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9.3: Probation

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    John Augustus

    Probation is a form of a suspended sentence, in that the jail or prison sentence of the convicted offender is resuspended, for the privilege of serving conditions of supervision in the community. Conditions of probation often include: report to a probation officer, submit random drug screens, do not consort with known felons, pay court costs, restitution, and damages, attend AA or NA courses, as well as other conditions. Probation lengths vary greatly, as do the conditions of probation place on an individual. Almost all people on probation will have at least one condition of probation. Some have many conditions, depending on the seriousness of the conviction, while others are just a blanket condition that is imposed on all in that jurisdiction, or for that conviction type. Juvenile Probation Departments were within all States in the 1920s, and by the middle of the 1950s, all States had adult probation.

    Probation Officers

    Individuals on Probation

    Use of Probation in the U.S.

    Correctional Control by Type 1975-2016

    Probation Success

    [1] listed the successful completion rate at about 56%. In years past, this number has been reported higher, upwards of 65%, depending on the years 2008-2013. [2] There are a host of reasons listed for unsuccessful completion, which include: incarcerated on a new sentence/charge, or placement for the current sentence/charge, absconding (fleeing jurisdiction), discharged to warrant or detainer, other unsatisfactory reason, death, or some other unknown or not reported reason. Unsuccessful completion can produce some different responses but can include a concept called tourniquet sentencing. Tourniquet sentencing is where the restrictions of a level of sanction are increased, due to non-compliance, in order to force compliance. If an individual on probation is not adhering to the conditions of probation, a PO can recommend a probation revocation hearing. This bench hearing can lead to an informal admonishment by a judge, an increase in the sanctions or sanction lengths, an increased level of control (moving from regular probation to intensive supervised probation), even up to placement in a secure facility (jail or prison), all depending on the infraction of the condition of probation that has been violated. Many go from regular probation to ISP, in an effort to force compliance through increased monitoring.

    Intensive Supervised Probation

    Intensive Supervision Probation (ISP) began in the late 1950s, and early 1960s, in California. Their basic premise was to allow caseworkers (POs) to have smaller caseloads and increase the level of treatment across offenders. As stated, many promised multiple success measures. However, if an individual who was revoked because of a technical violation due to an increase in control, they were not seen as a failure. Rather, they were seen as a success because of the way the public was served by the recidivism. However, this went directly against the notion that ISPs could save money. Because of these problems, the earlier forms of ISPs may have become less popular. In the 1980s, a newer model of the ISP was created in Georgia. More emphasis was placed on the control aspect rather than on treatment. Further, less emphasis was placed on the reduction of money saved.

    ISP Success

    [3] They examined the effectiveness of ISPs in reducing recidivism and saving costs. In a random sample of 14 cities across 9 States, they evaluated the reductions of recidivism against a sample of regular probationers. Their findings suggested that there were higher amounts of technical violations, which were probably substance violations, but there were no significant differences between control-centered ISPs and regular probation, as far as new arrests. Moreover, when looking at outcomes over 3 years, they found that recidivism rates were slightly higher for these ISPs (39%), vs. regular probation (33%). Also, there were no substantive cost savings. Other studies have produced similar findings as to the effects of non-treatment oriented ISPs. While these findings might be better than prison recidivism rates, there were no reductions in prison overcrowding, which was also one of the intents of ISP.

    1. Kaeble, D. (2018). Probation and Parole in the United States, 2013. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, April 2018, NCJ 251148
    2. Huberman, E. J., & Bonczar, T. P. (2014). Probation and parole in the United States, 2013. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, October 2014, NCJ 248029
    3. Petersilia, J. R., & Deschenes, E. (2004). Evaluating intensive supervision probation/parole (ISP) for drug offenders. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

    This page titled 9.3: Probation is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Alison S. Burke, David Carter, Brian Fedorek, Tiffany Morey, Lore Rutz-Burri, & Shanell Sanchez (OpenOregon) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.