Examining the Success of Minnesota’s Probation System

Minnesota’s probation system has enjoyed success for some time, not only for its money-saving benefits, but for the services it provides to probationers.

Probation officers in Minnesota supervised more than 140,000 offenders in 2011. These officers are employed by the Minnesota Department of Corrections and are called upon to supervise all felony adult offenders from the state prison system.

The supervision of offenders in a community setting has allowed them to receive both treatment and educational programs, both of which have been shown to be more effective in enacting long-term behavioral changes over incarceration.  In addition to providing supervision services, probation officers in Minnesota employ a number of proven approaches to probationers, including:

  • A greater focus on high-risk offenders
  • Cognitive-behavioral interventions
  • Motivational interviewing strategies
  • Offender risk and needs assessments
  • Programs that address problematic and anti-social or illegal behavior
  • Targeted case planning

Specific programming and services are often focused on domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual and predator offending, and DUI/SWI offenses. Probation officers must assess risk to public safety and the risk of re-offending during the probationary period, but they must also consider a number of individual factors, such as: mental health issues, learning disabilities, parenting/domestic matters, gender and cultural factors, victimization, transportation issues, and access to community services and resources.

A Team Approach in Place

Minnesota credits the success of its probation system to the efforts of the probation officers, as well as a strong collaboration with the local justice system, ongoing training opportunities and continuing education, community involvement, and the help of statewide correctional associations and national probation organizations.

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In addition to considering the cost-saving benefits of probation, the state also considers each case an individual one, with successful discharges, violations during probation, and recidivism as to continue to closely monitor the success of the program.