The lack of empirical support has become an even more problematic issue as of late, as some states have begun a reform of revocation practices largely in an effort to curtail costs of incarceration (e.g., the State of Washington, see Hamilton, Campbell, van Wormer, Kigerl, & Posey, 2016). An approach known as “swift-and-certain” or “swift-certain-fair” is gaining popularity among some agencies as it addresses such fiscal concerns. Many jurisdictions have attempted to implement supervision methods based on the Hawaii probation model called the Hawaii Opportunity in Probation Enforcement or HOPE (see Hawken & Kleiman, 2009). These models emphasize deterrence elements of punishments being swift (immediately after the violation) and certain (after virtually every violation) and often focusing primarily on drug offenders. Such approaches tend to use fewer returns to prison, more temporary outlets such as jails, and have the potential to reduce all-around length of stay in confinement (Hamilton et al., 2016). While short-term stays (1–3 days) in jail are the common response to violators in the swift-and-certain model, there is still an option for revocation (i.e., longer term stays in jail or return to prison), although it is viewed as the last resort.
However, two problems still exist in the use of the deterrence-based, swift-and-certain principles. First, the evaluations that exist on swift-and-certain sanctions yield findings that are mixed, at best (see Caulkins & Dupont, 2010; DeVall, Lanier, & Hartmann, 2013; DuPont & Wish, 1992; Grommon, Cox, Davidson, & Bynum, 2013; Hamilton et al., 2016; Harrell, Mitchell, Merrill, & Marlowe, 2004; Latimore, MacKenzie, Dawes, & Tueller, 2016; Neal & Shannon, 2013; O’Connell, Brent, & Visher, 2016). For many of the jurisdictions, aside from Alaska, Washington, and Michigan, the use of swift-and-certain sanctions has not been shown to be very effective outside of Hawaii (e.g., Latimore et al., 2016; O’Connell et al., 2016). Secondly, with exception to a few (Grommon et al., 2013; Hamilton et al., 2016; Grattet & Lin, 2016), the research that does exist almost exclusively focuses on the use of swift-and-certain sanctions on probationers rather than parolees. This is a problem because parolees typically possess a higher risk (including a lengthier criminal history), have convictions for more serious offenses, and have different (often more severe) criminogenic needs (Lowenkamp & Bechtel, 2007). Third, little investigative attention has been given to the ability of swift-and-certain sanctioning to actually address criminogenic needs—a possible reason for the mixed findings.
Lastly, in conjunction with the swift-and-certain approaches, beliefs surrounding confinement as an effective sanction for noncriminal behavior have been timeless linchpins to how states operate conditional supervision. Although some of them have received minimal support in the academic literature, such as incapacitation generally having a marginal effect on recidivism
(Zimring & Hawkins, 1997), they remain a consistently overlooked justification as an assumption-based practice. To best study the test of readiness, we must understand the crux of the test—revocation. However, our discipline knows little about the process. In the remaining portion of this section, I “unpack” the revocation process by highlighting the research that does exist and where more is needed: conditions of release, TVs, decisions to revoke, and effects of confinement as a sanction.