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.