Can ‘Swift-and-Certain’ Sanctions Fix the Criminal Justice System?


The criminal justice system is responsible for supervising an enormous population of drug users, “yet for decades, probation and parole have largely failed to wean participants off of either crime or drugs,” write the authors of a new study released by the federal National Institute of Justice.

Researchers write that during “swift-and-certain sanctions” (SAC) programs, offenders are made aware that drug violations will likely be detected and punished.

In SAC programs, offenders are drug tested several times per month, and violators of rules receive sanctions almost immediately.

Among participants of Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), an SAC program, the rate of missed and failed drug tests declined more than 80 percent, according to the paper.

About 25 percent of the HOPE program's caseload test positive only one time.

“For participants who consistently fail or miss drug tests, treatment is mandatory. Treatment includes long-term residential treatment,” researchers write.

They note that among the challenges to expanding SAC programs nationwide is the criminal justice system's “long history of bluffing” about swift decision-making. SAC programs have to be expanded slowly, researchers write, to ensure that they're not swamped with more violations than they could practically sanction.

Read the full paper HERE.

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