Diverting Prisoners to Intensive Probation

Results of an Experiment in Oregon

by Joan R. Petersilia, Susan Turner

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As prisons across the country become more crowded, jurisdictions have been instituting intensive supervision programs (ISPs) — programs designed to be more punitive and stringent than regular probation, but less expensive and brutal than prison. ISPs are generally of two types: prison diversion or probation/parole enhancement. This Note presents the results of an evaluation of an ISP implemented by Marion County, Oregon, which documents a number of important lessons regarding implementing a prison-diversion ISP. At the end of the experimental evaluation, 14 offenders had been randomly assigned to the ISP, and 14 had been assigned to prison. This number was far fewer than originally planned, due to implementation difficulties which are fully discussed in the text. The ISP appeared to deliver close to the stated number of surveillance contacts as outlined in the ISP plan; however, the extent of offender participation in rehabilitative services such as counseling, drug treatment, and community service, was not as high as expected. More disappointing was the status of offenders one year after assignment: None of the experimental offenders remained in the ISP. Cost estimates suggest that ISP costs are about 75 percent of the costs of sending offenders to prison.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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