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September 10, 2001

Probation efforts linked to lower crime

Full study (.pdf)

Probation is a relatively inexpensive and effective way of reducing crime, according to a new analysis of all 58 California counties carried out by the California Institute for County Government. The institute is affiliated with the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento.

In a report titled "Does Probation Work?" researchers with the institute conclude that stronger probation efforts help reduce crime. The report links lower probation caseloads with lower property crime rates, and higher caseloads with higher property crime rates.

The authors speculate that "as supervision levels decrease, the opportunities to re-offend increase. In addition, very high caseloads are likely associated with diminished access to other probation related activities, such as drug treatment and job training services … The logical implication for public policy is that probation caseloads ought to be reduced wherever possible."

The report also ties lower crime rates with greater per-capita law enforcement spending, per-capita jail population and arrest rates.

California, like much of the nation, sentences more offenders to probation than any other sanction. The use of probation has increased dramatically in the last decade, largely because it is about five times less expensive than jail and 19 times less expensive than state prison. However, little research has been conducted on whether probation is effective in protecting public safety.

The California Institute for County Government studies county policy and fiscal issues and offers consulting to county government. It publishes occasional reports and maintains extensive county statistical information, much of which is available on its website.

Copies of "Does Probation Work?" and additional information are available by contacting the institute's director, Matthew Newman, at (916) 324-0796, sending an e-mail to or visiting the institute's website at Additional media assistance is available by contacting CSUS public affairs at (916) 278-6156.


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