Scientific Probation Cuts TX County Recidivism


A two-year overhaul of probation in Travis County, Tx., seems to have reduced repeat criminality, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Of the 1,287 people placed on probation in a six-month period before the overhaul, 29 percent were arrested for a new crime within a year, said the Council of State Governments. After the changes were in place in late 2007, rearrests dropped to 24 percent.

The 2007 numbers were drawn from a four-month period and tracked 614 probationers. County corrections chief Geraldine Nagy has spearheaded an effort to let research and analysis guide how strictly probationers are watched and what combination of programs gives them the best chance to stay out of prison or jail. For probationers considered at high risk of committing a new crime, for example, the department has beefed up the number of classes that seek to teach them how to adjust their thinking and moral judgment. For low-risk offenders, the department has minimized the number of visits required with probation officers, citing research that shows that saddling small-time offenders with too many obligations could increase their chances of winding up in prison. “The big deal is that there is a jurisdiction (Travis County) that has been able to stick to a two-year reform project following a very well-crafted design,” said Tony Fabelo of the Council of State Governments, which intends to share the reform methods with other governments nationwide.

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