Vermont’s reparative probation system, in which criminals meet with community volunteers – and sometimes victims – to propose sentences instead of taking them from a judge has resulted in some unusual sanctions, says the Associated Press. Among them: a woman who stole from a patient in a nursing home where she works is making vases for a senior center; a man convicted of driving with a suspended license is carving a cane for an elderly person; an artist convicted of driving under the influence painted for an organization whose lawn she drove over.
A study by three college professors found that in 9,078 cases handled between 1998 and 2005, offenders were 23 percent less likely to commit another crime while on probation than those sentenced to traditional probation. They were 12 percent less likely to commit another crime after probation ended. “This is a bit of a vindication for Vermont’s reparative boards,” said Gale Burford, a professor of social work at the University of Vermont. He said that in some circles, Vermont was perceived as being soft on crime. “The people who go to these boards don’t regard them as soft, because they are emotional and they are getting faced by people in their community,” Burford said. “It is not a soft option.”