Behavioral Science in the 21st Century

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Probation Officers use Positive Reinforcement

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Mike O'Roarke, Chief Probation Officer
11th Judicial District
The Canon City Daily Record recently reported on the story of Mike O'Roarke, the chief probation officer for the 11th Judicial District.  What is so special about him?  He is an advocate for the use of positive reinforcement in the judicial system.  

O'Roarke notes that "there's evidence to suggest that just waiting around trying to catch a client doing something wrong doesn't work...If we try to catch them doing the things right and then promote that we're going to have more success."  He contrasts this rehabilitative approach with the traditional notion of incarceration -- "tell me what's difficult about being in a cell, watching TV and getting your meals delivered to you....I know it's the idea of restriction...but there's nothing hard about it.  As long as we can reasonably keep people safe...we actually require a lot more of them than incarceration does."

O'Roarke became a probation officer after 16 years in law enforcement because he views the probation process as rehabilitative.  He notes "we're the cheapest and most efficient (form of sentencing).  We're the best alternative cost wise for public dollars."

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