Use swift, certain, and proportionate sanctions
Research has also demonstrated that offenders are more responsive to sanctions that are swift, certain, and proportionate rather than those that are delayed, inconsistently applied, and severe. Swift and proportionate sanctions work both because they help offenders see the sanction as a consequence of their behavior rather than a decision levied upon them, and because offenders heavily weigh the present over the future (consequences that come months and years later are steeply discounted). Certainty establishes a credible and consistent threat, thereby creating a clear deterrent for non-compliant behavior.
In Oklahoma, some providers including DOC and specialty courts use swift, certain, and proportionate sanctions. However, opportunities remain to ensure this best practice is applied more broadly and consistently. While DOC has a formal graduated sanctions matrix, officers have broad discretion in responding to violations, leading to significant interpersonal and geographic inconsistencies. Similarly, while specialty courts use graduated sanctions, each court develops its own matrix, to be approved by Oklahoma’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS).
Recommendation 3: Use swift, certain, and proportional responses to behavior while on probation and parole
Currently, no statewide standardized framework guides supervision officers’ responses to technical violations, such as missing a treatment appointment or failing a drug test, or for responding to positive behavior and achievements, like graduating from a treatment program or maintaining employment. Incentives and sanctions that are swift, certain, and proportional are more effective at discouraging antisocial behavior and criminal activity while encouraging positive behavior.
The Task Force found that in recent years more than half of probation revocations and 37 percent of parole revocations were for technical violations. Even when sentenced to prison for non-criminal conduct, offenders serve significant amounts of time, in addition to time spent incarcerated while awaiting revocation processes. To ensure there is existing prison space for the most serious and violent offenders and to respond with certainty and proportionality to non-criminal behavior, many states have placed caps on the length of time a probationer or parolee can be revoked to prison for a technical violation.
The Task Force recommends:
- Requiring all supervision providers who supervise felony probationers and parolees to respond to technical violations of supervision with swift, certain, and proportional sanctions and provide positive reinforcement through incentives when the person exhibits positive behavior or attains certain goals. Supervision providers will be required to use best practices such as a graduated matrix, before pursuing a formal revocation process.
- Streamlining revocation hearings based upon technical violations through the use of a summons when an application to accelerate or a motion to revoke is filed with the court or by DOC. A district attorney may petition the court to issue a warrant for a compelling reason in the interest of public safety. If a warrant is issued, probationers or parolees will receive a dispositional hearing within 10 days of arrest.
- Limiting the length of stay for offenders revoked or accelerated for technical violations: up to 15 days for the first application for revocation; up to 30 days for the second application for revocation; up to 60 days for the third application for revocation; and up to five years for a fourth and subsequent application for revocation. At the discretion of the revoking authority, revocation days may be served non-consecutively.
- Motions to revoke probationers and parolees or an application for acceleration shall only be based upon violations that have occurred within the last 60 days provided the DA has received adequate notice.
- The revoking or accelerating authority may give consideration to the person’s current employment status.
iii. The revoking authority may impose revocation periods outside of the caps for people on probation or parole for 85% crimes.
- Absent willful nonpayment, failure to pay court-ordered financial obligations including but not limited to fees and fines, cannot serve as a basis for a revocation.