A pilot program that sought to challenge the current ways of supervising probationers and parolees may turn into sweeping changes across the board in community supervision. The program countered violations with swift and short jail stints, and it seems to have worked.
According to the Associated Press, the program took 35 Seattle parolees and put them under stricter supervision. Whether they violated by missing an appointment with their officer or failing a drug test, they would be put in jail. Minor offenses warranted less than 3 days behind bars while more serious violations could carry up to 30 days.
In an effort to make the study sound, another 35 offenders were supervised using the same standards currently in place across the state, with violations being met with anything from a verbal reprimand to jail time, depending on the officer, the offense, and the parolee in question.
The study lasted 6 months and the findings showed that those subjected to jail time for any and all violations were less likely to use drugs and less likely to return to prison.
Officials are hoping the system can be implemented statewide and have drafted a bill to make this happen.
The program was modeled after a similar one in Hawaii, where the probation department saw an 80% drop in positive drug tests after implementation. Now the same program is used in more than 12 states, according to the Associated Press.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys seem to support the program as it offers prosecutors swift punishment and accountability, and it gives defense attorneys shorter jail sentences and the continued opportunity for community supervision.
A few opponents of the proposed bill are worried about how it will affect offenders accused of more serious crimes. “To put them under relaxed supervision has an impact under public safety,” says Rep. Gary Alexander (R-Thurston County). He and others are seeking to eliminate murderers, sex offenders, and other serious crimes from the potential new program.
If passed, it would apply to both probationers and parolees.
Probation is viewed as a privilege, a chance for someone to be held responsible for a crime while still remaining within the community. But too often the consequences for probation violations are doled out inconsistently. This program would change all of that.
If you are accused of a crime, probation offers you an alternative to prison time. While it is not an option in all cases, it is most often used for people with relatively clean criminal histories.
Contact our offices today to discuss your case and the likelihood that you could be sentenced to probation in lieu of jail time.