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Ohio County’s Intensive Probation Program Failing Miserably

A study has found that an intensive probation program in Hamilton County, Ohio is so unsuccessful that its participants are actually more likely to re-offend than those convicted of similar crimes who receive no supervision at all, according to the state’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC).

The program’s success rate is a mere 29 percent. That ranks as the worst in the state.
Probationers in Hamilton County were 21 percent more likely to re-offend than those with comparable ages and convictions who were not under any supervision.

Other counties saw reductions in recidivism among offenders on intensive probation. Butler County’s program participants were 17 percent less likely to re-offend, while in Clermont County the recidivism rate was 13 percent lower.

This is despite the fact that Hamilton County spends more per probationer than any other county in Ohio. The county also receives more state money than any other county, even larger ones.

Hamilton County received around $1.7 million in state funding during fiscal year 2009 for its intensive probation program. With 728 people to supervise, the county spends an average of $2,308 per probationer.

Yet only 183 of the 640 people who completed the program in fiscal year 2009 did so successfully. That compares unfavorably with the state’s more populous counties.
Franklin County, in which the capital of Columbus is located, had a success rate of 48 percent, while Cuyahoga County, with the state’s largest population, most of whom reside in the city of Cleveland, had a success rate of 56 percent.

“We gave every county a report card and [Hamilton County] did terrible across the board,” said Ed Latessa, head of the University of Cincinnati’s criminal justice division, who helped produce the probation recidivism study.

Prison officials threatened to pull state funding for Hamilton County’s intensive probation program, which they said was failing.

Linda James, deputy director of the prison’s Division of Parole and Community Services, said, “If Hamilton County ... doesn’t reach a certain level of quality, DRC can no longer fund [its] ineffective programs. We have to make sure, as good stewards of tax dollars, that the money is well spent and we obviously cannot continue to put money into programs that do not have any effect, or worse yet, cause more people to wind up in prison.”

The intensive probation program deals with people convicted of felony assaults, drug trafficking, concealed weapons charges and sex offenses. It is considered by many to be a last chance for those who otherwise would end up in prison. Participants must report to their probation officers at least once a week and receive at least one home visit per month.

The program is intended to improve community safety while saving the state money by reducing incarceration rates, said Casey DeNoma, director of Hamilton County’s intensive supervision probation program.

Mike Walton, who heads Hamilton County’s Probation Department, argued that the county’s program had to supervise some of the most difficult probationers in the state. He warned that critics were concentrating on fiscal issues when safety concerns should be at the forefront.

“Public safety is the officer and the court’s paramount responsibility, not saving the state money,” he said, noting that sometimes sending people who violate the terms of their probation back to prison is the best way to protect the community.

An even better way to protect the community, though, would be to simply release them with no government supervision which in reality does little to aid probationers or parolees in finding and keeping work and housing or otherwise improving their lives.


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