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Sharing knowledge on effective community supervision programs.

An emphasis on community safety--the major mandate for departments providing community supervision--is forcing administrators to look for the most effective programs that will enhance supervision efforts. Conferences, workshops and seminars are held each year, and a number of them offer guidance and advice for probation departments on how to reduce re-offending and thus enhance community safety. Last November, the South Carolina Correctional Association and the South Carolina Probation and Parole Association organized the South Carolina Criminal Justice Training Conference, held in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. The theme of the conference focused on community safety. The organizers hoped that the conference would create improved partnerships and alliances and wanted to create synergism between the various criminal justice agencies and the community.

The conference defined "synergism" as the action of two or more entities to achieve an effect of which each is individually incapable. The aim was to find ways to have the various agencies share in efforts to improve community safety. To that end, the workshops were geared toward and included discussions of juvenile justice, corrections, law enforcement, probation and parole, and courts and jails as well as the relationship of these entities to the community. In this regard, the organizers did succeed in their goal.

A useful function an association performs for its members is the production and dissemination of practice knowledge. At this conference, this function was ably demonstrated in the workshop conducted by Karen Dunlop, research associate with the American Probation and Parole Association, in her presentation on the development of guidelines for "providing effective community supervision of impaired driving offenders." Dunlop informed the participants that, "In 2004, the American Probation and Parole Association entered into a cooperative agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to identify needs and problems related to the community supervision of impaired driving offenders (those accused or convicted of driving while impaired by alcohol or other drugs, including prescription drugs)." She noted that the purpose of the project was to study programs that are effective, innovative and have demonstrated an ability to reduce driving while impaired (DWI) recidivism through improved community supervision of both pre-and post-trial DWI offenders.

In the workshop, Dunlop discussed the results of the project and the proposed guidelines for effective community supervision of DWI offenders. Her project identified key supervision problems and included issues of non-compliance with court orders, caseload size, conflicting supervision goals, poorly designed programs and inadequate record keeping. She went on to describe the needs of the chronic substance abuser and noted that effective programs are those that provide the DWI offender with a structured environment, take a long-term approach, use legal sanctions appropriately, have comprehensive and thorough coordination of criminal justice partners, and ensure that both monitoring and aftercare needs are met. For her purposes, Dunlop characterized the DWI offender as being in one of three categories: the risky driver who drinks, the problem drinker who drives and the traditionally dependant alcoholic. Thus, there is a need to assess adequately the risk and need, as each of these offender types may require a different supervision and assistance approach.

The project also reviewed the characteristics of effective programs, and Dunlop reported to the participants that the following aspects were key ingredients in developing effective programs:

* The programs were based on research and sound theory;

* Offenders were assessed using risk and need assessment instruments;

* The programs were designed to target crime-producing behaviors;

* Effective treatment models were used;

* The capacity to vary treatment and meet needs based on risk, need and responsivity factors was demonstrated;

* Staff involved in the program were qualified and experienced;

* Programs were evaluated and improvements made based on the evaluations; and

* Programs demonstrated an ability to assist in changing behavior.

The guidelines that Dunlop recommended are based on the following five core principles: (1) interventions that focus on moral responsibility, (2) evidence-based practices, (3) collaboration efforts with internal and external partners, (4) cognitive-behavioral interventions as a basic platform for learning and change, and (5) relapse and recidivism prevention as the core focus in impaired driving education and treatment efforts.

She then led the workshop participants through the recommended guidelines for the community supervision of DWI offenders. The project defines seven key guidelines:

(1) Screen and assess all offenders. Agencies should develop and maintain a complementary system of screening and assessment tools related to both the criminogenic risk and needs and the alcohol and drug use history of the offender.

(2) Investigate and report findings. An investigation should be conducted and a report prepared, in a timely manner, for the court or other decision-making authority prior to placement on any form of community supervision.

(3) Provide continuum of program and treatment services. A graduated continuum of supervision and treatment services should be available within the community. Placement within appropriate programs should be relative to the risk and needs and the alcohol/drug history of the offender.

(4) Implement appropriate conditions of supervision. Standard and special conditions of supervision should be realistic, relevant and research-supported.

(5) Monitor, enforce and assist offenders. Supervision should include strategies for monitoring offender behavior that reinforce compliance and accountability by enforcing conditions of supervision and assisting offenders in changing their behavior.

(6) Coordinate supervision and treatment services. Treatment and justice professionals must work together to develop appropriate case plans that match treatment services with identified needs and that place the offender in the appropriate treatment modality.

(7) Develop, implement and monitor performance measures. Agencies should monitor outcome and process measures to assess program design efforts and their impact on offenders.

Dunlop also said the project will propose a DWI supervision model that will be included in the publication that is expected in fall 2007. It is clear that this project sees community supervision as contributing to public safety, and as Dunlop noted, the "goal of public safety is best met when supervision succeeds in assisting offenders to change their behavior." Again, this conference and this workshop as an example underscore the value of attending conferences and are an aid to staying current in our profession.

The conferences organized by correctional associations are a main source for the dissemination of practice knowledge and current research findings in our field. In this my last column in Corrections Today, I urge corrections professionals to be avid conference-goers and to participate in the workshops and committees of whatever association to which they belong. I trust that as professionals you have found a home in at least one association to which you can contribute and from which you can learn. That involvement will enhance your ability to serve effectively and lead positively.

Donald G. Evans is president of the Canadian Training Institute in Toronto.
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Title Annotation:Probation and Parole Forum
Author:Evans, Donald G.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1U5SC
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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