Priority Issues: Adult Probation
I. 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. Taxpayers do not always benefit from sending low-risk offenders, especially first-time nonviolent felons, to prison. In prison, the offender is surrounded by other felons 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 be forced to transition back to life outside of prison, with the additional stigma of having been sent to prison. If he does not transition effectively, the state will quite possibly have transformed a low-risk nonviolent offender into a career criminal. In effect, taxpayers will have spent more money to become 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."
II. 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 the low-risk offender to prison, probation allows him a chance to remain in the community, which keeps family structures together, keeps a potentially productive worker available in the workforce, and allows the offender to be rehabilitated without suffering the stigma of having been in prison.
Secondly, because probation allows an offender to keep a job and earn income, it increases the likelihood that the offender will be able to pay proper restitution to the victim of his crime.
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, and 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.
III. The Conservative Solution
• For low-level drug offenders with no violent prior crimes or sex offenses, in lieu of incarceration consider requiring probation with drug or psychiatric treatment.
• Research and utilize evidence-based best 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, such as drug courts, DWI courts, etc. These courts can provide specialized oversight and victim-offender mediation that present a low-cost alternative to incarceration.
• Give victims the right, upon request, to be informed of relevant proceedings, attend those proceedings, and express a preference to the prosecutor on the type of sentence.
• 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.
Agenda 2005: A Guide to the Issues by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation
Criminal Justice Policy in Delaware: Options for Controlling Costs and Protecting Public Safety by the Caesar Rodney Institute
Criminal Justice Policy in New Mexico: Keys to Controlling Costs and Protecting Public Safety by the Rio Grande Foundation
Five Technological Solutions for Texas’ Correctional and Law Enforcement Challenges by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
How to Avert another Texas Prison Crowding Crisis by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
Laying the Foundation for Better Probation by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
The Role of Risk Assessment in Enhancing Public Safety and Efficiency in Texas Corrections published by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
Smart on Crime: With Prison Costs on the Rise, Ohio Needs Better Policies for Protecting the Public by the Buckeye Institute
Stopping the Revolving Door: Reform of Community Corrections in Wisconsin by The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute
Working With Conviction: Criminal Offenses as Barriers to Entering Licensed Occupations in Texas by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
Work Release: Con Job or Big Payoff for Texas? by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
State criminal justice reforms in action
Posted in Adult Probation, Georgia, Law Enforcement, Ohio, Parole and Re-Entry, Priority Issues, Prisons, ROC Blog, South Dakota, State Initiatives, Substance Abuse, Texas, The Criminal Justice Challenge: October 17, 2013 by Right on Crime
This new ROC infographic gives the facts about criminal justice in Texas and proves that our reforms are effective. Check out the infographic below and and click here to read more about state-level reforms. [Click here to enlarge infographic]:: Read More
Rollins: Criminal justice reform — Texas style
“October is Crime Prevention Month, and I am reminded that not long ago people spoke of the “Texas Model” as a purely punitive approach to criminal justice. Decades of steady prison growth consumed an ever-increasing percentage of the general budget. Even with the nation’s highest incarceration rate, Texas’ cities and towns were still plagued with [...]:: Read More
Fox News: “Conservatives join push to roll back mandatory prison sentences”
Following Marc Levin’s testimony before the U.S. Judiciary Committee, this Fox News story features Right on Crime, noting that “The project has since been part of recent, successful efforts in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina to reform their systems through such changes as reducing penalties for low-level drug possessions; expanding the use of time- [...]:: Read More
The American Prospect: “Prison Reform: No Longer Politically Toxic?”
Marc Levin in The American Prospect: “[Too] often states send low-risk, nonviolent offenders to prison for a year or less, which often means any benefit of incapacitation is outweighed by the fact that these offenders are often more of a risk when they leave due to who they encountered behind bars and their ties to [...]:: Read More
A New Slate Article on Swift and Certain Sanctions
Right on Crime followers should be sure to check out a piece on Slate today about the impressively effective HOPE program. HOPE—Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement—is a pilot program designed to lower recidivism rates and decrease prison populations through swift, certain, and…:: Read More
Grover Norquist on Michael Medved radio show
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 way forward for prison reform, and ensuring that taxpayers get the best deal from the system, all while reducing crime and recidivism. Medved: So are we [...]:: Read More
TPPF and Marc Levin in Texas Monthly
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 and saving money at the same time. With orders from the LBB and political cover from TAB, the infantry in the trenches is a coalition force [...]:: Read More
Senator Rand Paul talks criminal justice at Howard University
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 people’s lives and limit government power. Here is an excerpt from the speech today. Our federal mandatory minimum sentences are simply heavy handed and arbitrary. They [...]:: Read More
New Cascade Policy Institute paper on criminal justice reform in Oregon
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: It is also the case that effective law enforcement strategies deter crime, and sensible approaches to community corrections may reduce recidivism. For these and other reasons, [...]:: Read More
Good article on mandatory minimums
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 reason I am proud to be affiliated with Right On Crime, a campaign dedicated to “fighting crime, restoring victims and protecting the taxpayer.” Endorsed by prominent [...]:: Read More
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