Random home visits that catch misdemeanor probationers in their underwear and socks, along with surprise tests for drugs and alcohol, are ways Washoe County, Nv.’s Department of Alternative Sentencing curbs recidivism and annually saves the county millions of dollars in jail fees, reports the Reno Gazette-Journal. Program chief Joe Ingraham’s reputation among probationers is tough love and a genuine desire to have them succeed. Offenders say the program gives them a reason to stay crime free while random tests and visits make them think twice about relapsing. “Being random is where it’s at,” Ingraham said. “Misdemeanor offenders used to languish in the system with no one watching them and were able to commit more crimes and not follow conditions of their probation. But this intense supervision really stops the revolving door.”
Ingraham said that closely monitoring offenders at the misdemeanor stage will cause most of them to refrain from committing felonies. He said his program saved nearly $12 million in jail costs last year. The program spares a daily incarceration fee of $84 for 300 to 400 local offenders each day. Participants also pay $40 a month for the supervision. The cost savings to the community are even more, said program coordinator Wendy Keller. “They lose their job when they go to jail,” she said. “When they get out, they’ll be relying on social services and the medical community. Now, they maintain a job and a home and are less likely rely on social services.” The program has a low recidivism rate, 5 percent to 10 percent, because offenders are afraid if they violate their probation, such as by using drugs or alcohol, they will get caught in a surprise sting and be sent to jail, Ingraham said.