Summarizing RAND's Study of Adult Felony Probation

by Joan R. Petersilia


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This paper is the text of a briefing presented to the U.S. Department of Justice on the results of research performed at RAND and published in RAND/R-3186-NIJ, Granting Felons Probation: Public Risks and Alternatives. It studied adult probationers convicted of six index crimes in two large California counties, Los Angeles and Alameda; identified the factors associated with receiving a prison sentence vs. probation; and determined that in the two counties studied, the recidivism rate among probationers was high: 65 percent were rearrested during the 40-month follow-up period, and nearly a third of the 51 percent who were reconvicted were placed back on probation, even though they had been charged with serious crimes. A model was developed to identify "good probation prospects" and only 3 percent of the study population qualified. Given the growing prison population, limited prison space, and shrinking budgets, the author recommends instituting Intermediate Punishment Programs, such as New Jersey's Intensive Surveillance Program, which requires participants to maintain employment, name a community sponsor with whom they live, provide community service, attend counseling, and pay victim restitution and a fee to cover costs of their supervision.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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