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Understand: What is shock probation?

UTSA criminal justice professor explains shock probation and what it serves to accomplish

SAN ANTONIO – Shock probation is a sentence that a judge can give a defendant in which they serve a certain amount of prison time and are then released under specific probation conditions.

This punishment can be approved for low-level, nonviolent offenders or first-time offenders, but it’s ultimately up to the judge to decide, said Richard Hartley, a criminal justice professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“It sends convicted offenders to prison for a short period of time, say 30 days, 60 days or 90 days. And then, based on their behavior in prison, the judge could bring them back and resentence them to probation,” Hartley said.

The idea behind shock probation is to expose people who are convicted of the realities of life behind bars, according to Hartley.

“Hopefully, it would reduce recidivism so that they would complete the probation. They won’t commit another crime again,” Hartley said.

Shock probation was recently used in a local case involving a hit-and-run driver.

In 2017, Marisa Ross struck Pfc. Matthew Belknap while he was riding his bike to work.

Ross drove away from the scene.

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In August 2019, Ross was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Last week, she was resentenced to shock probation after serving six months.

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The judge in Ross’ case said she met with the Belknaps and they worked on the probation conditions together.

Ross will be required to complete drug court and pay monthly restitution. She will also go to jail for the weekend on every anniversary of the crash and is required to spend time with the victim and his family.

Katie Belknap, the victim’s wife, praised the judge for resentencing Ross.

“I pray the relationship we will inevitably have will truly impact her in a much harder way than prison will,” Katie Belknap wrote in an email to KSAT.

Texas is not the only state that uses some form of shock probation.

“They’re realizing that traditional periods of incarceration have not done anything,” Hartley said.


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