Published Sunday, December 7, 1997, in the Miami Herald Report: Half of criminal offenders on probation

WASHINGTON -- (AP) -- More than half of all adult offenders serving criminal sentences were on probation at the end of last year, according to a Justice Department report released last week.

State and local probation agencies were supervising about three million adults on Dec. 31, 1996 -- about 1.6 percent of the US adult population, or one in 62 persons 18 or older, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey.

At the beginning of 1995, the survey said, more than 453,000 adults were on probation for a violent offense, 757,000 for a property offense, 561,000 for a drug offense and 815,000 for disturbing public order -- such as driving while intoxicated, traffic offenses, drunkenness or morals offenses.

Drug trafficking, 15 percent, and possession, 13 percent, were the most common offenses among felons on probation. Drunk driving, 35 percent, and assault, 11 percent, were the most common offenses among those given probationary sentences for misdemeanors, the report said.

The statistical portrait was drawn from the first-ever national survey of probationers. Probation is conditional release into the community under supervision in lieu of going to jail.

Survey results were compiled from a sample of 5,867 administrative records, the bureau said.

According to the survey, 37 percent of all probationers had served time in jail or prison for their current offense before being released.

Half of all probationers had been in trouble with the law in separate incidents before their latest convictions, according to the study. Forty-five percent had previous criminal records as adults and 9 percent as juveniles.

About 30 percent of all probationers had previously been sentenced to jail or prison for previous offenses. Forty-two percent had previously been sentenced to probation.

At the time of the survey, about 18 percent of all adult probationers had attended one or more formal disciplinary hearings for violating the terms of their release, the study said.

The most common violation was failure to maintain contact with probation officers.

Since going on probation, more than 60 percent had participated in some type of special supervision or treatment program, the Justice Department said.

About 37 percent had been in an alcohol- or drug-treatment programs, and 12 percent had undergone special counseling, including psychological or family counseling or classes in life skills or parenting.

Nearly a third had been tested for drugs at least once while on probation, the report said.

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