Evaluation of the Sanction Certainty Directive of the Erie County, Pennsylvania, Adult Probation Department

Mark Beary, Mercyhurst College Civic Institute
Erika Brown, Mercyhurst College Civic Institute

In 1997, Judge John Bozza requested that the Adult Probation Department in Erie County, Pennsylvania, implement a Zero Tolerance (Sanction Certainty) pilot program which would provide swift and certain responses to violations; the desired outcomes being a reduction in the number of violations and a decrease in the amount of incarceration for offenders. From 1998-1999, the Erie County Adult Probation Department performed a year-long study, which found fewer revocations, violations, and days of incarceration for the Zero Tolerance (Sanction Certainty) caseloads compared to the control caseloads. In 2001, the Mercyhurst College Civic Institute conducted a replication study finding similar results.

This paper will present the results of the continued evaluation (April 1, 2003 to March 31, 2004) of the program, which is now being applied to nearly all adult probation caseloads. The study utilizes data collected from the Erie County Adult Probation Department. In addition to analyzing the number of violations, revocations, and days of incarceration, this study will also consider the demographic factors of violators to determine if correlations exist between these factors and offenders' rates of recidivism.

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Updated 05/20/2006