There is ample evidence in criminal justice research to support the notion that supervision strategies should be based on those programs and services that have proven the ability to influence positive change in those under supervision including successful completion of supervision and reduction in recidivism. While little research has been done specifically related to Automated Telephone Reporting (ATR) there is relevant research that provides a solid foundation for using automated supervision management tools for low risk persons. Fieldware commissioned a paper to explore and present this research and how it supports programs such as ATR.
Deloitte recently published a report on “Government Jobs of the Future”. It takes a look at what will government work look like in 2025 and beyond. We felt it relevant to post as they reference “job profiles of the future” within the report. Here is an excerpt of the one that caught our attention.
Criminal redirection officer would assist low-risk, nonviolent offenders in “virtual incarceration,” skill-building and employment, monitored by digital tools. This person would have earned a bachelor’s in social work and started their career as a correctional case manager after interning at a county probation department.
We recently ran across this article by Art Bowker on the Corrections.com website and thought it relevant to post based on some recent conversations with our customers. Here is an excerpt.
Probation and parole officers know about drug users and what to look for right? We test for drugs, we look for unexplained cash, and obviously for drugs. Well, recently, it was announced that the FBI had arrested the alleged leader of Silk Road, a website on Tor, involved in the illicit drug trade. I am not talking about the sale of “fake pot” (“Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn”) which I mentioned way back in 2011. I am talking about an open market for real marijuana, heroin, cocaine, literally any drug you can name it.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled last week that it was not cruel and unusual punishment to put a person who is on probation in jail after one positive test for drugs. Experts have been watching the case closely, as thousands of people who struggle with substance use disorder find themselves caught up in the nation’s judicial system amid the country’s opioid epidemic.
View the complete article here.
Pre-trial release/supervision has been a part of the broader community supervision world since the early 1920’s and initially focused on practices that ensured a person’s future appearance. However, beginning in the 1960 the focus shifted somewhat to a public safety perspective. This did not negate the practice of money in exchange for release.
Ironically in 1964 Robert F. Kennedy, in testimony before a congressional subcommittee said that in terms of pretrial issues “That problem, simply stated is: the rich man and the poor man do not receive equal justice in our courts. And in no area is this more evident than in the matter of bail. Bail has only one purpose – to insure that a person who is accused of a crime will appear in court for his trial.” Mr. Kennedy went on to say “Every year in this country, thousands of persons are kept in jail for weeks and even months following arrest.
They are not yet proven guilty. They may be no more likely to flee than you or I. But, nonetheless, most of them must stay in jail because, to be blunt, they cannot afford to pay for their freedom.”
Despite this quote from 1964, pre-trial programs did not see real change until the 1990’s when agencies began applying other criteria (beyond money) to determine a person’s likelihood of future appearances. Risk assessments and criminal history investigation became tools agencies can use to make release decisions.
It has not been lost on the criminal justice community that there are high risk individuals who have access to money. That said, it is important to understand the unique position that pretrial holds within the larger system. Other forms of community supervision are focused on risk reduction, accountability and reparation.
In the pretrial world the focus is appearance and potential future criminal conduct. This difference in mission and culture play a significant role in how agencies see and conduct their work. Its impact should not be understated.
Recently the Justice Clearinghouse held a webinar entitled “Decision Day: Options for Pre-trial Management”. In addition to some of the information included above the speakers also emphasized two key points.
First is that defining outcomes and having the data to report on them is crucial to the success of any pre-trial program.
Secondly it is important to apply the supervision risk principles that other criminal justice programs employ. Supervision must be risk based and the issue of over-supervision must not be ignored.
As often happens with changes in the criminal justice system the need for best practices and standards arises quickly. Fortunately, the National Institute of Corrections has provided guidance via a number of resource guides. Likewise, the National Association of Pre-trial Agencies provides a variety of resources for agencies looking to implement or improve a pretrial program.
Over the last several years the issue of the chronic drinking and driving offender has received increasing scrutiny from the criminal justice system and the community at large. Many states have passed new legislation increasing penalties for this population. Nevertheless, a considerable number of DUI offenders, both chronic and first timers, end up under community supervision. At that point, the issue of treatment interventions becomes a critical decision point.
Historically this offender population is referred for traditional outpatient treatment services. These programs vary in length, intensity and focus. However, questions have been raised about the impact these programs have on recidivism rates. More recently, a study conducted by Thomas and Elizabeth Quinn (The Effect of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy on Driving While Intoxicated Recidivism. Journal of Drug Issues 2015) showed a significant difference in recidivism rates between offenders completing a traditional 12 step based outpatient program and those completing a 16-week CBT program. The rates of recidivism at the 3 year post treatment mark showed a 50% different between the two groups. The CBT group having a recidivism rate of 11% verses a rate of 24% for the standard group. The researchers also noted a reduction in risk score using the LSI-R and a higher degree of treatment satisfaction.
This research points out the importance of matching proven treatment interventions that target recidivism and risk reduction. Intervention and contact by supervising officers should also be considered based on the risk level of the offender. DUI offenders often have a limited criminal history which can place them in lower risk categories. Provided effective treatment matching practices are followed, the contacts by supervising officers can be reduced. In these circumstances using OffenderLink ATR (Automated Telephone Reporting) program can assist officers in efficiently managing this population. We have seen several of our agency clients have success with this approach.
Colorado is Clearing the Clutter from the Noise Kristen Hilkey (Colorado Probation Supervisor) and Ken Tomlinson (Colorado Probation Analyst) presented “Clearing the Clutter from the Noise” at the recent National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) conference in Indianapolis.
Kristen and Ken led the conference participants in a one and a half hour discussion on Colorado’s experiences in choosing and implementing a new automated reporting system for low‐risk offenders. The Colorado Judicial Department administers adult and juvenile probation within Colorado’s 22 judicial districts. This includes 23 probation departments with over 50 separate probation offices throughout the state. The Colorado Judicial Department currently supervises over 80,000 offenders in the community. Ken is an analyst on probation’s Research and Evaluation team.
This team recommends systems and policies for the 22 judicial districts to help the districts operate as efficiently as possible with state‐wide consistency. In October 2009, Fieldware started an automated telephone reporting pilot program in Colorado with five selected judicial districts. At the same time, another vendor was selected to operate a pilot with a different set of districts. The districts were selected so that the pilots could be evaluated in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
The Research and Evaluation team monitored both pilots and developed an RFP based upon the key learnings from each district’s experiences. Fieldware was selected as the winning proposal in October 2010 and the OffenderLink system has already been expanded to include 11 of the judicial districts with more in the planning stages. Ken discussed the pilot process and how the team was able to determine the requirements for a low‐risk, automated offender reporting system.
It was important to the department to have a flexible system that met the needs of each judicial district and helped to reduce the resources needed for low‐risk cases in order to allocate more resources to the higher risk offenders. The team considered kiosk, web, and other reporting methods but determined that an automated telephone reporting solution was the best choice to meet their requirements and provide the optimal level of client engagement. Colorado’s target is for a single officer to be able to monitor 350‐400 low‐risk offenders. Ken specifically referred to OffenderLink’s ability for the officer to “work in bulk” as a key factor in the officer’s ability to manage such a large caseload. “The ability to manage a large number of probationers via telephone reporting is a crucial piece in our overall management strategy.
We believe it imperative that we focus our efforts on high risk offenders. Being able to have a single officer oversee a caseload that traditionally would require two or more officers allows us to allocate more staff to higher risk caseloads.” Ken Tomlinson, Colorado Judicial Department, Research and Evaluation, Probation Analyst Kristen explained the lessons learned in the pilot from a local perspective. She found that it was very important to consolidate the cases to as few officers as possible to specialize in managing low‐risk offenders in the automated telephone reporting system. This allowed a few officers to be local “experts” in OffenderLink and policies regarding low‐risk offenders. “Government agencies are continually being asked to do more with less.
With that, utilizing technology just makes sense. Having the ability to effectively utilize our resources by increasing our focus on high‐risk offenders while at the same time maintaining accountability of low‐risk offenders is not only smart, it supports our goal of implementing evidence‐based practices.” Kristen Hilkey, Colorado Judicial Department, District 21, Probation Supervisor Kristen told the participants that her judicial district has experienced excellent offender compliance and has even been able to reach 100% compliance in May 2011 using OffenderLink.
Overall there have been no revocations based on program violations for offenders on telephone reporting. Ken stated that the participating districts have clearly seen improvements and in some instances have acquired as much as 45 minutes per offender per month in resources that can now be applied to higher risk caseloads. So a judicial district with 350 offenders on telephone reporting gets additional full‐time officers who are available to shift to higher‐risk caseloads.
Anyone who has worked in the criminal justice field for any length of time has undoubtedly heard the phrase evidence based practices. But what does that really mean and how is it applied in the day to day management of those under community supervision. According to the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) “The terms best practices, what works, and evidence-based practices (EBP) are often used interchangeably.”
However, what separates evidence based practices from the others is that it “implies that 1) one outcome is desired over others; 2) it is measurable; and 3) it is defined according to practical realities (i.e. public safety) rather than immeasurable moral or value-oriented standards. Thus…EBP is more appropriate for scientific exploration within the human service disciplines.” This means the activities we engage in with our populations must have some scientific foundation in producing a desired result.
Most of us would agree that the primary goal of community supervision is to reduce future criminal behavior. Persons under our various supervision programs are there for a variety of reasons and come from a myriad of different backgrounds. If, as stated above, our goal is to prevent recidivism we must apply some process to ascertain the likelihood of future criminal actions. This then is the foundation for implementing evidence based practices. As the NIC notes in their brief Implementing Evidence-Based Practices in Community Corrections:
The Principles of Effective Intervention, “complete system of on-going offender risk screening/triage and needs assessments” is crucial. Our clients “must be assessed for risk before they are assessed for need.” It is through this process that agencies can determine which group to focus resources on and “avoid the pitfalls of expending large amount of resources on low risk offenders.” Since EBP programs are based on scientific study that can be replicated, it stands to reason there are valid studies which support the above statements.
One such study of low risk offenders by Ahlman, Kurtz and Malvestuto in Philadelphia in 2010 compared re-arrest rates of 1,559 low risk probationers and/or parolees (defined as having a low risk of committing a new crime) placed in a traditional reporting program verses those placed in a low intensity caseload. This was a randomized study meaning persons meeting the criteria of low risk were randomly assigned by a computer algorithm to either group (to eliminate possible evaluator bias). The standard reporting caseloads has a ratio of 150 cases per officer while the low intensity caseloads had a ratio of 400 cases per officer. The standard reporting caseloads had office appointments each month as well as mandatory drug testing. The low intensity caseloads had office contacts once every 6 months and drug testing only if ordered by the court.
The study measured two primary outcomes; absconder warrants and new arrests. The results of the study showed there were no statistical differences in the re-arrest rates between the two groups. For those who were arrested the time to arrest was also not different. One curious finding however was that the standard reporting group had a 50% absconder rate than the low intensity group. One of the most significant results of the study not related to arrest was the resource savings. According to the study authors “reduced supervision of low risk offenders poses no significant threat to public safety.” The results of this study support the policy of assessment based supervision and that reducing resources for low risk clients does not have an impact on recidivism. Although not a scientific study, Fieldware clients using our Automated Telephone Reporting (ATR) program anecdotally report similar experiences with their low risk populations. Ultimately, the more we rely on the science community to assist us in identifying good supervision strategies the more success we will have in our communities.
Contact Fieldware, LLC
P: 312.258.1000 x322