PACE-Probation Accountability and Certain Enforcement-is a pilot project for probation violators that was introduced in July 2010 in the Anchorage Superior Court to deal with the more than 100 technical probation violations filed monthly. Probation officers had reported that the current process was not effective and required large amounts of time from the court, probation officers, and defense and prosecution attorneys.
The PACE Project and HOPE Model
The Alaska Judicial Council examined the PACE project and recently released the report, Anchorage PACE: Probation Accountability with Certain Enforcement: A Preliminary Evaluation of the Anchorage Pilot PACE Project, which looks at outcomes from July 2010 to June 2011. The Anchorage program is modeled after the Hawaii court probation violation project HOPE-Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement-instituted in 2004, which has been shown to be effective in reducing recidivism. The goal of the HOPE model is to deal with each violation quickly and immediately impose a sanction.
In Anchorage, from July 2010 through February 2011, a total of 79 probationers were assigned to the pilot project. Probationers were required to comply with all conditions of their probation and could not opt out of the program. In PACE, an offender who violated one of the three targeted conditions-a positive drug or alcohol test, failure to appear for a scheduled test, or failure to appear for a meeting with the probation officer-was immediately arrested or had a warrant issued for arrest. A court hearing with a judge, defense and prosecution attorneys, and a probation officer was held within 72 hours, and the offender was typically sentenced to a jail term of two to three days. If there was another violation, the same process was followed. In the case of offenders with multiple violations, the court typically took some additional action. Under normal probation procedure, a petition to revoke probation might not be filed or a hearing held until after several violations were reported. Under PACE, any violation of one of the targeted probation conditions resulted in immediate action by the court.
Focus of the Study
Probationers selected for the pilot program were those identified as being at risk for violating probation, and as having drug or alcohol testing as a probation condition. In addition, selected participants were not on parole or on specialized probation, and did not have any active probation revocation petitions outstanding. There were 63 PACE participants in the final study: 42 males and 21 females. Of this group, 66 percent were Caucasian, 15 percent were Alaska Native/American Indian, and 19 percent were either Asian-American or Black. The study noted problems with inconsistencies in the reporting of control group data, and lack of data in some instances, and the analysis was done without reference to a control group. Analysis focused on outcomes for the variables listed below during the period three months prior to participation in PACE and during the first three months after entry into the program.
- Outcome measurements looked at changes in:
- Number of positive or refused drug tests;
- Number of missed drug tests;
- Number of missed appointments with drug probation officers;
- Number of probation revocations;
- Number of new arrests/charges;
- Number of incarceration days served; and
- Number of positive or failed alcohol tests.
The evaluation of PACE noted four major findings and compared these to findings of the effectiveness of the HOPE program. The report cautions that the HOPE program data are for a 12-month period while the PACE data are for a 3-month period.
Drug use appeared to drop after beginning PACE. Participants failed 25 percent of 157 drug tests three months prior to enrollment in PACE, and 9 percent of 587 tests during the three months after program enrollment. The HOPE program showed a similar decrease: from 53 percent failed tests prior to program enrollment to 9 percent failed tests after program enrollment.
The majority of PACE participants had no drug test failures during the first three months. After admission to PACE, 59 participants with drug use conditions had no drug test failures-68 percent, while during the three months prior to PACE, 20 percent had no drug test failures.
PACE participants had more recorded probation violations after starting the program-an expected result of PACE. During the three-month period prior to enrollment in PACE, the 63 participants had 40 petitions to revoke probation filed, while during the three-month period after, there were 67 probation filings. Under the PACE program, each violation requires an immediate sanction. However, under the usual procedure, a petition for revocation of probation would not be filed until there were several violations noted. Therefore, it was anticipated that the number of recorded probation violations would increase.
Not enough data were available to measure other outcomes. The report discussed the difficulties in gathering data to measure other outcomes, including inconsistent recording of information.
The evaluation of PACE was prepared by Teresa W. Carns of the Alaska Judicial Council and Dr. Stephanie Martin of the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER). Their report includes recommendations for:
- Continuing follow-up and more rigorous evaluations of the project;
- Assigning the participant and control groups to selected probation officers able to meticulously record required information;
- Limiting outcome variables to clearly defined, unambiguous measures;
- Providing electronic means to record data rather than dependence on paper files;
- Evaluating the program over a longer period of time that includes follow-up after completion of probation; and
- Including a unique offender identification number common to other state justice information systems to ensure the availability of data on each offender across agencies.
The evaluation also highlighted the way in which all agencies involved worked cooperatively and without additional resources to test the viability of PACE. The full report is on the Alaska Judicial Council website at http://www.ajc.state.ak.us/reports/pace2011.pdf. An article in the Summer 2010 27(2) issue of the Alaska Justice Forum discussed the introduction of the PACE Project at http://justice.uaa.alaska.edu/forum/27/2summer2010/e_pilotprojects.html.
Information on the Hawaii State Judiciary's HOPE Probation Program is at http://www.hopeprobation.org/.