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An Evaluation of Intensive Probation and Parole in California

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 82 Issue: 3 Dated: 1992 Pages: 610-658
Joan Petersilia; Susan Turner
Date Published
49 pages

This article reports the findings and methodology of an evaluation of the process and outcomes of three California intensive supervision probation (ISP) programs established under a federal grant program that required demonstration sites to design and implement ISP programs based on the ISP model developed in Georgia.


The basic components of this model are small caseloads, employment training, community service work, routine and unscheduled alcohol and drug testing, and curfews. Each demonstration site followed the same procedures for random assignment, data collection, and overall evaluation. Sites began the experiment in February 1987, and some continued to accept cases through January 1990. The demonstration sites included in the current evaluation were in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Contra Costa counties. Although the ISP programs differed, the evaluation design was the same for all sites. Each site was required to 1) assign cases randomly to either the experimental ISP program or the control routine probation program and 2) collect the data required for the evaluation. Offenders at all three sites had extensive prior criminal records.  The evaluation findings suggest that ISP programs, even those as rigorous as Ventura’s, are not effective for high-risk offenders, based on recidivism rates. The report suggests that the long-term viability of ISP programs may depend on reappraisal of what they can be expected to accomplish, a shift in emphasis, and different criteria for measuring their effectiveness. At all three California sites, probationers who received counseling, who were employed, who paid restitution, and who performed community services had less recidivism; however, because the level of participation in such program activities was low, these activities may not have had much effect on the sites’ overall recidivism rates. This suggests ISP should focus on increasing probationers’ participation in these activities. 11 tables and 6 figures