Our Program on Tuesday, December 5, 2023 was retired Judge Fran Recek.  The Judge was back for a second time to talk about the pros and cons of our legal system.  Judge Recek served on the bench in North Dakota for 33 years and sentenced 20,000 - 30,000 people and still does some work there.                                                                     
During COVID the prison numbers dropped from 1800 to 1300 (this does not include the jails) and on December 1, 2023 there are now 1834 in prison- this is 0.26/1000 in prison in ND; they are in the higher-middle in the nation; MN has one of the lowest numbers in prison for its population.
The Judge noted that the topic of Prison vs Probation is a mixed bag because it doesn’t solve anything to put them in prison, it just shifts the time until they will reoffend again. The goal is reduce the number of victims and most people are in prison one year or less before they are paroled.  In 2010 the statistics s showed that 35% of the prisoners were reoffend and would be back in prison within 2 years and 50% will be back in within 7 years.  Currently ND has three times the number of convicts on probation as in prison.  There is one significant difference between ND and MN; ND caps probation at three years while MN is much higher at 10-15 years.  Unfortuneately only 45% complete probation and 40% didn’t keep in contact with probation officer while 14% are revoked for various reasons unable to perform the list of rules they needed to comply with.  Those that are given probation are considered pretty good people and must prove they are by meeting the probation requirements which are very challenging in most cases.  The legal system also knows that the people that are on probation have a lot of issues that can make it difficult to fulfil their probation requirements; examples of those issues are no job, drug issues, family issues, lack of things to do, a place to live.  Moreover, In ND the case load for a probation officer is 100 cases/officer; if you are considered high risk you are seen one time a month for 30 minutes.  People who don’t show up to meet with their probation officer have a lot of fear; some of their fears are that they don’t have $55 that is required for the visit; might fail a drug test, they have trouble navigating the system, lack of transportation, or fear they will get another TO DO list and they might not have completed the current list.  Many offenders in the system are over treated and given too many tasks to complete and these become trip wires for the offenders to fail.  Sometimes maybe we should just do nothing; some studies show they are 10% less to reoffend!  However, over treating offenders makes the public feel good.  In ND 1/3 of the released go to the probation office, while the others don’t stop. However when they show up and they need help it can take up to 2 weeks to meet with their case manager and 10-12 weeks to get fully into the system. There is no warm hand off! 
The judge ended by saying, “Our different levels of government do not work together, until this happens it will continue to be difficult for the legal system to work.”