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Probation in Texas: SWIFT Program Essay

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Updated: Sep 12th, 2022

Article Description

This article describes how the Tarrant County SWIFT court program in Texas has functioned to keep repeat offenders out of the jail system by using short, consistent sanctions to ensure that probationers do not violate their sentence conditions. Unlike traditional probation systems that allow offenders to engage in repeat violations of their sentence conditions before having their probation revoked, the SWIFT program focuses on prompt, attention-getting punishment to change the behaviors of repeat offenders while at the same time keeping them out of prison.

For example, “when a SWIFT offender violates a technical condition of probation, such as missing a scheduled meeting, he or she is immediately sent before a judge and often receives a quick punishment, such as a weekend in jail” (Mitchell par. 10). Such a short, consistent form of punishment not only reinforces good behavior among repeat offenders, but also serves as an effective alternative to traditional systems that revolve around probation, revocation, and then prison (Mitchell par. 16).

From the article, it is clear that the SWIFT program functions at the same level with another probation program known as HOPE, though the former serves more repeat offenders and is funded at a much lower cost than the latter (Mitchell par. 12-13). Overall, there are many benefits associated with the SWIFT program, with available statistics demonstrating that

  1. fewer SWIFT participants have had their probation revoked for technical reasons compared with the county’s regular probation system and statewide figures,
  2. more SWIFT participants have stopped violating the conditions of their probation because they know they will get caught and go to jail, and
  3. fewer financial resources have been used to supervise offenders in the SWIFT program compared to what is used to house offenders in Texas prisons (Mitchell par. 18-20).

Additional Insights

This article provides useful insights into how probation officers and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system can use short, consistent sanctions not only to reinforce positive behavior change among repeat offenders, but also to keep them out of prison. The article highlights that the traditional probation’s orientation of allowing offenders to engage in repeat violations of their sentence conditions before having their probation revoked is no longer attractive as it reinforces a prison culture that is costly to maintain, not mentioning that it does not always contribute to positive behavior change among offenders.

It is evident from the article that repeat offenders are more willing to change their behaviors and reform when they have prior knowledge that they risk being swiftly and consistently exposed to sanctions as long as they continue to violate their probation or sentence conditions. Consequently, it can be argued that the swiftness and consistency of sanctions is a game changer in reinforcing positive behavior change among repeat offenders.

Important New Information

The article adds new knowledge into the probation literature by demonstrating the importance of using short, consistent sanctions not only to reinforce positive behavior change among repeat offenders, but also to keep them out of jail. In essence, the article addresses the shortfalls of traditional probation systems by demonstrating the need to promptly expose repeat offenders to short and consistent sanctions that are intended to reinforce positive behavior change. Lastly, the article demonstrates how effective probation programs can be developed and implemented using minimal budgetary allocations, hence releasing scarce resources for use in other jurisdictions such as in the maintenance of law and order.

Works Cited

Mitchell, Mitch. “Sanctions can come quickly for Offenders Involved in North Texas Probation Program.” The Republic. 2014. Web.

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IvyPanda. "Probation in Texas: SWIFT Program." September 12, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/probation-in-texas-swift-program/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Probation in Texas: SWIFT Program." September 12, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/probation-in-texas-swift-program/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Probation in Texas: SWIFT Program'. 12 September.

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