

Arizona Since the Safe Communities Act

Right on Crime | October 22, 2012
In 2008, Arizona passed the Safe Communities Act, which authorized courts to adjust the sentences of probationers based on the recommendations of probation officers. The legislation also included performance…

The Important Idea Underlying Hawaii’s HOPE Court

Right on Crime | October 11, 2012
Last month, Judge Steven Alm of Hawaii's HOPE Court published a piece in the Hawaii Reporter to clarify a point of confusion -- whether HOPE provides drug treatment resources…

Michigan Considers Swift & Sure Sanctions

Right on Crime | October 10, 2012
In an effort to more effectively supervise probationers and parolees, Michigan is looking to Hawaii for answers. Specifically, the HOPE Court, founded in Hawaii in 2005, provides swift and…
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