Privatizing Probation and Parole

Studies | Crime

No. 233
Thursday, June 01, 2000
by Morgan O. Reynolds


Notes

  1. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Probation and Parole Statistics, at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pandp.htm; and BJS, Probation and Parole in the United States, 1998, August 1999, NCJ-178234.
  2. "Reinventing Probation," Wall Street Journal, August 19, 1999, p. A18.
  3. "'Broken Windows' Probation: The Next Step in Fighting Crime," Manhattan Institute, Civic Report No. 7, August 1999, at http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_7.htm. The report has few statistical facts but recommends "reinventing probation" which "requires leadership committed to enforcing violation warrants, supervising offenders primarily in the community rather than in probation offices, and not directing probation officers to avoid dangerous areas." Most probation and parole officers fear for their personal safety and support carrying firearms, according to a national survey. Two-thirds of parole and probation agencies permit officers to carry weapons all the time and most permit them to carry for specific duties like making arrests or transporting offenders. See Charles Lindner and Robert Bonn, "Probation Officer Victimization and Fieldwork Practices: Results of a National Study," Federal Probation, 1996, Vol. 60, No. 2, pp. 16-23.
  4. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 1996, October 1999, NCJ-176981, p. 8. One in four of those arrested for a serious crime are on probation or parole and 44 percent of criminals in prison were on probation or parole at the time of the conviction offense. See Joan Petersilia, "Probation and Parole," in The Handbook of Crime & Punishment, edited by Michael Tonry, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 581. In 30 states both adult probation and parole functions are administered by the same state agency or local agencies. See U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, State Organizational Structures for Delivering Adult Probation Services, report prepared by LIS, Inc., NIC contractor, June 1999, p. 7. In 16 states, adult and juvenile probation are administered together.
  5. Michael Geerken and Hennessey D. Hayes, "Probation and Parole: Public Risk and the Future of Incarceration Alternatives," Criminology, 1993, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 549-64, as cited in Joan Petersilia, "Probation in the United States," National Institute of Justice Journal, September 1997, p. 4.
  6. Almost certainly the number of probationers convicted of a crime understates the number who actually commit crimes. On the last two figures, see "Broken Windows."
  7. Allen J. Beck, Chief, Bureau of Justice Corrections Statistics, "State and Federal prisoners returning to the community: Findings from the Bureau of Justice Statistics," presented at the First Reentry Courts Initiative Cluster Meeting, Washington, D.C., April 13, 2000.
  8. Beck, "State and Federal prisoners returning to the community."
  9. Joseph Farah, "Crime and Punishment," worldnetdaily.com, March 30, 2000.
  10. Petersilia, "Probation in the United States," p. 3.
  11. Michael Hotra, "Missing Persons: Most Probation Officers Aren't Watching Criminals," American Legislative Exchange Council, F.Y.I., May 22, 1998, pp. 8-9. More recently, Petersilia claims that "the average adult regular supervision caseload is reported to be 117 to 1" in "Probation and Parole," p. 579.
  12. Hotra, "Missing Persons" and Petersilia, "Probation in the United States," pp. 2-8. Only 12 percent of personal contacts between probationers and officers occur in the field, that is, at an offender's home or at his job. See BJS, Characteristics of Adults on Probation, 1995, December 1997, NCJ-164267, p. 8.
  13. BJS, Probation and Parole in the United States, 1998. A California sample of 4,047 parolees showed 27 percent absconded. See Frank P. Williams III, Marilyn D. McShane, and H. Michael Dolny, "Predicting Parole Absconders," The Prison Journal, March 2000, Vol. 80, No. 1, p. 36.
  14. Joan Petersilia, "Probation and Parole," p. 580.
  15. Doris Layton MacKenzie, et.al., "The Impact of Probation on the Criminal Activities of Offenders," Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, November 1999, Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 423-53.
  16. In a study of 107 adult probationers in northern Virginia, only two percent or fewer self-reported crimes resulted in arrest and even fewer in convictions; see MacKenzie, et.al., "The Impact of Probation on the Criminal Activities of Offenders," p. 446.
  17. Prisoners believe their own disciplinary conduct record is crucial to obtain early release. Ironically, prisoners seem to behave better after a denial of a parole hearing because they believe denials are caused by misconduct. See Jon L. Proctor and Michael Pease, "Parole as Institutional Control: A Test of Specific Deterrence and Offender Misconduct," The Prison Journal, March 2000, Vol. 80, No. 1, pp. 39-55.
  18. Beck, "State and Federal Prisoners Returning to the Community."
  19. On the success of the commercial bail bond system and the failure of public pretrial service/release agencies, see Morgan O. Reynolds, "Using the Private Sector to Deter Crime," National Center for Policy Analysis, Policy Report No. 181, March 1994, at http://www.ncpa.org/studies/s181/s181.html.
  20. Only 6 percent of felony defendants are denied bail; see BJS, Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 1996, p. 21.
  21. John Carlisle, "Criminal Welfare: A Jail Reduction Failure," Policy Insights, April 1992, No. 406, Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, Washington, D.C., pp. 1-2.
  22. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants, 1992, November 1994, NCJ-148818, p. 10.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Jane Marino Reed and Rhonda Sue Stallings, "Bounty Hunting: The Alternative Justice System," publication of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, Houston, Texas, August 1992, p. 5.
  25. BJS, Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants, 1992. These are the most recent published data available. See Note 41 below for an explanation of the failure to publish more recent data on failure-to-appear and fugitive rates.
  26. Reynolds, "Using the Private Sector to Deter Crime," and BJS, Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants, 1992, November 1994, NCJ-148818.
  27. Michael K. Block and Steven J. Twist, "Evidence of a Failed System: A Study of the Performance of Pretrial Release Agencies in California," American Legislative Exchange Council, Washington, D.C., April 1995.
  28. Ibid., p. 22.
  29. Harris County Criminal Courts at Law, Office of Court Management, memorandum from Dennis Potts, Research Analyst, to Charles E. Noble, Director, Harris County Pretrial Services Agency, November 11, 1998. In a telephone interview with the author on December 10, 1999, Charles Noble, director of Harris County pretrial services from 1984-98, said that Harris County was unique in that at least three-fourths of defendants released were out on financial bail, especially the blended, conditional releases that included drug testing and electronic monitoring. No other county has administered these on a mass basis. Private bondsmen cannot administer mandatory drug tests and electronic monitoring, but pretrial service agencies can (usually contracted out to private enterprises).
  30. It was the late bail bondsman Gerald Monks of Houston, Texas, former executive director of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, who originally brought this idea to my attention.
  31. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution says, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." About half of those with bail amounts in 1996 had it set at $10,000 or higher, including one in four at $25,000 or higher. The median bail was $10,000 and the mean $31,000, with the mean for murder defendants with bail set at $133,000. See Bureau of Justice Statistics, Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 1996, p. 18.
  32. Morgan O. Reynolds, "Factories Behind Bars," National Center for Policy Analysis, Policy Report No. 206, September 1996, at http://www.ncpa.org/studies/s206/s206.html; "The Economic Impact of Prison Labor," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 245, November 17, 1997, at http://www.ncpa.org/ba/ba245.html; and Mark Tatge, "Prison Labor: With Unemployment Low, a New Group Is in Demand: Ex-Cons," Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2000, p. A1.
  33. "Making the Offender Foot the Bill: A Texas Program," National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, October 1992, NCJ-136839.
  34. All recovery programs recommend support groups to help prevent relapses. Unsecured release separates the criminal from the support group that matters most - his family.
  35. About 35,000 defendants (one in seven) jump commercial bail every year and bounty hunters return four out of five to justice; see The Economist, June 19, 1999, p. 18. Bounty hunters, an estimated network of 7,000, are paid approximately 10 percent of the bond value for recovery within a predetermined period of time.
  36. Charles A. Donelan, "The Bondsman's Right to Arrest," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, December 1972 and January 1973, reprint; John A. Chamberlin, "Bounty Hunters: Can the Criminal Justice System Live Without Them?" University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 1998, No. 4, pp. 1175-1205; and Holly J. Joiner, "Private Police: Defending the Power of Professional Bail Bondsmen," Indiana University School of Law, 1999, Vol. 32, pp. 1413-35.
  37. U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, Topics in Community Corrections, Annual Issue 1998: Privatizing Community Supervision, American Probation and Parole Association, Position Statement: Privatization, Appendix, no page number.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Robert J. Bosco, "Connecticut Probation's Partnership with the Private Sector," pp. 8-12, in U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, Topics in Community Corrections, Annual Issue 1998: Privatizing Community Supervision.
  40. "Tide of Outstanding Warrants Sweeps over Police, Resources," Houston Chronicle, AP dispatch, July 6, 1999, p. 10A.
  41. Telephone conversation with Brian Nairin, President, National Association of Bail Insurance Companies, November 12, 1999. After being deposed in a lawsuit by the National Association of Bail Insurance Companies, BJS statistician Brian Reaves decided to drop the relevant tables in the 1996 report on felony defendants that previously had allowed interested parties to compare postrelease failure-to-appear and fugitive rates between nonfinancial and financial pretrial releases. However, unpublished tabulations provided by Reaves show a continuing advantage for financial releases.
  42. See http://www.napsa.org/docs/Standards/NAPSA%20Standards1.htm.
  43. Ibid.
  44. See Note 29 above. NAPSA, stimulated by Noble's initiative (unbeknownst to the author at the time), invited the author to participate in a panel on privatization at its annual conference in October 1995 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was met by a surprisingly emotional series of attacks by other panelists. Help came from an unexpected quarter, when the first comment from the floor in a packed room asserted that if the session had been televised on ABC's Nightline, "The typical viewer would have believed that Dr. Reynolds had won the debate! "
  45. James G. Carr, "Bail Bondsmen and the Federal Courts," Federal Probation, March 1993, p. 9.
  46. The Economist, June 19, 1999, p. 18. The conditions in Illinois for bail are so onerous and restrictive that bail was effectively eliminated. The other states seem to be Oregon, Kentucky and possibly Wisconsin. However, bail was reintroduced in the city of Philadelphia recently. The elimination of bail reduces defendants' options and such systems experience higher failure-to-appear rates, larger jail populations and reduced respect for the justice system, because as Illinois is now demonstrating, those released have little or no financial accountability for subsequent court appearances.
  47. See the model legislation at http://www.alec.org/viewpage.cfm?id=250.
  48. Telephone conversation with Terry Fowler, surety bonding consultant and past president of the California Bail Agents Association, November 15, 1999.
  49. Ibid.

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