SHERIDAN — During recent meetings about the effectiveness of probation and parole services throughout the state of Wyoming, legislators discussed the ever-present subject of funding and finances. If probation and parole are not effective ways to keep offenders from jail, what are the alternatives?
“The Department of Corrections was to conduct a study of overall effectiveness and efficiency,” Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, said following the joint judiciary meeting last week. “That study was not even started as the DOC lost their federal funding source for that purpose but are currently pursuing other funding sources.”
Despite not having that specific study initiated, the Council of State Governments, of which Wyoming is a member, will complete a comprehensive study regarding justice reinvestment. The study will also consider parole and probation efficiencies, which will overlap the DOC study that never went forward.
“This action will hopefully be completed by the judiciary committee’s meeting in November,” Jennings said.
In 2015, states spent more than $40 billion on prisons, nearly 10 times the amount spent on community supervision, even though state probation and parole populations are three times the size of state prison populations, according to the CSG Wyoming Workbook: Analyses to Inform Public Safety Strategies. The analyses said while supervision budgets are considerably smaller than those of prisons, investments in improving community supervision and programs and treatment in the community can help reduce recidivism and therefore prevent a significant number of prison admissions and the associated costs. In 2015, prison inmates cost the state around $123.26 per day and incarceration at the Sheridan County Detention Center cost $91.23 per day. Individuals on probation remain in the community, so housing and meal costs are eliminated.
Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, said stakeholders needed in compiling evidence-based data are on board and want to help contribute to finding answers on effectiveness of the judicial system between now and the next judiciary committee meeting.
In March, Gov. Matt Mead, Chief Justice E. James Burke, legislators and DOC director Bob Lampert requested intensive technical assistance to use a data-driven justice reinvestment approach to avoid correction costs and reinvestment savings in public safety strategies, according to a memo from Marc Pelka, deputy director of state initiatives through the CSG Justice Center and Ed Weckerly, research manager for CSG.
Numbers of arrests deriving from probation and parole violations remain difficult to track for the Sheridan Police Department, as arrests from community supervision can come from warrants, straight from a court hearing or from a direct request from the probation and parole office. Legislators anticipate results from the study by the next joint judiciary committee meeting in November.