Other methods used in probation include intermediate sanctions, which are administered to more serious offenses but not serious enough to warrant long-term imprisonment, or to those who show little risk of recidivating or showing any future threat to society. Intermediate sanctions can take the form of home confinement, intensive supervision probation, and shock incarceration, more commonly known as boot camps. Like probation, intermediate sanctions aim to lessen prison congestion and at the same time adjust the punishment to fit the crime on a ladder of “scaled” punishments (Siegel, 2005, p.542).
While the number of probation officers vis-a-vis the number of probationers is stretched thin (and is source of discussion on whether or not probation is still effective in the sheer number of offenders), supporters of this system still claim that this is still the best way to reintegrate minor offenders mainly due to two important points: Economic gain and recidivism. Advocates of probation cite that sparing prisons and its facilities from congestion is a bigger economic gain.
It also helps keep those who have committed minor crimes from those in prison, who may influence them into bigger crime, or in some cases, a lifetime of crime. Probation is also a better way of expressing rehabilitation vs. mere punishment. Probation is largely imposed on misdemeanors, but how effective could it be on more serious crimes? A 1985 study by Joan Petersilia on imposing probations on felony crimes yielded interesting results. 65% were rearrested, 51% were convicted, and 34% were incarcerated within the number of cases that were included in the study.
75% of the new crimes the study group committed were more serious crimes and 18% were for serious, violent crimes. While the numbers may show a failure on the part of probation’s rehabilitative potential on offenders, the studies also show that offenders with the most serious of crimes are most likely to recidivate in comparison to those who were sent to prison (Criminology, 2005, p. 542). The exception of serious and violent crimes, like murder, from the probationary process is one that almost goes without saying, but what of matters such as juvenile crime?
In most judiciary process, serious crimes committed by juveniles are studied and handled very carefully by everyone involved. Despite the stance of most states to adopt a more inclusive, conciliatory stance to allow the offender to reintegrate into society while improving their own chances at success, the most common trend for serious and violent crimes committed by juveniles is to continue to try them and punish them as adults.
This speaks very strongly of the judicial system’s view on whether probation should be utilized for those who have committed serious and violent crimes—probation is hardly used, and traditional punishment such as long-term imprisonment is still the preferred punishment for perpetrators of such crimes. This is probably because probation is viewed as a tool or a method that is most effective for those who have lesser likelihood with recidivity and pose smaller risk to the community once the probation period is over.
It is assumed that with perpetrators of serious and violent crimes, the likelihood for recidivity is high and they also pose a high risk to the population if released. Whether an acceptable probation method will be developed in the future for cases such as these is yet to be seen. Setting the Standards The probation system is generally considered a new system within the judicial system, and currently there are no set or fixed standards on to which particular misdemeanors or offenses warrant probation and how to implement probations on varying individuals with different offenses under different circumstances.
The question of standards in imposing and implementing probation behooves us to look back into the moral philosophy and justification of punishment. Why do we punish those who have committed crimes? Why did probation arise from collective judicial experience as a nation? Let us recall that the current school of thought in regard to the idea of justice arose mainly from the failure of reductivism and retributivism, and that today, many believe that the punishment should fit the crime.
There is also a leaning towards re-integrating misdemeanor offenders back into society, with an aim to bridge the gap between offender and victim. It goes without saying that those who have committed crimes should be punished, and as stated earlier, punishment geared towards reformation for misdemeanor offenders is deemed most effective as it encourages them to become more useful members of society; at the same time it helps protect society by giving offenders a higher chance of reintegrating successfully with them.