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Program Profile: The Canton of Vaud (CV) Community Supervision Program (Switzerland)

Evidence Rating: No Effects - One study No Effects - One study

Date: This profile was posted on November 28, 2016

Program Summary

This program was designed to provide a community service alternative to short custodial sentences for inmates, with the goal of improving measures of recidivism (reconviction) and social integration (marriage/employment). This program is rated No Effects. There were no significant, long-term effects on reconviction and social integration.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals/Program Components
The Canton of Vaud (CV) community supervision program was established in the Lake Geneva area of Switzerland. The CV program allowed convicted offenders the opportunity to perform community service as an alternative to short-term imprisonment. This program was predicated on the belief that short-term imprisonment fostered re-offending by alienating inmates from their families and work. This program sought to bring inmates back into the community by offering community service options, with the ultimate goal of reducing re-offending.
Community service opportunities came in the form of unpaid work that included a variety of unskilled jobs supporting non-profit organizations such as nursing homes for the elderly, hospitals, schools, and work in forests and for the environment. Eight hours of work in the community was considered equal to 1 day in jail.
Target Population
Only those convicted and sentenced to unsuspended prison sentences of up to 14 days were eligible for participation in the program. Eligible candidates sentenced to short custodial sanctions were notified by the Swiss Correctional Service about the opportunity to work in the community instead of serving a jail sentence.
Participation in the program was voluntary. Convicted persons had the right to serve their traditional custodial sanction (which included serving a short-term sentence in prison or half-way incarceration, which allows inmates to leave during the day to perform their jobs and spend nights and weekends in prison); or to participate in the CV community supervision program.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Killias and colleagues (2010) found that re-offending did not differ significantly between offenders who were randomly assigned to the Canton of Vaud community service program and those who served short custodial sentences over all three follow-up periods (during the first 5 years, after 5 years, and over the entire 11-year period of observation).

Marital Status
There were no significant differences between groups on being single, married, or divorced/separated at the 11-year follow up.
There were no significant differences between groups on employment at the 11-year follow up.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Killias and colleagues (2010) used a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of the Canton of Vaud (CV) community supervision program. The implementation of the CV program was evaluated to determine whether inmates assigned to participate in the program had lower rates of reconviction compared with those assigned to short custodial sentences.
Following notification of their eligibility for the program, inmates who contacted the Swiss Correctional Service were interviewed. If found suitable according to certain criteria (such as aptitude, absence risks, sufficient motivation), they were informed about the community service options available and random assignment procedures. All interested parties were required to fill out a primary questionnaire.
During the interview process, participants were randomly assigned to community service (treatment group) or to prison (control group) by random numbers; the odds were 5 to 2 (community service versus prison, respectively) according to the expected demand and available resources. Prior to random assignment, some participants were purposely selected for community service rather than prison by the officer in charge of the program. This group was limited to 25 percent (36 participants) of all eligible participants to reduce resistance to random selection and to eliminate manipulation of the selection process. Those in the community service group were assigned to many different jobs, while those randomly assigned to short custodial sentences were usually incarcerated full time and therefore had a homogenous experience.
Originally, from 1993 to 1995, 141 defendants agreed  to participate in the CV program and be sentenced to short-term imprisonment (no longer than 14 days). Of this group, 100 were randomly assigned to community service and 41 to prison. As a result of the loss of some study participants, the final sample included 36 participants who were purposely selected for the community service group (and were analyzed separately to protect the study’s internal validity), 80 participants who were randomly assigned to the community service group (treatment group), and 38 participants who were randomly assigned to short-term incarceration in prison (control group).
More than 2 years after they performed community service or served a short custodial sentence, 159 participants were contacted and asked to fill out a questionnaire on their current life and work circumstances. Those who returned the anonymous questionnaire were offered a check for 20 Swiss francs (approximately $14 US). Not all participants completed the second questionnaire; however, the analysis suggested no significant bias between those who filled out the second questionnaire and those who did not. Sixty-five percent of the treatment group, 51 percent of the control group, and 53 percent of the selected group returned the second questionnaire. Conviction records and police files for all three groups were also used for analysis.
Of the participants in this randomized controlled trial, 9 nine percent were women, the average age was 35 years, and 73 percent were Swiss nationals. Less than half of the participants were fully employed. Fifty-eight percent were convicted for a traffic offense, 22 percent for a criminal code offense, and 18 percent for a drug offense.
Three follow-up periods were included in the analysis: 5 years after program participation, a second 5- year period after participation, and an overall observation period of 11 years. Data analysis included chi-squared tests.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Killias, Martin, Gwladys Gilliéron, Francoise Villard, and Clara Poglia. 2010. "How Damaging is Imprisonment in the Long-Term? A Controlled Experiment Comparing Long-Term Effects of Community Service and Short Custodial Sentences on Re-offending and Social integration." Journal of Experimental Criminology 6(2):115–30.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Killias, Martin, Marcelo Aebi, and Denis Ribeaud. 2000. "Does Community Service Rehabilitate Better than Short-Term Imprisonment? Results of a Controlled Experiment." The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 39(1):40–57.

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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Adult Reentry Programs
This practice involves correctional programs that focus on the transition of individuals from prison into the community. Reentry programs involve treatment or services that have been initiated while the individual is in custody and a follow-up component after the individual is released. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Alternatives to Incarceration, Probation/Parole Services

Targeted Population: Prisoners

Current Program Status: Not Active

Listed by Other Directories: Campbell Collaboration

Program Director:
André Vallotton
Former Director (retired)/Consultant (current)
Correctional Service, Canton of Vaud, Switzerland
Ch. Sous-le-Mont 30
Cheseaux 1033
Phone: +41.21.731.18.24

Martin Killias
Institute of Criminology, University of Zurich (former affiliation)
Rathausgaessli 27
Lenzburg CH-5600
Phone: +41.62.891.02.54
Fax: +41.62.891.02 74