Michigan Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program Annual Report
Based on the outcomes in this report, while SSSPPs are effective among graduates within three years of admission or sentencing, five-year outcomes for graduates and all participants are not as positive. This might be explained by the population sentenced into SSSPP programs and the program model that SSSPPs use on their population.
SSSPP programs differentiate themselves from true drug treatment courts. In SSSPPs, behavior modification is achieved by using immediate and increased jail sanctions to prevent further criminal activity. Jail is used frequently for program violations that can include positive alcohol or drug tests. Conversely, drug treatment courts achieve behavior modification using substance abuse treatments to address the underlying addiction and reduce recidivism. In addition, drug treatment courts view early positive alcohol or drug tests as a relapse, and responses include further treatment services coupled with nonjail sanctions.
Substance use disorder (SUD) is prevalent among SSSPP participants. Sixty-four percent of participants reported having a SUD at the time of screening for an SSSPP. But SSSPPs are not designed to address addiction as the underlying reason for program violations or future criminal activity. SSSPPs are premised on an entirely different model for behavior change than drug treatment courts, and thus, should target a much different population. With different models available in the criminal justice system, it is important that each model properly targets the population it is designed and intended to serve.
Mismatching populations to different program models can render outcomes of that program less effective. To better understand the results of the SSSPP study, further evaluation is necessary to analyze the SSSPP population and whether program operations are adhering to the HOPE model, using a partial drug treatment court model, or using a hybrid of both. Depending on the findings, program modifications may be made to ensure that population needs and the SSSPP model align with one another toward improved outcomes.
4 candidates running for Muskegon Co. (MI) circuit court judgeship previously held by retiring judge
What alternative methods of sentencing, such as drug court, MIP diversion, boot camp, etc. do you feel have been the most successful?
Specialty or problem-solving courts have been incredibly successful. Whether it is veterans court, drug court, mental health court, or swift and sure, the intense nature of these programs ensure that people receive services that they desperately need and become productive members of society. All these programs require more work on behalf of the court, but the results are worth the time and energy, as courts around the nation, including our own Muskegon Courts, are seeing recidivism levels decrease when these types of problem-solving courts are utilized.
I work daily in the 14th circuit court which handles all the criminal felony offenses in Muskegon. I have found several alternative methods of sentencing to be successful depending on what the persons barriers were. However, the most successful program I have found dealing with substance abuse has been the Swift and Sure program which allows for high supervision through the state probation department, along with targeted programs and counseling based on the needs of the individual.
A benefit to the offender is that Violations don’t automatically terminate probation and the person gets several violations before termination of probation happens. Also once successful probation is made the judge actually gives the offender a graduation ceremony. This unique program allows for relapse and slip ups for the offenders to have another opportunity to get back on the right track before Probation is permanently revoked.
Studies have proven that alternative methods of sentencing, including but not limited to drug court, MIP diversion, boot camp, and targeted intensive probation work. I am very supportive of utilizing alternative sentencing and making that determination on when to do so on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, I am supportive of sentences that appropriately consider, the harm to the victim, the conduct of the defendant, and the needs of the defendant.
Not only is prison very expensive, but it is not always the most effective method of changing the behavior of defendants. There are cases where prison is necessary, but when it is not necessary, I desire to utilize methods that have proven to be quite effective like the Swift and Sure Sanctions Program, The EXIT Program, and other alternative sentencing methods. We must keep our community safe and we can do that while still leading with compassion.
I certainly feel that recovery court is very helpful to those who really wish to become and remain clean. Often these courts are very successful in preventing recidivism. However, I am also mindful that often people who agree to enter these programs do so only to avoid more punitive sentences that usually involved longer periods of incarceration. If people really want to remain clean, they will abide by the terms of the specialty court. However, if they are just going along to avoid a harsher sentence then they should be dealt with accordingly. Accountability is the key.
Under appropriate circumstances, I am also in favor of the use of diversions and other programs such as Boot Camp, Swift-and-Sure, and the Exit Program which have a proven track record for many offenders as an alternative to incarceration. Finally, I would make full use of Holmes Youthful Trainee Act status for offenders under the age of 26, Section 7411 for controlled substance offenders, and Cobbs agreements.
Do you have any alternative methods of sentencing not currently used in the Circuit Court that you would like to put into place?
I envision utilizing more of the treatment court approach. The Swift and Sure program is working well. As for juveniles, I would like to see the juvenile mental health court reestablished, so that those juveniles with mental health issues have their issues addressed, instead of creating a pipeline into the adult criminal system.
Allegan County (Mich.) Board of Commissioners meeting
Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program
(SSSPP) Fiscal Year 2022, was Allegan County’s 9th year of participating in this fully grant funded opportunity to slow the prison pipeline. After some financial cuts in FY21, the Swift and Sure probation program saw its biggest grant award for FY22. So far in 2022, there has been one graduation and no unsuccessful discharges. The program continues to test participants for illegal substances and alcohol. Overall, the program continues to grow and add participants each quarter. The program has monthly meetings to ensure the program is operating efficiently. The monthly meetings also allow staff to ensure the budget is on track as well as discuss any participants that require more a of a specialized treatment plan. In 2021, there were an average of 11 participants in the program at a time. There were 10 successful completions, and 1 unsuccessful discharge in 2021. During the pandemic, some participants struggled with relapses and negative influences in their lives, but some participants thrived by being promoted to new positions, which earned them higher salaries. For some, securing stable housing and eliminating negative people in their lives was their biggest victory in a long time, but nonetheless was still celebrated and encouraged. I would like to thank the Swift and Sure team as well as court/county leadership for their support of specialty courts and programs that are a cost-efficient and effective alternative to prison.