Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Martin Gottschalk


There remains some uncertainty as to whether or not probation supervision can influence the behaviour of offenders as intended and thereby protect the public. Within the growing body of probation literature is support for a number of theoretically relevant variables and probation outcomes (Morgan, 1993; Gendreau, Little & Goggin, 1996). Some of the probation studies include a measure of time (Sims & Jones, 1997; Green & Winik, 2010), although it has never been exclusively studied in probation research. In the studies that do include a time measure, sentence length is the most frequently used and is often related to failure and recidivism (Cockerill, 1975; Renner, 1978; Roundtree, Edwards & Parker, 1984; Morgan, 1993). Sentence length, however, may not provide the best measure of time on probation since this same probation research often finds that not all probationers complete their term of supervision. Probation sentences are cut short for a variety of reasons -some are ended for good behaviour (i.e. early termination), whereas others are ended for poor behaviour as is the case with revocation. The actual time under probation supervision is directly related to some outcomes. Moreover, time has not been examined sufficiently to determine its relationship to behaviour. This study seeks to explore the influence of time served under probation on three probation outcomes: probation failure, arrest on probation and recidivism after probation is terminated. Following a sample of probationers (n=480), from a Northern Plains state the study finds that as time served on probation increases, the likelihood of probation failure and later recidivism decrease. This relationship between probation time served and outcomes in terms of probation research, theory and practice is developed. Perhaps most importantly, we find that probation sentence length and probation time served, although related measures, do not relate to outcomes in similar ways. Subsequently, probation researchers should pay close attention to the time measures used in probation study. The implications for probation practice are also discussed including the importance of understanding probationer time served to improve supervision programs and better impact public safety.