Program Goals/Target Population
The Phoenix (Ariz.) Repeat Offender Program was designed to increase conviction and incarceration rates for chronic, high-risk offenders. This program was targeted at repeat offenders with extensive criminal histories in Phoenix, Ariz. The primary goal was to prosecute dangerous offenders to the full extent of the law resulting in incarceration, rather than merely arresting and booking. The program also sought to impose longer prison terms for convicted chronic offenders.
Postarrest case management was used to target chronic offenders in the area. A Repeat Offender Unit was set up in the Phoenix Police Department to identify these offenders; their cases were then given special attention in the criminal justice process. This special attention included examining the criminal history and background information of the offender, conducting follow-up investigations, and interviewing witnesses and victims. The information was used to identify chronic offenders and help prosecutors build their cases against them in order to obtain convictions.
Coordination between the Phoenix Police Department and the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office was necessary to implement this program successfully. The Police Department collected and reviewed case information and sent it to the prosecutor’s office; the District Attorney’s office used this information to build a case against the offender.
The theory of the Phoenix (Ariz.) Repeat Offender Program is that since police resources are limited and in high demand, they should focus on the most serious and high-risk chronic offenders. Since a small number of repeat offenders commit a disproportionately large amount of crime, these offenders are a greater threat to public safety. Therefore, the program’s efforts to incarcerate high-risk offenders are an efficient way to allocate police resources and may be effective in reducing crime.
Abrahamse and colleagues (1991) found that, of the 248 offenders in the experimental group who were prosecuted, 223 were convicted, producing a conviction rate of 89.9 percent. Of the 177 offenders in the control group who were prosecuted, 153 were convicted, a conviction rate of 86.4 percent. The experimental group had a slightly higher rate of conviction compared to the control group, but this difference was not found to be statistically significant.
Likelihood of Imprisonment
In the experimental group, 162 of the 204 offenders sentenced to incarceration (79.4 percent) were sent to prison rather than jail. In the control group, 97 of the 143 offenders sentenced to incarceration (67.8 percent) were sent to prison rather than jail. Once they were convicted, the experimental group had a higher likelihood of being sentenced to prison.
Length of Prison Term Imposed
For the 162 offenders sentenced to prison in the experimental group, the mean sentence length was 91 months. For the 97 offenders sentenced to prison in the control group, the mean sentence length was 73 months. For those imprisoned in the experimental group, prison sentences were substantially longer, a finding that was statistically significant.