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Progressive Policy Institute Report Stop Revolving-door Justice Jul 23 2008

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Policy Report

July 2008

Stop Revolving-Door
Justice
How Corrections Systems Can Reduce Recidivism

P

by Jason Newman

risons in the United States are full to overflowing. More than one in every
100 adult Americans are now in prison or jail—the highest rate in our
nation’s history.1 Whether the United States locks up “too many” people is an
interesting and contentious question. What is beyond dispute, however, is this:
The more offenders we put behind bars, the more who will eventually be sent
home. In fact, 95 percent of prisoners will one day get out, and released
prisoners have unleashed a crime wave in many U.S. communities.
Approximately 650,000 inmates are
released from prison each year. According
to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), twothirds of them will be rearrested, and over
half will return to prison within three years.2
In fact, parolees accounted for more than
35 percent of the people entering prison in
2000, almost double the proportion from two
decades ago.3
In addition to the number of individuals
on parole—which at the end of 2006
numbered just short of 800,000—there were
more than 4.2 million on probation, leaving
more than 5 million ex-offenders under some
sort of community supervision (1 million more
than in 1995).4 Add to that the more than 2
million people in jail or prison in 2006, and
the total number of offenders in the corrections
system totaled 7.2 million, the highest ever.5

In contrast, only 1.8 million people were in
the corrections system in 1980.6
Such statistics put America’s corrections
system in the spotlight. While criminals are
locked up, the system does too little to prepare
them to be reintegrated into their communities
as productive, law-abiding citizens. And it fails
to effectively supervise people on probation
and parole, even though their propensity to
commit more crimes is well known.
The escalating crime rate among
discharged prisoners also highlights a basic
defect in conservatives’ reflexively punitive
approach to law enforcement. Their disdain
for prisoner rehabilitation guarantees that most
offenders will simply be dumped back into the
communities they came from, without the skills,
tools and incentives they need to change their
lives. In their zeal to punish the wicked, many

Jason Newman is the State and Local Policy Director
at the Democratic Leadership Council.

“One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.”
—John Stuart Mill

The Pr
og
olicy Ins
titut
Prog
ogrressiv
essivee P
Policy
Institut
titutee
The Progressive Policy Institute is a catalyst for political change and renewal. Its mission is to modernize progressive politics and
governance for the 21st century. Moving beyond the left-right debates of the last century, PPI is a prolific source of the Third Way
thinking that is reshaping politics both in the United States and around the world.
The PPI invents new ways to advance enduring progressive principles: equal opportunity, mutual responsibility, civic enterprise,
public sector reform, national strength, and collective security. Its “progressive market strategy” embraces economic innovation, fiscal
discipline, and open markets, while also equipping working families with new tools for success. Its signature policy blueprints include
national service, community policing, and a social compact that requires and rewards work; new public schools based on
accountability, choice, and customization; a networked government that uses information technology to
break down bureaucratic barriers; pollution trading markets and other steps toward a clean energy economy;
a citizen-centered approach to universal health care; and a progressive internationalism that commits
America’s strength to the defense of liberal democracy.

www.ppionline.org

Rejecting tired dogmas, PPI brings a spirit of radical pragmatism and experimentation to the challenge
of restoring our collective problem-solving capacities—and thereby reviving public confidence in what
progressive governance can accomplish.
The Progressive Policy Institute is a project of the Third Way Foundation.

2. Create a new Office of
Community Super vision (OCS) within
the U.S. Department of Justice. An OCS
would make grants to local parole and
probation departments, with the goal of
doubling the number of parole and
probation officers in communities where exoffenders are concentrated. An OCS might
even place juvenile probation officials
directly in schools that have high
concentrations of young people at risk of
incarceration.

conservatives have lost sight of public safety.
Progressives should not shy from tough
sentences for cold-blooded predators and
drug profiteers, even if that means high
incarceration rates. At the same time,
however, they should insist that the U.S.
corrections system be tasked with preventing
crime as well as punishing it after the fact. In
practice, this means that everyone involved
in corrections—wardens, sheriffs, parole
officers, and probation supervisors—must be
held responsible for reducing recidivism rates.
Specifically, PPI proposes three steps to
fix our broken corrections system:

3 . In return for federal help,
communities should give their parole
and probation officers the power to
impose more effective sanctions on
violators. The current regimen of spotty,
unpredictable punishments for those who
break the rules of their probation or parole
clearly is not working. Probation officers
also need the authority and resources to
monitor the position of newly-released
offenders, and to administer drug tests more
frequently. The bottom line is that individuals
on probation and parole should be held
responsible for their own successful return to
free society, and we need to establish strong
guidelines to help drive home that
fundamental point.

1 . Develop and implement a
CompStat-like system for federal and
state corrections. CompStat (short for
computer statistics) is the crime-data tracking
system New York City used to achieve a
spectacular reduction in violent crime in the
1990s. A CompStat for corrections would
measure and publicize the recidivism rates
of inmates discharged from specific
institutions, as well as those on probation or
parole. This would give corrections officials
a powerful new tool for comparing the
performance of the people in charge of these
institutions, and holding them accountable
for measurable improvements.
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These proposals build on successful
crime-fighting innovations that helped reduce
U.S. crime rates in the 1990s. For example,
President Bill Clinton’s Community Oriented
Policing Services (COPS) initiative put well
over 100,000 new police officers on the
beat in localities that agreed to deploy them
in community policing. At around the same
time, New York City Police Commissioner
Bill Bratton instituted CompStat to track crime
statistics precinct by precinct. This highly
specific data enabled the department to see
exactly when and where crime was
happening—and to hold police commanders
accountable for stopping it. Together with
community policing and other reforms,
CompStat worked: Murders in New York fell
68 percent between 1993 and 1998, while
the overall number of felonies was cut in half.
Unfortunately, in his very first budget,
President Bush sought to gut funding for the
COPS hiring program. While congressional
Democrats parried such efforts for a while, the
COPS budget steadily declined and by 2006
had been “zeroed out.” Partisan animus
probably played a role, but Republicans also
seem to have been motivated by their party’s
habitual hostility to federal activism. Criminal
justice, they pointed out, is overwhelmingly a
state and local responsibility.
This assertion is true, but while crime may
be a local responsibility, it is also a national
problem that demands a forceful response
from the nation’s leaders. For one thing, the
federal government operates a big prison
system of its own, with approximately
200,000 inmates. In addition, the rise of
nationwide gang networks and the interstate
preparations of the September 11 terrorists
should erase any doubt about the legitimacy
of a robust federal role in our nation’s lawenforcement efforts. An analogy may be
drawn to public education, also largely a
state and local matter, but one in which
Washington (under both Democratic and
Republican administrations) has assumed an
important strategic role in aiding poor districts,

raising performance standards, and
encouraging reform. In this spirit, Clinton
carved out a limited but constructive federal
role in using small amounts of money to
leverage major innovations in policing.
The Progressive Policy Institute believes it
is time to extend the same principle to
America’s corrections system, including both
the adult and juvenile systems. Taking up
where Clinton left off, our next president
should encourage the states to use information
technology to break down bureaucratic
barriers between various parts of the
corrections system, measure that system’s
performance, and hold officials accountable
for results.

An Ex-Con Crime Wave
Over the last several decades, a
confluence of factors—public alarm over
rising crime rates, a surging youth population,
the crack epidemic, and mandatory-sentence
laws—have combined to produce today’s
record-breaking incarceration rates. Since 95
percent of inmates are eventually set free,
this “get tough” policy has also triggered a
record-breaking flow of released prisoners
back into our communities. In fact, the number
of people released from state prisons each
year has grown steadily from approximately
200,000 in 1983, to 400,000 in 1994,
to 650,000 in 2005.7
Once per decade, the BJS tracks released
prisoners from prison in a given year to study
their recidivism rates. According to the most
recent BJS study of prisoners released in
1994, more than two-thirds (67.5 percent)
were rearrested within three years for a new
offense (almost exclusively a felony or a
serious misdemeanor); 46.9 percent were
reconvicted; and 25.4 percent were
resentenced. Overall, 51.8 percent were
back in prison for some reason within three
years.8
These numbers were up from a 1983
BJS study, which found that 62.5 percent
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had been rearrested and 41.4 percent were
back in prison within three years. This
increase in the number of serious crimes
(those that fall within the FBI’s “index” of the
gravest criminal offenses) committed by exprisoners is shown in the table below.9 As
the number of people released from prison
continues to rise, they will account for a
growing share of new crimes.
Our overmatched parole and probation
systems are failing to supervise these
individuals effectively or integrate them into
lawful and productive roles in their
communities. Consider these facts about
current and former prisoners:

problem, but only 10 percent receive formal
treatment prior to release;12 and
! An estimated 60 percent of the total
volume of heroin and cocaine consumed in
this country is sold to those on probation or
parole.13
Not only are our communities and our
citizens drastically less safe because of our
failure to properly supervise ex-prisoners, but
the state eventually foots a substantially higher
bill when they end up back in prison. While
costs vary by state, Patrick Kelly and Don
Stemen noted in a Vera Institute of Justice
report that “it costs upwards of $22,000 a
year to confine an individual in jail or prison,
as compared with as little as $200 per year
to supervise an individual on probation or
parole.”15 While the costs in some states are
higher than these estimates, the difference
between the cost of confining someone to
prison versus super vising them in the
community is significant. Therefore, lowering

! Approximately 68 percent of state
prisoners lack a high-school diploma and
only about one out of three receive
vocational training at any point during
incarceration;10
! About half are functionally illiterate;11
! Three in four have a substance-abuse

Share of All Index Crime Arrests Represented by State Prisoners for the
Three Y
ears Following Their Release in 1983 or 1994
Years
Crime

1983-1986

1994-1997

Murder and non-negligent
manslaughter

2.3%

7.7%

Rape

1.8%

4.4%

Robbery

5.0%

9.0%

Aggravated Assault

2.4%

4.5%

Burglary

4.8%

7.5%

Larceny/Theft

2.0%

3.2%

Motor Vehicle Theft

3.3%

6.2%

Note: For each percentage figure, the numerator is the number of arrests for the index crime among prisoners
released in 1983 or 1994, respectively, and the denominator is the estimated number of arrests for index crimes
among all offenders in the 11 states (1983 sample) and 13 states (1994 sample). Percentages for 1983 and
1994 were adjusted for partial-year exposure to rearrest.14

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Obama (D-Ill.) were both cosponsors of the
Senate version of the Second Chance Act
of 2007. On the campaign trail, Sen.
Obama has called for ensuring that exoffenders have access to job training,
counseling, and employment opportunities.
He has also called for the creation of a prisonto-work incentive program. Sen. Clinton seeks
a review of sentencing policies, and has
called for second-chance programs for nonviolent offenders. Recently, Clinton detailed
her plan, “Solutions for Safe and Secure
Communities Now,” which would update the
COPS program, set up a $1 billion antirecidivism program, renew the ban on assault
weapons, double the number of at-risk
children in after-school programs, and expand
early-intervention mentoring programs.
All of these efforts will help, but they do
not go far enough. To break the cycle of
revolving-door justice, we need to transform
America’s corrections system using the same
tools that modernized policing in the 1990s.
Below are PPI’s proposals for doing just that.

the crime rate among former prisoners would
not only protect Americans from crime, it
would also reap sizeable savings in criminaljustice costs.

Corrections and Crime-Fighting
U.S. political leaders are beginning to
zero in on the nation’s broken corrections
system. In his new book, A Time to Fight,
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) argues that it is time
to “reshape our own [criminal-justice] system
in a way that better serves individual justice,
community safety, and the long-term
productivity of those who have found
themselves on the wrong side of the law.”16
Unfortunately, over the last few decades
rehabilitation programs in prisons across the
country have been drastically cut. A recent
repor t from California Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger’s Rehabilitation Strike Team
found that of the $43,300 spent on each
prisoner yearly, just 5 percent is spent on
rehabilitation programs. Half of the
individuals leaving prisons in California did
not participate in any rehabilitation or work
program or have any type of work assignment
during their entire prison term.17 Similarly,
drastic cuts in rehabilitation programs have
occurred across the country.
In April 2008, President Bush signed the
Second Chance Act of 2007 to help exoffenders successfully reenter communities and
avoid recidivism. The new law will, among
other things, expand reentry projects to provide
expanded services to offenders, including an
initiative to ensure that each inmate released
from prison has information on health,
employment, personal finance, release
requirements, and community resources. In
addition, the Crime Control and Prevention Act
of 2007, introduced by Sen. Joe Biden (DDel.), includes new programs for the reduction
of recidivism and the successful reintroduction
of ex-offenders into the community.
Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack

1. A CompStat for the Entire
Corrections System
The corrections system must redefine its
mission. The key, argues Mark Kleiman,
professor of policy studies at the UCLA School
of Public Affairs, is to ensure “that community
corrections agencies start holding themselves
accountable and asking others to hold them
accountable—not for successful completion,
not for service delivery and compliance, but
for the number and severity of new crimes
committed by people under their
jurisdiction.”18
Van Jones, cofounder of the Ella Baker
Center for Human Rights, examined the
financial incentives in our prison system. His
conclusion: “The incarceration industry has
a perverse incentive to rehabilitate as few
people as possible and keep business
booming.” 19 From a strictly economic
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standpoint, the more people in prison, the
more prisons and guards we need. With
many states turning to for-profit firms to run
prisons, parole and probation officers have
insufficient incentive to reduce crime. While
they are responsible for supervising their
parolees and probationers and bringing them
back to court if they break the rules, they are
not rewarded for reducing recidivism rates
among the people they supervise.
There is a better way, and it involves
applying lessons already learned in a
separate but closely related field: police work.
Former New York City Police Commissioner
Bill Bratton has taken the CompStat model—
with its data-rich analysis and rigorous
interviews of precinct commanders—to Los
Angeles with similar success. Several other
cities across the country, including Baltimore,
have instituted similar programs. During his
tenure as mayor of Baltimore, Martin
O’Malley launched CitiStat, which
expanded on CompStat to put information
technology to work on a wide array of city
services. Upon being elected governor of
Maryland, O’Malley worked with the state
Legislature to pass StateStat to bring the same
principles to state government.
A similar type of data collection and
performance measurement system should be
established in states to track statistics
throughout the entire corrections network—
in the probation and parole system as well
as the prisons. Statistics that should be tracked
include the number of criminals in prison each
year; the number who leave each individual
prison each year; the number of people on
parole and probation; and the number of
former prisoners who have been rearrested.
In addition, this system could track specific
information on prisoners, such as substance
abuse, mental-health issues, and gang
activity. Once the statistics are known, prison
officials, parole officers, and probation
supervisors can be held accountable for
whether or not an individual under their care

goes on to continue a life of crime. In
addition, this system should be used to share
essential information effectively with all actors
in the system, including wardens, prison
guards, and police officers on the streets.
Cities and states across the country have
begun adopting CompStat-like systems for
their prisons and community-supervision
systems. New York City’s Department of
Corrections created TEAMS (Total Efficiency
Accountability Management System) in order
to stem violence in city prisons. This system
helped reduce violence among prisoners by
95 percent.20 The New York City Department
of Probation was the first community
corrections agency to adapt such a system
to track data on recidivism, employment, and
housing. Over a three-year period, arrests of
probationers dropped by 9.5 percent.
Since then, parole and probation agencies
in California, Georgia, Maryland, and the
District of Columbia have followed Gotham’s
lead. In Georgia, 4 percent more parolees
have successfully completed their terms of parole
since 2005, saving the state between $24
million and $28 million in corrections costs.21
After Bill Bratton brought CompStat to the
Los Angeles Police Department, the California
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
(CDCR) saw its success and in 2006 entered
into a partnership with the LAPD to adapt the
CompStat model to both their parole and
prison systems.22 However, only in the parole
system are they tracking and measuring
recidivism. Like the New York City corrections
system, California is only tracking outcomes
within the prison system, such as inmate-oninmate violence, assaults on officers, gang
involvement, and drug use.
This is a good start, but it is time that
cities and states begin to bring the prison
system and the probation-and-parole system
together—and hold them both responsible
for recidivism. Right now, these two systems
work primarily in separate silos, each one
barely noting what the other one is doing. If

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both systems were accountable for reducing
crime in our communities, they would be
forced to break down those silos and find
ways to coordinate their activities.
Some have argued that holding prisons
accountable for recidivism is too complex,
because ex-prisoners can commit crimes
months or years after their release. This is
true, but complexity is no excuse to avoid
measuring performance and holding officials
accountable. After all, the causes of street
crime are varied and complex, yet this did
not dilute the power of CompStat to bring
greater accountability to police work.
If overcrowding is a problem, for
example, then this issue will be raised by
wardens across the state when they are
questioned in CompStat-style interviews. If
violence is an issue, then those wardens will
be accountable for finding ways to reduce
the violence. A prisoner’s experience behind
bars has a significant effect on whether that
prisoner will or will not commit more crimes
when he gets out. We hold police officers
accountable for crime in the neighborhoods
they patrol and for sending criminals to
prison. We are beginning to hold parole
officers responsible for crimes committed by
those they supervise once they get out of
prison. There is absolutely no reason why
prisons should not be held accountable for
the time these individuals are under their care.
Given the overlap of police, prisons,
probation, and parole, states may want to create
a new, combined system that incorporates all
of these operations and pools their data; there
could even be CompStat interviews with
officials from all of these elements of our justice
system. With this type of cooperation, meetings
could be held to track information, determine
where problems exist, and address those
problems across the bureaucracy.
In addition to tracking information, states
should begin experimenting with model
systems that provide rewards and incentives
for corrections officials, including wardens

and parole officers, who successfully lower
recidivism rates over a certain period of time.
For example, in exchange for being held
more accountable, prisons could be given
more authority over how they spend their
funding each year and be rewarded for
successes such as increasing the percentage
of their inmates who reenter society and stay
out of trouble. The same type of reward system
could be set up for parole and probation
officers, offering performance bonuses for
officers who are able to reduce the amount
of crime for which their supervisees are
responsible. Such inducements would
incentivize members of this profession to make
our neighborhoods safer.
As prison populations rise and recidivism
increases, states are already beginning to
look for examples of rehabilitation services
that help reduce crime. In recent years, a
number of studies have been published
showing the effectiveness of certain
programs. In 2006, the Washington State
Institute for Public Policy, at the direction of
that state’s Legislature, put together a
comprehensive overview of programs that
had demonstrated an ability to reduce
recidivism.23
In addition, the Re-Entry Policy Council
released a report in 2005 authored by the
Council of State Governments and 10 project
partners that gives numerous examples of
successful programs being implemented
around the country.24
To facilitate this, under the Second
Chance Act, a National Offender Re-Entry
Resource Center will be set up to collect and
disseminate best practices and provide
training and support to states and
communities. With these studies and
resources, states and communities should be
able to find programs that have proven
effective in reducing crime.
Obviously, these new tools will require
resources to implement. But the money saved
in the long run due to decreased prison
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progressive policy institute
populations and reduced crime will more than
make up for the costs.

was “to get probation and parole officers
out of their offices and onto the streets,”
extending the “community policing” principle
to post-prison supervision.26
Sen. Edwards noted that such a strategy
worked in Winston-Salem, N.C., where
juvenile-probation and police officers teamed
up to work with clergy and other community
members to supervise juveniles on probation.
The result was a 35 percent cut in juvenile
violence in 2003.
Some states have turned to a schoolbased probation (SBP) model, in which
probation officers are moved from their
centralized district offices directly into the
schools where juveniles spend most of their
time. Pennsylvania has made a strong
commitment to this approach, with SBP
programs in all types of schools throughout
the state. Several benefits of this model have
been documented in evaluations of these
programs, including closer supervision and
monitoring; better school attendance and
performance; enhanced communication
between probation officers and schools; and,
most importantly, reduced recidivism.27
In Maryland, a successful program
placed 70 juvenile-probation officers directly
in 125 public schools in high-crime
neighborhoods instead of in distant
bureaucratic offices.28 The goal was to bring
“juvie” right into the schools, where kids
spend most of their days, and to focus on
the kids most likely to commit violent acts—
namely, those who have committed them
before. Starting with a cluster of nine schools
in 1996-97, “Spotlight on Schools”
decreased school suspensions and dropout
rates, and not one student was arrested for
new offenses.
Jeff Schrader, one of the Maryland
juvenile-probation officers assigned to a
school, said, “Before, a field officer would
go and visit a school and would have contact
with a kid about every two weeks. Now,
with an office physically in the school, I see

2. Effective Community
Super
vision of Released
Supervision
Prisoners
The new Office of Community Supervision
(OCS) we propose would double the current
workforce of approximately 50,000 parole
and probation officers in the United States.
That would allow each officer to reduce their
caseloads from over 100 to around 50, and
could create even lower caseloads for officers
supervising high-risk offenders.
Under the OCS program, three-year
grants would be provided according to a
formula similar to that used by the COPS
initiative. Federal funds would be provided
to states for 75 percent of a newly hired
entry-level officer’s salary and benefits, up to
a maximum amount of $75,000 per officer.
Local parole and probation departments
would be required to contribute at least 25
percent in local matching funds. In addition,
the new OCS program should provide for
additional grants to set up the data collection
and performance measurement system
discussed above, and to pay for additional
costs like equipping officers with laptops and
setting up neighborhood offices.
Adding more officers will not, by itself,
make our communities safer. Currently, parole
and probation officers spend almost all of
their time behind desks. It is difficult to
effectively supervise ex-offenders this way. In
2002, while still a U.S. senator, John
Edwards summarized the problem nicely:
“In my view, the number one problem in
our criminal justice system today is the early
release system—sometimes called probation,
sometimes parole, sometimes intensive
supervision. But whatever you call it, it doesn’t
work. It is overburdened, understaffed,
inconsistent, and almost completely
unsuccessful.”25
Among the reform principles he suggested
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all my kids two or three times a week, if not
every day.”29
Schrader also said that the constant
interaction with students changed the nature
of his job, allowing him to open more
preventive cases with the students that
teachers are most concerned about. “It’s more
of a crisis-counselor relationship,” he said of
his new role. “I know the kids and their needs
better and can give them the attention they
may need early on to prevent them from going
further into the system.”30
Probation officers who are in the community
can identify and intervene in problematic
patterns of behavior. They also offer a visible
presence that can deter crime. The best place
to fight violence and crime is in the streets and
schoolyards, not in the bureaucracy.
We will never have as many probation
and parole officers as we need, so we have
to be smart about how we use our limited
resources. A significant majority of those
leaving prison return to a small number of
neighborhoods. We should identify the
neighborhoods that prisoners are returning
to, and use our limited resources in a smart
manner by focusing officers in these areas.
Police departments across the country are
starting to use computer-mapping systems to
track where crimes are occurring, so they
can focus their officers in these areas. A
similar mapping system should be set up in
cities across the country to identify where
those under community supervision are living
and working, so we can concentrate more
effectively on those neighborhoods.
If a significant number of supervisees are
living and working in a few readily identified
neighborhoods, parole and probation officers
could set up small field offices in these areas.
This will require an investment in laptops and
other technology resources that officers can use
to write reports and download information from
anywhere in their jurisdiction.
One of the benefits of getting parole and
probation officers out from behind their desks

is that they can get to know the community
for themselves. They can identify local
influentials, such as clergymen and highschool sports coaches, and begin developing
relationships with them. By doing this, the
officers can benefit from the knowledge of
community leaders; find out who is making
progress and who is slipping up; and also
help to find the necessary resources at-risk
individuals need.

3. Consistent and Swift
Sanctions for Probation and
Parole Violations
Our current prisoner-reentry systems too often
fail those leaving prison, releasing them with
little more than the clothes on their back and
possibly some money for bus fare. As we
provide necessary services to these prisoners,
however, those under community supervision
must ultimately be held responsible for turning
their own lives around. In return for federal help,
communities should set up a consistent system
of swift and certain punishment for violations
of parole and probation.
Right now, punishments are inconsistent
and are usually imposed months after a
violation. When cases finally do get to court,
some violators are given a slap on the wrist,
while others are sent back to prison for years.
It is time to set up a strict, swift, and graduated
punishment system that holds supervisees
responsible for their own decisions—a system
in which officers automatically and
consistently impose more severe punishments
following each successive violation.
Mark Kleiman has argued for such a strict
accountability system to control drug use
among probationers. All supervisees are
required to remain drug-free, but as Kleiman
and Pepperdine University’s Angela Hawken
argue, the “current system fails because drug
testing of probationers is too infrequent,
because test results come back too slowly,
and because sanctions are too rare, too
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delayed, and too severe (months, or
occasionally years, in prison).”31
Kleiman and Hawken point to Hawaii’s
Opportunity Probation with Enforcement
(H.O.P.E.) program, in which probationers are
monitored closely and punished with rapid but
mild sanctions (starting with as little as two days
in jail and increasing gradually with each
successive violation). Under a pilot program
developed with methamphetamine users on
probation, half of probationers began
complying with the terms of their probation
immediately following an initial warning, and
the proportion of missed or failed drug tests
went down by more than 80 percent.
In order to make this system effective, drug
testing must occur frequently—at least once per
week. In addition, the process leading to a
hearing following a violation must be changed
so that punishment is rapid and certain. Today,
probation officers must usually fill out a heap
of paperwork leading to a revocation hearing
several weeks or months after the violation.
Understandably, busy officers often do not want
to fill out all the paperwork for minor violations,
so violators too often go unpunished. In Hawaii,
however, the state set up a low-sanctions
probation “modification” system that reduced
the paper work and now allows for a
modification hearing within two days of the
violation.
According to Kleiman and Hawken, the
costs of implementing H.O.P.E. are
approximately $2,500 per probationer,
including the costs of treatment, compared with
about $1,000 for standard probation
supervision. They suggest that most, or all, of
these costs would be returned in savings from
reduced incarceration and law-enforcement
costs. Over the last several years, Rep. Adam
Schiff (D-Calif.) has worked to expand on the
success of programs like H.O.P.E. In 2006,
he included a demonstration program in the
Office of National Drug Control Policy
(ONDCP) Reauthorization Act, and he recently

included a grant program in the Second
Chance Act to support communities
implementing programs similar to H.O.P.E.
Kleiman also suggests that this type of
system would work well at reducing other
sorts of probation violations. He mentioned
at a 2005 National Institute of Justice
roundtable discussion that certain specific
rules seem to be consistently linked to crime
reduction. These rules included: abstaining
from illegal drug use; obeying curfews;
staying away from individuals or locations
associated with prior offenses; and attending
anger-management or substance-abuse
programs. Similar strict-accountability systems
could be set up to monitor compliance with
these rules and to swiftly punish violations.
In addition to imposing more frequent drug
testing, Kleiman suggested that officers could
use “electronic handcuffs” or similar
technology to ensure compliance with
curfews and other restrictions. If these rules
are not met, Kleiman proposes escalated
punishments. Such sanctions could begin
with increased supervision and unpaid
community ser vice and graduate to
confinement for short periods (up to 48
hours), or it could start immediately with short
confinement periods and increase gradually,
as in the H.O.P.E. program.
Today, judges are usually the only ones
who can impose sanctions, and it often takes
several weeks to have a hearing before a
judge. Some experts argue that the rules
should be changed to give parole and
probation officers more authority to impose
sanctions. Kleiman, however, identified simple
changes that could achieve the same thing,
such as obtaining probationers’ consent to
administrative discipline in lieu of tough
judicial sanctions. Such a measure would
enhance officers’ ability to impose swift and
certain consequences for bad behavior.
Kleiman and Stephen Teles, currently an
assistant professor of public policy at the

10

www.ppionline.org

University of Maryland, charge that today’s
corrections system “largely reproduces the
behavior of the rest of the criminal-justice
system: it makes many demands, spottily
monitors compliance, and punishes detected
deviations slowly and unpredictably, but often
quite severely.” What’s lacking, they argue,
is the ability to detect violations and respond
appropriately. In order to be effective, parole
and probation would need to “deliver a form
of punishment that effectively reduced crime—
imposing on offenders intense levels of
supervision, clear rules of behavior, and swift
and certain sanctions for breaking these
rules.”32

risen as well, not only in terms of dollars but
also in terms of the rising incidence of crime
among individuals who cycle into and out
of our criminal-justice system.
It is time that we take a serious look at
how to make those responsible for
supervising criminal populations more
effective at our ultimate goal—reducing crime
and making our communities safer. Utilizing
some of the same effective practices that
helped transform policing in the 1990’s, we
should use information technology to break
down bureaucratic barriers between various
parts of the corrections system, measure the
performance of officials in those systems, and
hold these officials accountable for results.
In addition, we need to double the number
of parole and probation officers, get them
out on the streets, and give them the resources
to do their jobs effectively. Finally, and most
importantly, we must implement a strict
accountability system that holds offenders
responsible for turning their lives around.

Conclusion
Just as the prison population has grown
dramatically over the last couple of decades,
so have the ranks of Americans on probation
and parole. The costs to our society have

Endnotes
“One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008,” Pew Center on the States, http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/
One%20in%20100.pdf.
2
“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, June 2002, http://
www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/rpr94.pdf.
3
Travis, Jeremy, and Sarah Lawrence, “Beyond the Prison Gates: The State of Parole in America,” November, 2002,
http://urban.org/UploadedPDF/310583_Beyond_prison_gates.pdf.
4
“Probation and Parole in the Untied States,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, 2006, December 2007,
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/ppus06.pdf.
5
Sabol, Dr. William J., Heather Couture and Paige M. Harrison, “Prisoners in 2006,” Bureau of Justice Statistics
Bulletin, December 2007, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/p06.pdf; and Glaze, Lauren E., and Thomas P. Bonczar,
Probation and Parole in the United States, 2006,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, December 2007,
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/ppus06.pdf.
6
Fears, Darryl,“New Criminal Record: 7.2 Million,” The Washington Post, June 12, 2008, http://www.washingtonpost.com/
wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/11/AR2008061103458.html?nav=rss_email/components.
7
“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1983,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, April, 1989, http://
www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/rpr83.pdf; “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special
Report, June 2002, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/rpr94.pdf; and Sabol, Dr. William J., Todd D. Minton, and Paige
M. Harrison, “Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2006,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, June 2007, http://
www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim06.pdf.
8
“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, June 2002, http://
1

11

www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/rpr94.pdf.
9
“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, June 2002, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/
rpr94.pdf and “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1983,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, April, 1989, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/
pub/pdf/rpr83.pdf.
10
Harlow, C.W., Ph.D., “Education and Correctional Populations,” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003.
11
Hirsch, Amy, Sharon Dietrich, Rue Landau, Peter Schneider, Irv Ackelsberg, Judith Bernstein-Baker, and Joseph Hohenstein, “Every Door
Closed: Barriers Facing Parents with Criminal Records,” Center for Law and Social Policy and Community Legal Services, 2002.
12
Mumola, C.J. “Substance Abuse and Treatment, State and Federal Prisoners, 1997,” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics,
1999.
13
Teles, Stephen and Mark Kleiman,“Escape from America’s Prison Policy,” November 30, 2002, http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=5421.
14
“Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, June 2002, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/
rpr94.pdf and “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1983,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, April, 1989, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/
pub/pdf/rpr83.pdf.
15
Kelly, Patrick and Don Stemen, “Probation Reform: Is Zero Tolerance a Viable Option?” Vera Institute of
Justice, October 2005.
16
Webb, Jim, A Time to Fight, Broadway Books, 2008, p. 228.
17
“Meeting the Challenges of Rehabilitation in California’s Prison and Parole System,” A Report from Governor
Schwarzenegger’s Rehabilitation Strike Team, Joan Petersilia, Ph.D., Chair, December 2007.
18
Kelly, Patrick and Don Stemen, “Probation Reform: Is Zero Tolerance a Viable Option?” Vera Institute of
Justice, October 2005.
19
Jones, Van, “Con Game,” April 24, 2006, http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2006/0424/034_print.html.
20
Giuliani, Rudolph, Management Requires Measurement:The Key to NewYork City’s Renaissance, Reason Foundation,
http://www.reason.org/innovators2007/innovators2007_giuliani.shtml.
21
You Get What You Measure: Compstat for Community Corrections, Public Safety Performance, A Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, July 2007.
22
Jannetta, Jesse, M.P.P., COMPSTAT for Corrections, UC Irvine Center for Evidence-Based Corrections White Paper, December 2006.
23
“Evidence-Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Future Prison Construction, Criminal Justice Costs, and Crime Rates,” Washington
Institute for Public Policy, October 2006, http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/pub.asp?docid=06-10-1201.
24
Reentry Policy Council, Report of the Re-Entry Policy Council: Charting the Safe and Successful Return of Prisoners to the Community, New York:
Council of State Governments, January 2005.
25
“Paying Attention To Criminals After They Leave Prison,”New Dem Daily, Democratic Leadership Council, June 13, 2002, http://www.dlc.org
(Quoting a speech made by Senator John Edwards on the floor of the U.S. Senate on June 12, 2002).
26
Ibid.
27
School Based Probation: An Approach Worth Considering, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 2003, http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/
Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=210152.
28
Yedinsky, Theo, “Prosecutors and Probation Officers Join the Community Policing Beat,” The New Democrat, September 1, 1999, http://
dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=1133&kaid=119&subid=156.
29
Ibid.
30
Ibid.
31
Hawken, Angela and Mark Kleiman, H.O.P.E. for Reform, The American Prospect, April 10, 2007, http://www.prospect.org/cs/
articles?article=hope_for_reform.
32
Teles, Stephen and Mark Kleiman, “Escape from America’s Prison Policy,” November 30, 2002,
http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=5421.

 

 

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