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Probation and Approaches

Jake J. Koppenhaver

Introduction to the Criminal Justice System

Dr. Jerry Griffin

July 18, 2005

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Probation and Approaches

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2004 there were a total of 2,845,170

prisoners in our nation’s jails and prisons1. That is almost three million incarcerated that citizens

pay for through taxes. Each year more and more offenders are convicted of all types of crimes,

and a major issue in our criminal justice system is overcrowded facilities. Enter the Probation

system: Those who are convicted of lesser offenses and not deemed immediate threats to others

are released back into society under the supervision of the courts.

Those on probation are instructed to check in with an appointed Probation Officer or

Deputy at regular intervals, along with other orders that may include mandatory drug treatment

and testing, not consuming alcohol, not being allowed in certain establishments or around certain

people, etc. The program is designed to deal with those who do not need prison time, who have

committed crimes such as drug possession, petty theft, vandalism, etc. These offenders are

generally not a major threat to society. Some jurisdictions have had much success with this

program. For instance, in Lafayette, IN, out of 1,837 probation cases in 2004 only 12 have been

discharged for new crimes this quarter, and 15 for probation violations2. Other areas have not

been so successful: In some counties in Florida, out of 1,497 new cases, 751 probation violations

were filed3.

Many safeguards are in place to try to prevent offenders from committing more crimes

while they are on probation. Examples would be drug testing for narcotics offenders, electronic

monitoring for those on house arrest, Ignition Interlock Devices (a portable breathalyzer

requiring an alcohol test before starting a vehicle) for those convicted of DUI, or internet

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monitoring for released sex offenders. Individualized probation requirements are designed for

each offender and usually decided on by a judge, in hopes of keeping the offender in line.

In Orange County, CA, a system has been developed called the “8% Solution.”4 The

system focuses on the eight percent of first time offenders in that specific county that represents

fifty percent of the repeat crime in the juvenile criminal system. Identifying the youth who show

signs of being part of the eight percent is the first step, and those are juveniles who have serious

issues in the home (recent divorce, child abuse and neglect, deviant parents, sexual abuse, etc.),

problems at school (truancy, poor grades, behavioral issues), drug or alcohol abuse, and

indicators of delinquency such as gang involvement or repeated runaway attempts. Probation

Deputies assigned to these youth are partnered with other community centers and organizations

that strive to make a better life for these youth so they have somewhere else to turn to vent other

than crime.

Personally I do believe that the probation concept can be successful, conditional on the

offender and probation requirements. Youth are known for experimentation. It’s a part of

growing up, and minor trouble with the law is almost expected of today’s young people. This is

in hopes they will see the error in their ways and become a responsible, law abiding adult. It is

greatly dependant on the youth though, as we all make our own decisions, but giving alternatives

to crime and jail can help them make the right decisions.

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Video Transcript. (2005). The 8% Solution. Retrieved July 16, 2005, from

County Probation Statistics, January 2004. (2004). Florida’s Tenth Judicial Circuit.

Retrieved July 17, 2005, from

Jail Statistics. (2005). Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved July 16, 2005, from

Prison Statistics. (2005). Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved July 16, 2005, from

Probation and Parole Statistics. (2005). Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved July 16,

2005, from