• The Incapacitation and Specific Deterrent Effects of Responses to Technical Non-Compliance of Offenders Under Supervision: Analysis from a Sample of Federal Judicial Districts

      Auerhahn, Kathleen, 1970-; Belenko, Steven R.; Welsh, Wayne N., 1957-; Burrell, William D. (Temple University. Libraries, 2018)
      Each year, approximately one-third of all people admitted to prison in the United States are committed as the result of a revocation of community-based supervision such as probation, parole, or federal supervised release (Carson & Anderson, 2016). Many of these individuals are being incarcerated for technical violations of their supervision - conduct other than the commission of a new crime which is in violation of a condition of supervision. The practice of committing offenders to prison for technical violations of supervision is rather common at the state level. In a 2013 study, for example, Ostermann found that although paroled inmates in New Jersey were less likely than inmates who served their entire prison terms without parole to engage in new criminal conduct following their release, the paroled inmates were just as likely to be returned to prison within three years due to having been charged with technical violations of their supervision. This practice also occurs in the federal criminal justice system, where 70% of the offenders under community-based supervision who are returned to prison each year are recommitted on the strength of technical violations of supervision alone (Administrative Office of the United States Courts, 2017a). A substantial amount of prior work (for example, Apel et al., 2010; Clear, 2007; Petit, Sykes & Western, 2009; Rose & Clear, 1998) has revealed the potentially harmful consequences of imprisonment. Despite this, little research has examined how incarcerating persons for technical violations of supervision compares to widely-available alternative, intermediate sanctions such as home confinement and reentry center placement in terms of ability to prevent the commission of new crimes or continued technical non-compliance. The present study examined these questions, utilizing a sample of offenders in the federal criminal justice system. Propensity score matching was used to construct comparable treatment and control groups, thereby reducing concerns of selection bias. Post-matching analyses suggest the following: 1) the effect of incarcerating offenders for technical violations of supervision is negligible compared to subjecting them to intermediate sanctions with regard to preventing the commission of new crimes; 2) offenders incarcerated for technical violations of supervision are more likely to commit new crimes post-sanction – and sooner – than offenders subjected to intermediate sanctions; 3) offenders imprisoned for technical violations are more likely to engage in subsequent technical violations – and sooner – than offenders subjected to intermediate sanctions; and 4) the greater the intensity of the intermediate sanction (i.e., residential reentry center placement vs. home confinement), the more likely an offender will be charged with a technical violation during service of the sanction. Although the study is subject to concerns about potential sensitivity to unobserved confounders and other limitations, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of a topic which has rarely before been examined. When one considers the financial, public safety, and ethical consequences of incarcerating people for non-criminal conduct, the research has implications for persons under supervision, probation and parole organizations, and the general public alike.