Why is Probation Effective?

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The use of probation as a court disposition or sentence for many offenders is a far less expensive option, versus incarceration (jail or prison) or utilizing an out-of-home placement for a delinquent offender. In fact, the cost of probation services is generally less than $10 per day, per person, versus $100 or more per day for incarceration costs. Juvenile out-of-home placements oftentimes cost $125 to $250 per day, per child, and even higher depending on the level of care and programming required. Probation supervision can also incorporate the use of cost-effective electronic surveillance and testing technology, including global positioning services (GPS), electronic home monitoring (EHM), continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring, ignition-interlock systems, along with instant drug and alcohol use screening, and other technologies.

Throughout Minnesota, probation officers supervise over 140,000 offenders (as of 2011), as compared to our state having approximately 9,500 offenders in the prison system. In Carver County, our local County Probation Officers (CPO) manage and supervise approximately 1000 adult offenders annually (probation and pre-trial cases) and around 250 juveniles (probation and diversion services). State probation officers, employed by the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC), supervise all of the felony level adult offenders in Carver County and work with offenders who become incarcerated, and eventually released from, the state prison system.   

In addition to cost and resource efficiencies, supervising offenders in the community along with appropriate intermediate sanctions, treatment and educational programs, and other local services has been proven to be more effective in facilitating long-term behavior change, versus incarceration alone. Carver County probation officers utilize many of the nationally recognized evidence-based practices and principles as noted in other sections of this web site. These proven-effective approaches include: motivational interviewing strategies and application of the "stages of change" model, offender risk and needs assessments, greater focus on higher risk offenders, targeted case planning, cognitive-behavioral interventions, and other specific types of programs that address problematic and anti-social or illegal behavior. Specific programming and services may include treatment for alcohol and drug addiction, domestic abuse, sexual and predatory offending, DWI/DUI offenses, and other areas.

Along with assessing risk to public safety and re-offending, probation supervision strategies incorporate individual factors, along with general and specific response considerations (responsivity), including mental health issues, learning disabilities, victimization, parenting and family matters, gender and cultural factors, transportation challenges, access to services and community resources, and other identified issues or challenges.

Several other key factors contribute to the success of our local probation efforts as well, including:

  • Strong collaboration with our local justice system partners
  • Highly qualified and professional staff who are dedicated to helping people change and enhancing public safety efforts
  • Ongoing quality training opportunities and staff who engage in continual learning and skill development
  • Educational efforts in conjunction with state universities, local colleges and school districts
  • Community involvement and ongoing connections with statewide correctional associations and national probation organizations 
  • Monitoring results and tracking outcomes of programs and services
  • The ability of our staff to continually adjust to changing conditions, particularly as resources are further stretched and challenged 

 As indicated above, probation, compared to incarceration, is much more cost effective.  In addition, probation is effective when considering the percentages of successful discharges, violations filed during probation, and recidivism (reoffended rates) during probation.  The charts below illustrate the effectiveness of probation on specific Carver County adult misdemeanor and gross-misdemeanor files.

 

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For more information on the "business" of corrections and probation/community supervision, please see the following articles via the below provided links: 

APPA Perspectives- Trends in Probation and Parole in the States, 2005

PEW Center Report:  The Long Reach of American Corrections