Intensive Probation Supervision:

Cost-Savings Relative to Incarceration

PEMD-93-22: Published: Jun 4, 1993. Publicly Released: Jul 13, 1993.

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GAO evaluated Arizona's intensive probation supervision program (IPS), focusing on: (1) IPS effectiveness in controlling criminal behavior; and (2) whether IPS is a cost-saving alternative to incarceration.

GAO found that: (1) the difference between IPS costs and incarceration costs varies according to sentence length and mode of supervision; (2) in one of the two counties studied, the duration of IPS tends to be longer, but the duration of incarceration was about the same; (3) costs are significantly lower when offenders are transferred to less restrictive supervision under both IPS and incarceration, so length of the more restrictive supervision has the greatest effect on program costs; (4) program costs are lowest for parole, followed by standard probation, IPS, and incarceration, although IPS sentences are generally longer in duration than prison sentences; (5) when the cost of revocations is included, IPS is less expensive than prison sentences in all cases except the least serious offenders in one county; (6) indirect costs and savings can have a significant effect on program costs; and (7) cost savings can be maximized by tailoring intensive supervision programs to supervise offenders who would normally be incarcerated the longest, targeting offenders who are least likely to be revoked to prison, and making IPS a short-term program so that offenders are quickly graduated to less restrictive supervision.

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