SWIFT Program Designed Brings Quick Penalties to Errant Probationers

A new program is being kicked off in one Tarrant County courtroom. District Court Judge Mollee Westfall is hoping she can steer probationers towards success rather than prison through quick and intensive penalties for even “minor” violations. The program began in Hawaii where it had positive effects, effects Westfall is hoping to recreate.

The SWIFT program (Supervision With Intensive enForcemenT) is designed to stop probationers before their probation violations send them to prison. It’s an intermediate sanction program that intervenes immediately when there are problems with an offender’s compliance and seeks to sort of shock them back into successful probation.

Typically, if a probationer violates the terms of their supervision, their supervising officer may increase their sanctions while under supervision, requiring more visits or community service hours, for instance. If the violation is serious or if there are several, the officer can seek a probation revocation hearing where the offender may get sent to prison, activating the initial sentence they received.

Through the SWIFT program, a violation will land you in jail. Immediately, but only for a short time. Though this will require more jail space from the county initially, it’s hoped the intensive program will reduce recidivism and those probationers who are eventually violated and sent to prison in the long run.

Judge Westfall states that offenders have learned how to work the system. They’ve learned just what violations they can accrue and what their sanctions will likely be. They know they are more likely to face more frequent PO meetings than a revocation hearing, particularly during these times of overwhelmed parole officers and crowded court dockets. She hopes the SWIFT program will bring them back into compliance, equating the program to “child rearing.”

Currently the program is only being piloted in Tarrant County. It’s unfunded for now and there were only be around 10 probationers added per month, for charges like drug possession. The county is hoping for a federal grant, one which is giving $850,000 to four states who choose to replicate the original Hawaiian program. This would allow for about 400 probationers to take part in SWIFT and a chance to see just how effective it can be.

Probation violations can occur because of positive drug screens, missing appointments with your supervising officer, committing new criminal offenses, or violating any other terms listed on your probation contract. Typically a probation officer will use progressive sanctions to gain compliance before seeking a revocation hearing.

When compared with prison time, probation is a walk in the park. But probation is considered a privilege and can be revoked for noncompliance. Whether you are facing criminal charges and hope to get probation in lieu of jail time or if you are facing a probation revocation hearing—we can help. Contact our attorneys today to discuss the specifics of your case.

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