Considering the recent problems facing the Harris County jail, overcrowding and the high cost of keeping inmates locked up in this nose-dive economy, corrections expert Sean Hosman thinks he has a way to help: science.
Hosman, CEO of Assessments.com, was in Houston this week talking at the Texas Corrections Association conference about a program he's developed that uses a scientific method of assessing and classifying offenders before they enter a jail or prison that he says saves taxpayers tons of money. The program uses actuarial science -- much like the insurance industry employs -- to assess both an offender's risk of committing another crime and what type of crime he is likely to perpetrate. The goal, says Hosman, is to keep low-risk offenders out of jail, placing them instead in far less expensive and more effective community supervision programs.
"A lot more people should stay in the community," says Hosman, "and get better and more targeted services and we should us more science to predict and measure results."
On average in Texas, Hosman says, it costs about $40 a day to keep an offender incarcerated, versus a little more than $2 a day to supervise an offender in the community.
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Hosman calls his program "alarmingly accurate." He says that about 14 percent of offenders classified as low-risk re-offend and that about 60 to 70 percent of those classified as high-risk re-offend, proving that his assessment system works.
The Texas Youth Commission has already signed on board, says Hosman, and the agency's personnel are currently being trained to use Hosman's program, which he's been developing since 1997. He says TYC will begin using the program in the fall. As for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Harris County jail, Hosman says "they either want it or recognize they have to do it. There's real interest but nothing concrete just yet."
Approximately 80 jurisdictions across the county use Hosman's program, including the Los Angeles County probation department, the largest probation outfit in the United States.
"It costs so much less to keep them in the community," says Hosman. "You can't keep the worst ones out [of jail] because you don't want them living next door. But the vast majority benefit, and recidivism rates support it."