An investigative report from the Boston Globe on the Massachusetts probation department found cronyism in hiring, dramatically inflated caseloads aimed at boosting state allocations, and a GPS monitoring program that was expensive and failed at most of its fundamental goals. Their risk assessment instrument labels 2/3 of defendants as "maximum" threats, far above the rates found elsewhere. An independent counsel has been appointed to investigate a situation that sounds like a complete clusterf&%k..
Meanwhile, AP has a story, "Study finds Ohio probation system fragmented," citing a study by the Council of State Government Justice Center which found that "offenders who commit minor drug and property crimes are often supervised for years, while inmates who pose a high risk to public safety are released from prison without supervision." Says AP:
California is trying to slow the so-called "churning" of inmates by better managing minor parole violators in hopes of reducing the prison population by 6,500. In Texas, parole and probation violators are sent to detention facilities outside the prison system rather than re-imprison them.The issue of estimating risk for low-level drug and property offenders is a recurring theme in both these stories, which reminds me I still need to read (and then post on) Marc Levin's latest report (pdf) on the use of risk-assessment tools in community supervision. For such a technical subject, it's a particularly important one.
The Ohio study, to be unveiled at a daylong symposium, found that four of every 10 inmates serving short sentences have a low risk of re-offending. Two of every three committed property crimes or were drug offenders, and have two or fewer prior convictions.