OLR Research Report

January 14, 2005




By: George Coppolo, Chief Attorney

You asked what a probation officer does to make sure probationers are not taking illegal drugs. You also asked for a copy of a recent Yale University study on Connecticut probationers.


According to Rena Goldwasser of the Judicial Department's Court Support Services Division (CSSD), urinalysis is the major tool probation officers use to ensure that clients are not using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol. Urinalysis is done at a probation office, or at a treatment or service provider's office (alternative incarceration center, etc.), or the adult probation officer can do testing during a home visit.  Some probation office locations can also perform saliva testing and breathalyzer testing for the presence of alcohol. 

Mike Hines, a regional manager for CSSD, advised us that the probation officer assigned to the case determines when and how often to require the probationer to undergo a drug or alcohol test, unless the court has ordered that the tests be done at specific intervals. He also advised us that it is the probation officer, based on Judicial Department written polices, that decides what actions to take when a probationer fails a drug test.

The policies direct that the probation officer decide what to do based on the probationer's security level, the drug involved, the drug level, the existence of other drug test failures, and how well the probationer is otherwise doing. In this regard, the probation officer considers such things as whether the probationer has missed any required meetings or appointments, and his employment or school status. A probation officer reviews a probationer's security status every six months and can raise or lower it.

According to Hines, probation officers realize that recovery from drug abuse often involves missteps. Thus, one or more drug test failures will not necessarily result in a disciplinary action, especially if other things such as school, work, and therapy are otherwise going well.

Judicial Department policy gives probation officers several options for drug test failures. The options vary from no action to increased supervision, increased treatment, or an arrest warrant.

We have enclosed a copy (Attachment 1) of a power point presentation that highlights the preliminary results from a study entitled “Substance Abuse Need for Treatment Among Probationers (SANTP)”. Yale University's School of Medicine conducted the study. The Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (DMHAS) sponsored it in collaboration with Judicial Branch's CSSD. This presentation was made at the December meeting of the Alcohol and Drug Policy Council. It should be noted that these are preliminary findings, unpublished at this time, as Yale researchers continue their analysis of the data. Any reference to these findings should be presented as preliminary pending Yale's and DMHAS' final report to the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, which funded the study.


We have enclosed the Judicial Branch's policies on noncompliance with probation conditions (Policy No. 4.22, August 1, 2004(Attachment 2)). The policy directs that each adult probation officer must respond to all incidents of noncompliance in a way that is related to the risk of the offender and the severity of the violation.

The policy directs the probation officer to take the following actions upon learning of any possible violation:


1. Investigate and obtain all facts pertaining to the alleged violation.

2. Assess the client's overall adjustment and any underlying causes of the non-compliance that might be addressed with services.

3. Employ the Graduated Sanctions/Response when appropriate (enclosed).

4. If the violation activity was drug related, the officer should make reasonable efforts to ensure all relevant treatment options have been used to the degree possible.

5. Thoroughly document all information and activities relating to the alleged violation in the case notes including:

a. details of the violation;

b. placement of the client in violation status;

c. the response selected to address the violation, and

d. an explanation if no action is taken.

When the probation officer determines the appropriate response for any violation activity is a warrant, he must discuss the case with and get the approval of the supervisor before writing or seeking the warrant.


Judicial Department policy gives probation officers the following options for drug test failures:

1. no action,

2. increased monitoring or contacts with a probation officer,

3. referral to one of 17 alternative incarceration centers where the probationer will get more intensive supervision,

4. referral to the technical violations unit,

5. outpatient therapy,

6. inpatient therapy, or

7. an arrest for a violation of probation.


According to Goldwasser, the technical violations unit is a new program that started in October 2004. The unit exists in six locations: Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, New Britain, and New London. The unit was created to reduce the number of people sent to prison for technical violations by providing more intensive supervision and identifying and providing support services, such as therapy, counseling, or adequate housing that will assist the probationer to get back into compliance. CSSD selected the locations because a study determined that around 70% of all technical violations were in those cities. (As you know, PA 04-234 requires the Judicial Branch to develop a plan to reduce by at least 20% the number of incarcerations for technical violations.) We have enclosed a copy of a recent Judicial Department report entitled “A Report on Strategies to Reduce Technical Violations of Probation” that describes the program in greater detail (Attachment 3).


A probation officer does an assessment of each person sentenced to probation to determine the appropriate level of supervision. This usually occurs within five days after the person begins the probation portion of his sentence. It must be completed within 14 days. There are five levels-administrative monitoring, medium, high, sex offenders, and surveillance.

Administrative Monitoring

Administrative monitoring is the lowest level of supervision. A private contractor conducts the actual supervision.

Medium Supervision

Probation officers with caseloads of 150 to 300 probationers conduct the supervision. The goal is to limit their caseloads to 150 by July 2005.

High Supervision

Probation officers have a caseload of between 90 and 120 people. The goal is to reduce this caseload to 65 people by July 2005.

Sex Offender

Probation officers have a caseload of no more than 45 probationers.


This is the classification for the offenders who need the most supervision (other than sex offenders). Probation officers have a caseload of no more than 50.


The policy specifies that the timeliness of responses to probation violations must be based upon the risk level of the probationer. The officer is directed to determine and execute the response in accordance with the following guidelines:

Case Classification

Maximum Response Time

Sex Offender

5 Business Days


5 Business Days


5 Business Days


10 Business Days

Administrative Supervision

15 Business Days


The policy directs the probation officer and supervisor to expedite the preparation, approval, and processing of warrant applications, giving priority to those cases where public safety is a concern.

The probation officer prepares the warrant affidavit and submits it to the supervisor for review in accordance with the timeframes delineated above.

Unless the supervisor determines that there is either insufficient cause for the warrant, or that a response other than a warrant is appropriate, the supervisor must sign and return the approved affidavit to the officer. This must be done within the following maximum timeframes, from the day the warrant was submitted to the supervisor:

1. three business days if the probationer's classification is: Sex Offender, Surveillance, or High;

2. four business days if the probationer's classification is Medium;

3. five business days if the probationer's classification is Administrative; and

4. ten business days if the probationer is incarcerated.

If the incarcerated probationer is subsequently released on bond, the probation officer will expedite the preparation and processing of the warrant. The affidavit must be delivered to the court within one business day of the supervisor's approval and signature. The office supervisor or his designee is responsible for tracking the timeliness of the warrant process, and for ensuring all information is entered correctly into the appropriate data base.