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August 25, 2008

Local data suggesting jail terms increase recidivism

This new research report from the Vera Institute of Justice, titled "Assessing the Effectiveness of Intermediate Sanctions in Multnomah County, Oregon," provides some interesting data on the use various sanctions when offenders violate the conditions of their probation or post-prison supervision.  This report summary details these key findings:

  • Most people (70 percent) did not receive any type of sanction or intervention while on probation or under post-prison supervision in Multnomah County, and most were neither re-arrested (74 percent) nor reconvicted (85 percent) after their supervision ended.
  • Multnomah County relies heavily on jail to sanction those who violate conditions of supervision. Of the 30 percent of the supervised population who were sanctioned, 92 percent received jail time at some point during their supervision.
  • The use of jail as an intermediate sanction was correlated with higher rates of recidivism, a relationship that should be examined more closely. People who received any intermediate sanction (including jail) were 44 percent more likely to have their supervision revoked, compared to a similar group.  Those receiving jail were 76 percent more likely to have their supervision revoked.

August 25, 2008 at 02:20 PM | Permalink

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Comments

This is an issue which needs more comprehensive study. I just saw an analysis which reached the exact opposite conclusion: that using jail for intermediate sanctions reduced probationers' recidivism in the HOPE program in Hawaii.

With a massive shift occurring toward use of so-called problem solving courts, it's really important to identify what are appropriate intermediate sanctions. If it's jail, great - everybody's got one already. But if the Oregon numbers are right and using jails that way boosts recidivism, there needs to be more study and empirical testing about which intermediate sanctions DO work.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 26, 2008 8:49:10 AM

Grits, perhaps the consequences are "swift and certain" but the "warning hearing" and the apparent genuine concern for keeping them violation free may make the difference. In other words, the court is "real" and that minimizes the brutalization effect. If the court told them the real goal was to violate them until they went to prison, which is the apparent goal of many probationary programs, the HOPE program would fail by way of a self fulfilling prophecy. Judge Steven Alm's "warning hearings" alone are a cut above the usual assembly line indifference. So further study might focus on how they are treated and how well they understand the law and court's intent in conjunction with "swift and certain" punishment.

Posted by: George | Aug 26, 2008 11:25:02 AM

I lived in Multnomah County, Oregon for a while about ten years ago and from what I understand things have not improved. Most of the community based correction clients under supervision are recidivists to begin with. They are trying to use intermediate sanctions to turn a sows ear into a sows ear and that is not hard to do.

Posted by: John Neff | Aug 26, 2008 8:41:38 PM

Correlation does not equal causation.

Posted by: bruce | Aug 27, 2008 12:16:14 AM

Can you elaborate, bruce?

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 27, 2008 10:15:43 AM

No, he can’t elaborate. This is an undergrad applause line that he is using for political points.

Seeing that there really isn’t way to absolutely “prove” something, the best we can do is show a number of correlations. At some point these correlations stack up so heavy and deep that we say things are caused. Rest assured, people are still sent to jail for life and killed because of “correlations” between someone firing a gun and someone else dying.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 28, 2008 2:32:20 PM

I would encourage those who posted comments to review the research, and review the PowerPoint, and Video presentation done on Vera's presentation of the research to the Multnomah County Board. http://www.co.multnomah.or.us/dcj/

Posted by: Jason Ziedenberg | Aug 30, 2008 6:11:49 PM

I would encourage those who posted comments to review the research, and review the PowerPoint, and Video presentation done on Vera's presentation of the research to the Multnomah County Board. http://www.co.multnomah.or.us/dcj/

Posted by: Jason Ziedenberg | Aug 30, 2008 7:19:38 PM

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