Dosage Probation


CEPP pioneered dosage probation in 2011 while working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, under the Evidence-Based Decision Making (EBDM) initiative, sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC). The dosage probation model suggests that the length of supervision should be determined by the number of hours of intervention necessary to reduce risk as opposed to a standard probation term (such as 3, 4, or 5 years). In 2012, CEPP partnered with NIC to develop the dosage model and identify the steps necessary to implement the model, which was documented in Dosage Probation: Rethinking the Structure of Probation Sentences. In subsequent years, NIC has supported the implementation of the model in several pilot sites.

Our Approach

Dosage probation is designed to incentivize behavior change by providing an opportunity for a person to receive early termination from probation if they successfully engage in risk reduction interventions tailored to their criminogenic needs, in a “dose” matched to their risk level. For the supervising agency, it positions officers to focus their work on risk reduction activities and to manage scarce resources more efficiently. For community service providers, it establishes a method to effectively match people on probation to services and to encourage their active participation in treatment. For external stakeholders, it offers transparency around the case management process and clear criteria for the granting of early termination from supervision.

The dosage probation model was initially developed in 2011 in collaboration with stakeholders in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. CEPP developed the model’s conceptual framework based upon social science research on risk reduction and describe the framework in Dosage Probation: Rethinking the Structure of Probation Sentences. In 2012, CEPP partnered with NIC and The Carey Group (TCG) to translate these research findings into a series of steps and strategies to achieve client engagement, build probation officers’ skills, and realign the role of supervisors around coaching and mentoring. CEPP and TCG also developed a variety of practical tools (training curricula, staff policy manuals, “counting dosage” protocols, etc.) designed to facilitate the transition from the traditional model of probation supervision to a person-specific model of incentivized behavior change. Since the development of dosage probation, NIC has supported implementation of the model in several pilot sites, including Napa County, California, and Washington County, Minnesota. Readiness assessments and early stage planning work began in 2020 with two additional pilot sites in Minnesota.

The Impact

While the pilot sites are still in the early stages of implementing the dosage probation model, there is evidence that the model can achieve the goals it was designed to serve. Those goals are to:

  • incentivize people on probation to fully engage in risk reduction programming and services;
  • more clearly focus corrections professionals on using their time to address people’s criminogenic needs and to refer them to services that align with their most significant need areas, in accordance with their assessed level of risk; and
  • align justice system stakeholders around the common goal of risk reduction.

The pilots have demonstrated that justice system decision makers (particularly prosecutors and judges) can embrace the approach; many people on probation demonstrate significantly higher levels of motivation to engage in risk reduction services; supervision officers are more directed in their case planning efforts and one-on-one interactions; treatment providers willingly undergo an independent evaluation of their services and modify practices to more closely align with evidence-based practices; and, importantly, probation terms can be dramatically reduced. Further research can determine the long-term impact of the dosage probation model on people’s post-supervision success.