Supervision systems tend to place an undue emphasis on sanctions over incentives, in part because enforcement can seem more expedient when policymakers are faced with limited resources. But this can inadvertently create a greater strain on probation department budgets and caseloads—without a greater return on public safety. By using policies such as earned compliance credits, probation systems can rein in spending on people who do not pose a significant risk without diminishing public safety and put those resources in areas where they will have the greatest impact.
In both Junior’s and Davis’ situations, the impact of strict supervision ranged from inconsequential to detrimental. Their stories highlight how heavy reliance on enforcement may not always be appropriate or useful. And their experiences align with research and best practice that show probation systems can rein in costs and encourage positive behavior by providing incentives, such as earned compliance credits, without diminishing public safety. The resources that supervising agencies expend on monitoring conduct can be better spent on individuals who need more support, treatment, accountability, and structure.