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Report Finds Effective Text Message Reminders Can Reduce Community Supervision Violations

by Jordan Arizmendi

Once upon a time, parole and probation – also referred to as community supervision – were intended to reduce our nation’s jail and prison populations. In fact, when used properly, community supervision can be one of the most effective tools in our carceral system for reducing mass incarceration. However, many critics say that community supervision is not much better than incarceration, considering the laundry list of conditions to which one is subjected.

They accuse the justice system of structuring community supervision programs so difficult to complete that it ensures the beds in correctional institutions are always filled. If someone on community supervision misses a curfew or a payment due date, they risk reincarceration. However, a simple text message reminder of such important upcoming events has proven to be very helpful, according to a recent report by the Reason Foundation titled “How text message reminders can help reduce technical parole and probation violations,” which involved a randomized control trial among community supervision participants in Arkansas.

According to the report, a text message reminding individuals of required scheduled events could reduce missed appointments by as much as 29%. The report notes that in 2019, only 53% of individuals on probation completed their supervision for the year. Additionally, 13% had their parole revoked and returned to prison. Of those individuals, 40% were reincarcerated as the result of technical violations, like missing a parole appointment, not committing a new crime.

The report states: “Despite their importance to effective supervision, office visits are often difficult to coordinate. Supervisees frequently miss appointments due to work, education, or difficulty securing transportation. Missed appointments and time spent coordinating meetings represent opportunities to improve the use of scarce time by parole and probation officers. Eliminating these inefficiencies would allow officers to focus their time and attention on higher-risk supervisees in greater need of intensive supervision.”

The report also suggests that a simple automated text message reminder could be a low-cost improvement to an underfunded agency that is overloaded with assignments and cases. While the country tries to manage the tremendous prison overpopulation problems, community supervision programs have become more popular in recent decades. As a result, law enforcement agencies are forced to manage more individuals with fewer resources. Reducing the number of missed community supervision appointments would help ensure that more individuals complete their parole or probation programs.  

 

Source: Reasons

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