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Comparison of Arizona to Nationwide Statistics

Comparisons of probation outcomes between states must be viewed with an understanding of the difficulties raised by jurisdictional differences in sentencing practices. For instance, many states place persons convicted of DUI on probation at their first offense and others do not. Since DUI and other such offenders have much lower recidivism rates than felons convicted of property or drug crimes, their presence in the caseload will affect an agency's recidivism rates. On the other hand, states where prison crowding is a serious problem or where IPS is a sentencing option may tend to divert more serious offenders to probation thus increasing expected recidivism. Consequently, the type of offenders placed on probation versus other alternatives such as a fine, mandatory treatment or prison, will affect probation outcomes in a jurisdiction. Since these factors are very difficult to identify and control, comparison of state probation outcomes should be viewed as advisory at best.

Another issue in comparing case outcomes concerns the definition of recidivism in terms of the nature of the offense and the length of time during which it may occur. A standard method of comparison is required to make meaningful comparisons across jurisdictions. A measure employed by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) in probation risk assessment or evaluation studies conducted in 15 states is to "count" offenders as recidivists if they have a new conviction or revocation occurring within two years of admission to supervision. Applying this standard method for comparison purposes in Arizona, 18% of the probationers were convicted of a new offense or revoked within two years of placement on probation supervision.

Given national norms, Arizona operates a fairly typical probation system. It primarily supervises felony offenders and has a relatively low (9%) percentage of DUI offenders in the caseload. In recent studies completed in five similar state jurisdictions, NCCD found comparable recidivism rates that ranged from 18% to 28%. Three states had rates higher than 25%. As such, recidivism among Arizona probationers, using the above noted standard method of comparison (18% within two years of placement), falls at the low end of this range and is well below the average.

Note: The information in this section was provided by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) and is drawn from their forthcoming national study on probation.


Institute for Rational Public Policy, Inc. 1991. Arizona Criminal Code and Corrections Study.

Langan, Patrick A. and Mark A. Cunniff. 1992. Recidivism of Felons on Probation, 1986-89. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. February.

Matthews, Timothy. 1994. "Alternative Outcome Measures: The Concept." Perspectives. Winter. pp. 11-12.

Morgan, Kathryn D. 1993. "Factors Influencing Probation Outcome: A Review of the Literature." Federal Probation. Vol. 57, No. 2. pp 23-29

Petersilia, Joan and Susan Turner. May 1993 Evaluating Intensive Supervision Probation/Parole: Results of a Nationwide Experiment. NIJ Research in Brief

Siegel, Gayle R. 1994. "Making a Difference: The Effect of Literacy and General Education Development Programs on Adult Offenders on Probation." Perspectives. Winter. pp. 38-43.

Stiles, Don R. 1994. "Comments." Perspectives. Winter. p. 43.

Arizona Supreme Court, 1996

Arizona Supreme Court
Administrative Office of the Courts
Adult Probation Services Division, Suite 344
Juvenile Justice Services Division, Suite 337
1501 West Washington, Phoenix, Arizona 85007

02 January 2002 Arizona Supreme Court.  All Rights Reserved. Top of Page