The experiment achieved positive results: because of its four-year effort, the county’s overall one-year recidivism rates dropped from 29 to 24 percent.
More recidivism-related outcomes:
- Pre-experiment, 26 percent of low-risk offenders were re-arrested within one year; post-experiment, only 6 percent were re-arrested after one year. That is a 77 percent drop in low-risk offender recidivism.
- Pre-experiment, 26 percent of those offenders were re-arrested within one year; post-experiment, only 13 percent were re-arrested within one year of their original offense. That is a 50 percent drop in medium-risk offender recidivism.
- Pre-experiment, 34 percent of those offenders were re-arrested within one year; post-experiment, only 31 percent were re-arrested within one year. That is a 9 percent drop in high-risk offender recidivism.
Tony Fabelo, a criminal justice expert who worked closely with the department throughout the transition, said those numbers are significant at all levels.
“The biggest decline has been for the low and medium risk (offenders), which makes sense. The high-risk people are high risk.
They are very difficult to work with,” he said, adding that having fewer low- and medium-risk offenders on caseloads results in having more available resources geared toward offenders most likely to endanger public safety.
Recidivism wasn’t the only area in which the department saw beneficial results. The changes also resulted in the department reducing its overall felony revocations by almost 20 percent. Technical violations were reduced by 48 percent. According to the numbers:
- Pre-experiment, in 2005, the county had 1,052 felony revocations; post-experiment, in 2008, the county had 846 felony revocations.
- In 2005, the probation department filed 608 technical revocations; in 2008, that number dropped to just 318.
- Only 3.4 percent of its felony offenders had their probation revoked in 2008 because of a technical violation, compared to 5.9 percent in 2005.
Based on all those figures, the Legislative Budget Board concluded that Travis County potentially saved the state $4,881,881 over the course of three years, just by avoiding those 290 technical revocations. According to state data, about 67 percent of those technical revocations would have lead to the person being sent to prison for an average of 16 months. Another 29 percent of revocations would have lead to an average of 10 months in a state jail.
The other 4 percent would have spent time in the Travis County Jail. Nagy estimates that the county saved approximately $386,736 in 2008 in jail housing costs. The county calculated that savings by comparing the amount of time probationers spent in jail pre-experiment and post-experiment. That time decreased from a total of 111,339 days in jail in 2007 to 95,225 days in 2008, a 14.5 percent drop.
The experiment was carefully documented throughout its duration, which resulted in a series of reports that can be found on the Travis County Adult Probation Web site.