Intensive Supervision for High-Risk Probationers

Findings from Three California Experiments

by Joan R. Petersilia, Susan Turner

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In 1986, with the help of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, three California counties (Los Angeles, Ventura, and Contra Costa) designed an experiment to implement intensive supervision probation (ISP) programs as an alternative form of supervision for high-risk probationers. This report focuses on the outcomes of the three ISP programs. The California ISPs had higher failure rates than ISP programs in other states. The findings indicate that this higher failure rate occurred because the offenders in the California demonstration samples were more serious and at higher risk of recidivism. Moreover, the California ISP participants had arrest rates virtually identical to those for offenders on routine probation or parole. The results suggest that ISP programs, as implemented in this study, are not effective for high-risk offenders — if effectiveness is judged solely by recidivism rates. In addition, greater emphasis on drug treatment is particularly important for ISP.

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