What Are the Costs and Benefits of Probation?
Probation is an elastic sanction, and one that occurs in the community. The elasticity of the sanction means that it can be tailored to an individual based on the risk and need factors, as well as the severity of the offense. Probation, unlike incarceration which is defined by total restrictions of liberty, can use the tools of supervision to achieve various degrees of liberty restriction. The flexibility of the sanction is a benefit but the costs related to supervision depend on the degree to which the program features are proportional to the offense, are parsimonious, reinforce citizenship, and affect social justice. This chapter reviews the costs and benefits of community sanctions that affect the justice system, the individual probationer, and the community. In total, probation has a number of attributes, but the consideration of these costs and benefits is important as systems are further developed and probation emerges as a preferred sanction.
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