This is an alternative-to-incarceration program designed to respond swiftly (with sanctions) to probation violations of high-risk offenders. The overall goal is to reduce participants’ recidivism rates. The program is rated Promising. Program participants had statistically significant reduction in recidivism rates (overall, misdemeanor, felony, property, drug/alcohol, and other) compared with the comparison group, but there was no statistically significant effects on violent recidivism.
Of the 441 participants that were discharged during FY 2020:
• Fifty-one percent successfully completed their probation.
• Thirty percent were unsuccessfully discharged for noncompliance, while 10 percent absconded and 6 percent were unsuccessful due to a new offense.
• The remaining three percent were discharged for reasons of death, having transferred to another jurisdiction, or “other.”
• Over a one-year period, SSSPPs retained 82 percent of their participants.
Varner reports that felons admitted to Swift and Sure were 12% less likely to commit another felony compared to individuals in the regular felony probation program.
“For a guy like Matt, being able to get sober and establish new habits, that’s something that he’ll pass down,” says Carras. “If he has a family, [if] he has children, those children [will now] live in a much healthier household. It just goes on and on and on.”
On Monday, the program’s first two graduates were congratulated and sent on their way after completing the intensive program that includes frequent random drug testing and mandated check-ins with probation staff.
The Swift and Sure program—one of 24 such programs in the state—keeps people out of jail and helps curb reoffending, said Judge Aaron Gauthier, who oversees the program. It doesn’t replace a drug court that’s still a need in the county, though, he said.
The two graduates—one of whom was headed for prison if he didn’t stick with the terms of his probation—are leaving the program with employment and their sobriety, able to stay in their community and a step closer to getting back on track, Gauthier said.
The goal of the Swift and Sure program—to keep high-risk offenders from committing further crime—is similar to that of problem-solving courts, such as drug, veteran, or juvenile courts. The program’s means of reaching that goal, however, are different, Gauthier said. Problem-solving courts offer solutions tailored to the individual participants. By law, Swift and Sure programs can’t be personalized, Gauthier said.
Shiawassee Co. Circuit Court is starting a new treatment program today—FLYTEE Court—that aims to treat youth offenders, with an interest in the underlying neuroscience of the minds of young people. The Focus & Lead Youth Toward Empowerment & Enlightenment program, which will begin with 15 participants ranging in age from 17 to 24, is based on and will be similar to the court’s Swift & Sure Probation program. It will also draw its funding from a portion of Swift & Sure funding.
Town-Leary’s attorney, Ionia County Chief Public Defender Walter Downes, told the court his client asked to be considered for the Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program, which targets high-risk felony offenders with a history of probation violations or failures. He was not recommended for the program, because he was on parole at the time of his offenses and has a history of violations while on community supervision. Downes explained that Town-Leary was under the influence of controlled substances when he committed his recent crimes.
“My client has been wishing and wanting to have some sort of treatment, and he needs help bad. There is no question he wants to make some changes in his life,” said Downes. “I would ask for jail with release to a treatment program. Going to the Department of Corrections is not going to resolve the addiction and issues he has.”
Judge Ronald Schafer noted that Town-Leary, at 28, has had 17 criminal convictions—three felonies and 14 misdemeanors—in the 11 years of his adult life.
Starkey’s attorney, Ionia County Assistant Public Defender Larry Lewis, asked for his client to be sentenced to the Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program, which targets high-risk felony offenders with a history of probation violations or failures and would have kept him out of prison.
MDOC probation agent Paul Merrill told the court that Starkey’s current controlled substances conviction was considered a “major” one, “and I believe a qualification to exclude him.”
“If he was eligible, he would not be recommended,” Merrill said. “Mr. Starkey has a history of absconding and has a substance abuse issue. Swift and Sure is not designed to be an intensive treatment court as related to substances.”
“He was referred to Adult Recovery Court and they didn’t accept him either,” Lewis responded. “In my reading of the statute, I don’t think he’s precluded because of the offense, as I read the statutes. I still ask that he be placed in Swift and Sure.”
Schafer noted that he didn’t have the opportunity to review the definition of those controlled substance offenses that would make Starkey ineligible. But he pointed to the reasons Merrill named why Starkey would not be recommended for Swift and Sure. Then Schafer added a few of his own.
“Mr. Starkey has been given an opportunity for drug Court in Montcalm County. He responded by never participating,” Schafer said. “He told us that his behavior is driven by his drug problem. Then he is not a candidate for Swift and Sure. If he’s telling us something different now, it’s hard to reconcile which is accurate.”
Aldrich, who now resides in Saginaw, has a substantial history in Bay County. In July 2016, he allegedly wielded a knife as he stole a ladder from a neighbor. After he pleaded guilty to some resulting charges, he was sentenced to two concurrent terms of 93 days in jail, with an additional 338 days deferred plus two years’ probation under the county’s Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program, an intensive system.
While Briseno and Bennett said he had the opportunity to move out of the state for work, Berrien County Trial Judge Sterling Schrock said the choice was between prison and the Swift & Sure Sanctions Probation Program which would require Bennett to live in Michigan.
“This is straddle cell sentence. It’s just a question of where he’s going to serve it, Swift & Sure or prison,” Judge Schrock said. “He’s got all the excuses in the world. … He doesn’t want to be supervised in Michigan and take advantage of treatment. It’s his own choice.”