Abrahamse and colleagues (1991) conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of the Phoenix (Ariz.) Repeat Offender Program. To locate individuals for the program, nine criteria were examined of offenders in Phoenix: current criminal activity, substance abuse, lifestyle, probation failure, felony convictions, prior juvenile record, past informant activity, family background, and method of operation. This data was obtained from Phoenix Police Department records.
Using this information, eligible offenders were chosen and randomly assigned to the experimental or the control group. If arrested, offenders in the experimental group received special attention from the Repeat Offender Program by police and prosecutors, while offenders in the control group received no special attention and were handled with standard departmental procedures. The total sample was 473 assignments, with an experimental group of 270 assignments and a control group of 203. The higher amount of assignments in the experimental group did not affect the validity of the findings: the researchers compared the control group to the experimental group on prior records, probation and parole status, and pretrial custody status, and found no statistically significant differences.
From December 1988 to June 1989, every case had 6 months’ exposure to either the repeat offender program or standard operating procedures. In June 1989, a data collection team conducted a follow-up of the outcome of each case. The team examined which offenders were arrested, prosecuted, convicted, incarcerated, and imprisoned, and what sentences were imposed. The outcomes of the prosecuted cases were examined to determine the effectiveness of the repeat offender program on conviction rates, likelihood of incarceration and imprisonment, and sentence length. This information was obtained from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.