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The C-crets of Collaboration.

In the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day, Steven Hiller (Will Smith) and David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) are able to save Earth from alien attack through a multination collaboration using Morse code. Similarly, with more than 7 million offenders under criminal justice jurisdiction in the U.S., it is imperative that correctional agencies engage families, pro-social networks and community-based agencies in the delivery of evidence-based correctional services. Corrections professionals must master the language that enables them to effectively communicate these principles and practices to colleagues, neighbors and allied professionals.

Many community-and facility-based corrections professionals have serious trouble developing the skills and crafting the messages that are essential for better communication with the general public and especially with community-based agencies. These agencies have the resources to motivate and facilites the change process for thousands of offenders to adopt law-abiding, productive lifestyles. This, in turn, frees up adequate space in correctional facilities for repeat, violent offenders to be incarcerated.

Even though more than 7 million copies of Robert Fulghum's book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten are in circulation, his advice about listening and getting along with others must be too complex. Collaboration--which ought to be common sense--has gorwn into an emerging field of research in addition to a budding industry of public relations, public policy and criminal justice consultants who help agencies establish and maintain collaborative relationship. Why is it so difficult for people who generally want the same things to find one another and to launch meaningful joint efforts? How can public and private agencies, as well as municipal, county, state and federal agencies. work together more efficiently, economically and effectively? How can the U.S. best conserve its most precious natural resource--people--and maximize the number who are able to contribute to and sustain healthy, economically viable communities?

Proactive Community Supervision

During the past eight years, the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation (MDPP) has made efforts to increase internal and external collaborations in the interest of tax-payers, communities and public safety. In October 2000, MDPP published its plan for reinventing parole and probation supervision in order to achieve better outcomes for supervisees by disrupting noncompliant behavior patterns and preventing new criminal activity. This approach, called proactive community supervision, is a comprehensive evidence-based approach to community supervision with three objectives: to protect public safety; to hold supervisees accountable to victims and the community; and to help offenders become law-abiding and productive members of their communities. Because correctional systems often do not have the capacity to address all the needs of supervisees, it is important that correctional systems develop, nurture and formalize relationships with community-based resources. The effective use of community resources is essential to reducing supervisee risk, improving desired reentry outcomes and helping supervisees learn to use these resources after criminal justice jurisdiction has ended. MDPP soon learned that collaboration can be a challenging undertaking that requires much creativity and persistence. Figure 1 lists 15 essential characteristics for launching and nurturing fruitful, long-lasting collaborations.

Figure 1. The C-crets of Collaboration

* Compelling common purpose

* Connect the dots to craft a shared vision.

* Candid communication

* Civility at meetings

* Commitment to change

* Compromise and consensus are valued and respected.

* Clearly identified outcomes

* Creation of specific action plans

* Clarity of roles

* Clean up miscommunication and mistakes.

* Create offender-community ties to outlast period of supervision.

*Contribute to each partner's objectives.

* Continual learning among all participants

* Celebration of successes

* Culture of fun and productivity

MDPP actively pursued relationships with a wide range of treatment providers and community partners in federal, state and local governments; industry; social services; education; nonprofit organizations; and faith-based communities during the initial stage of implementing evidence-based principles (see Figure 2). To ensure shared goals and the use of evidence-based practices, many meetings and trainings are held and valuable materials, such as Tools of the Trade: A Guide to Incorporating Science into Practice, (1)have been distributed. These relationships were formalized via memoranda of understanding and exist for the purpose of:

Figure 2. Evidence-Based Principles for Effective Interventions

1. Assess actuarial risk/needs.

2. Enhance intrinsic motivation.

3. Target interventions.

a. Risk Principle: Prioritize supervision and treatment resources for higher-risk offenders.

b. Need Principle: Target interventions to criminogenic needs.

c. Responsivity Principle: Be responsive to temperament, learning style, motivation, culture and gender when assigning programs.

d. Dosage: Structure 40% to 70% of high-risk offenders' time for three to nine months.

4. Skill train with directed practice (use cognitive behavioral programs).

5. Increase positive reinforcement.

6. Engage ongoing support in natural communities.

7. Measure relevant processes/practices.

8. Provide measurement feedback.

Source: National Institute of Corrections and Crime and Justice Institute. 2004. Implementing evidence-based practice in community corrections: The principles of effective inter-vention. Washington, D.C. Available at

* Putting the supervisee in contact with the community and assisting the supervisee in forming relationships with non-criminal justice agencies;

* Using the existing community resources to address risk factors;

* Building on the expertise of different organizations in the community to provide a pro-social environment; and

* Focusing on specific issues that will enable the supervisee to become a productive member of the community.

Community engagement is a primary component of the Maryland model. There are myriad services and programs in the community that rely on client referrals to meet their funding requirements, and community supervision populations are a welcome infusion of activity that enable these groups to meet their program goals and objectives. It is important to note that community partners also include supervisee family members, associates and employers, who are excellent sources of information and support for supervisees.

The confirmation that proactive community supervision is promising was presented to MDPP in February 2006 by the University of Maryland and Virginia Commonwealth University. Their study found that the application of the philosophy and procedures that characterize the approach had a measurable and substantial impact on the success of supervisees, as evidenced by a greater than one-third reduction in new arrests and technical violations.(2)

Every interaction a supervisee has, whether on a personal or service level, can affect reentry success. Every contact is an opportunity to enhance motivation and an opportunity for intervention. Managers and agents in each regional office initiate and nurture community partnerships to make it easy for supervisees to access needed services. In addition, collaborations and partnerships enable agents to move supervisees along a continuum of services and sanctions, which increases community safety and impacts offender behavior.

MDPP Shares Insights

MDPP viewed community outreach and collaborations as vital to achieving its community supervision endeavors and as an effective means for educating community stakeholders about the agency's goals and objectives. Accordingly, a community partnership coordinator position was created at the central office to lead, coordinate and facilitate this process. As MDPP was transitioning to evidence-based practices, relentless efforts were made to forge collaborative relationships with community partners. The coordinator attended community meetings throughout the state. Prescriptive agreements were established with approximately 100 organizations that provide employment, employment-readiness skills, treatment and monitoring services for supervisees. This represents a major infusion of critical community-based services. Budgetary constraints are an ever-present reality for government operations, and parole and probation agencies often have minimal or no funding for supervisee intervention services. The MDPP regions shared among themselves status reports on collaborative efforts and new prospects for collaboration. As the frequency with which MDPP was invited to serve on coordinating councils and boards increased, the division's management team took steps to ensure that these representatives were fully informed and prepared to serve as ambassadors.

Interest in partnering with MDPP blossomed throughout the state but especially in Baltimore. One day, a division employee inadvertently went to the wrong church to discuss a joint outreach opportunity with a church pastor. Unaware that he was not at the right place, the employee discussed the goals and community benefits of the initiative, and the pastor agreed to work with MDPP on a joint venture involving GED and other services. Later, the employee received a call from the church where the meeting was supposed to have taken place, whereupon they, too, entered into an enthusiastic team project with MDPP. Faith-based leaders are in a unique position to influence the thinking and behavior of community members and those who are at risk of involvement in shootings, assaults and other unlawful activities.

Local law enforcement agencies and other criminal justice entities are also essential partners. MDPP has established formal partnerships with local police departments around the state to ensure that local law enforcement works with the division to monitor the activities of supervisees and to expedite the removal of supervisees from the community when appropriate. Studies show that partnerships, such as the one formed between the Baltimore Police Department and MDPP, work to the mutual benefit of law enforcement agencies, offenders and the community. A working relationship with the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office endeavors to identify and resolve community issues relating to offenders under supervision.


In Baltimore, police join probation and parole agents in making home contacts. Also, the police and MDPP share information and intelligence. Police and agents are cross-trained in the other's policies and procedures. MDPP participates in weekly COMSTAT meetings and other meetings with district commanders. Police provide agents with space in district precincts as alternative work sites. Regular meetings are held at the patrol/field and command/executive staff levels to improve and maintain a productive relationship between the agencies. Similar relationships are being developed with other criminal justice (e.g., the U.S. Attorney's Office) and law enforcement agencies.

It is important to be mindful that the community is the focal point of effective crime prevention. Consequently:

* The community needs to identify and respond to both short-and long-term needs;

* Crime prevention efforts should bring together individuals from a range of sectors to tackle crime; and

* Strategies for preventing crime should be supported by the whole community.

A comprehensive partnership with the Mayor's Office of Employment Development in Baltimore provides both supervisees and ex-offenders with a broad range of services, and MDPP has assigned a community resource coordinator

The C-crets of Collaboratio to work in one of the Office of Employment Development's one-stop shops. The services include:

* Initial assessment of skills, knowledge and abilities;

* Resume preparation and job application completion;

* Interview skills training;

* Employment-readiness training;

* Pre-GED and GED classes;

* Job search and placement assistance;

* Access to an online computerized job bank network;

* A list of community resources; and

* Tax credits for employers who hire offenders under supervision.

While the availability of state, county, municipal and nonprofit programs and services varies greatly throughout the state, other community partnerships have resulted in acquiring the services listed below:

* Work force development training;

* Job referrals;

* Counseling services for females previously involved in the commercial sex trade;

* Assistance with obtaining tax credits for hiring offenders under criminal supervision and the federal bonding program;

* Acquisition of Social Security cards for employment and identification purposes;

* Initial assessments of skills, knowledge and abilities;

* Fatherhood programming (parenting skills);

* Health screenings;

* Housing assistance;

* Family counseling;

* Screening eligibility for subsidies for utility bills;

* STD/HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, education and referral services;

* Adult literacy programs;

* Computer instruction;

* Housing for HIV-positive women and their children;

* Conflict resolution and mediation services;

* Addictions treatment services; and

* Help with budget management.

Benefits of Community-Based Partnerships

The volume of opportunities for expanded partnering with community groups has been greater than anticipated, and MDPP continues to seek partners for collaboration. Indeed, the possibilities for collaboration are limited only by an agency's imagination, creativity and persistence in seeking them out. MDPP participates in a variety of internship programs and has partnerships with the criminal justice and social science departments of colleges and universities statewide to acquire intern assistance for MDPP field offices. Interns are able to assist agents with a variety of tasks, and the interns' service qualifies as practicum credit for course completion. MDPP participates in scheduled career days and job fairs at state colleges and universities and also posts job recruitment announcements at these institutions.

Felton Earls, professor of human behavior and development at the Harvard School of Public Health, is conducting the longest and largest criminological study in history. He says that "local government should support the development of cooperative efforts in low-income neighborhoods by encouraging neighborhoods to meet and work together. Indeed, cities that sow community gardens may reap a harvest of not only kale and tomatoes, but safer neighborhoods and healthier children." He further notes that the "point of intervention is not to clean up the neighborhood, but to work on its collective efficacy. If you organize a community meeting in a local church or school, it's a chance for people to meet and solve problems". (3)


(1) Taxman, F.S., E. Shepardson and J. Byrne. 2004. Tools of the trade: A guide to incorporating science into practice. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Corrections. Available at

(2) Taxman, F.S., C. Yancey and J. Bilanin. 2006. Proactive community supervision in Maryland: Changing offender outcomes. Available at

(3) Hurley, Dan. 2004. Scientist at work: On crime as science (a neighbor at a time). New York Times. Jan. 6.

MDPP participates in a variety of internship programs and has partnerships with the criminal justice and social science departments of colleges and universities statewide to acquire intern assistance for MDPP field offices.

By Judith Sachwald and Ernest Eley Jr.

Judith Sachwald is former director of the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation. Ernest Eley Jr. is deputy director of the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation.
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Title Annotation:CT FEATURE
Author:Sachwald, Judith; Eley, Ernest
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2008
Previous Article:A critical component to successful prisoner reentry initiatives; Partnerships with local law enforcement and community agencies.
Next Article:The journey through collaboration.

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