Testimony: Alternatives to parole and probation supervision improve safety, reduce costs

In these related documents Judith Greene, Director of Justice Strategies, Néstor M. Ríos, Senior Research Analyst and Director of Operations for Justice Strategies, and Judith Sachwald, independent consultant and former Director of Maryland's Division of Parole and Probation, present their testimony before a joint session of Colorado's House and Senate Judiciary Committees, held April 27, 2009.

Testimony began with Judith Greene addressing the joint committee on Justice Reinvestment, an innovative strategy for reducing spending on corrections, increasing public safety, and improving conditions in those neighborhoods from which large numbers of people are sent to, and return from, prison. Advocates of this strategy urge reductions in prison spending and investment of those savings into the infrastructure and civic institutions of "high risk" neighborhoods to help residents improve the quality of their lives. Ms. Greene testimony offers examples of this strategy at work in Hartford, Connecticut; Wichita, Kansas; and Phoenix, Arizona.

Testimony by Néstor M. Ríos, based on Justice Strategies research for the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Reducing Recidivism: A Review of Effective State Initiatives described the innovative models other states have used to improve parole and probation outcomes, establish more functional and productive working environment for supervision agents and, with less reliance on incarceration, save significant taxpayer dollars. Mr. Ríos' testimony highlights the success of Maryland’s Proactive Community Supervision (PCS) model, which reduced the rate of re-arrest for new crimes by 42 percent over those under traditional probation and parole supervision and lowered technical violations to 35 percent, versus 40 percent for the non-PCS group.

Ms. Judith Sachwald's testimony followed and described in greater detail for the joint committee how Maryland's PCS model allowed agents to identify offender risk factors, develop feasible supervision plans, with accountability measures, and monitor the progress based on a scientifically tested and validated measurement tool — the PCS Risk Screener — which at intake directed offenders to the proper level of supervision. These and other methods saved time and conserved Division resources by targeting comprehensive risk and needs assessment and/or case plan development to higher risk individuals. The effective interviewing and intervention techniques and tools employed by PCS were implemented in an institutional environment that demanded organizational commitment to improving public safety while at the same time encouraging those under parole and probation supervision to increase their own potential for behavioral change.

Related Publication

JS Publication April 27, 2009

Reducing Recidivism: A Review of Effective State Initiatives

The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition commissioned this report that documents how retraining staff in behavioral intervention methods, implementing system-wide organizational improvements, and restructuring probation and parole supervision around the crime related behaviors allowed Maryland’s PCS program to achieve an amazing 42 percent lower rate of re-arrests for people under supervision. Crime related behaviors were described under Maryland’s PCS program as violence, drug entrepreneurship, drug abuse, domestic abuse, etc. In addition, the report introduces the concept of Justice Reinvestment to Colorado policymakers, profiling efforts in Arizona, Connecticut and Kansas to improve parole and probation supervision outcomes while reducing state correctional costs. The report was presented by Judy Greene and Nestor Rios, joined by Judith Sachwald (former Director of Maryland's Division of Parole and Probation) in a special joint session of Colorado’s House and Senate Judiciary Committees on April 27, 2009. Key members of Colorado Governor Ritter’s staff, the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, government officials and community agency representatives were also present.