Academic journal article Federal Probation

Performance Measures in Community Corrections: Measuring Effective Supervision Practices with Existing Agency Data

Academic journal article Federal Probation

Performance Measures in Community Corrections: Measuring Effective Supervision Practices with Existing Agency Data

Article excerpt

IN RECENT YEARS, community supervision in the United States has been changing dramatically, as corrections populations have mounted and philosophies have shifted accordingly to accommodate more evidence-based supervision. There are currently 6.8 million adults under some form of correctional supervision in the United States (Kaeble, Glaze, Tsoutic, & Minton, 2016). During the 1970s "tough on crime" movement, probation supervision practices emphasized surveillance, authority, and control. These law enforcement-oriented practices prevailed for three decades, despite mounting evidence against their effectiveness at reducing recidivism (Bonta, Rugge, Scott, Bourgon, & Yessine, 2008; Drake, 2011; Nagin, Cullen, & Jonson, 2009; Taxman, 2002, 2009). Today, growing attention to the ineffectiveness of punishment-oriented responses to criminal behavior and the associated financial strain (Bonta et al., 2008; Nagin et al., 2009; Taxman, 2002) has led to a renewed emphasis on rehabilitation ideals. But these ideals are cloaked in efforts to advance the use of science to identify effective practices. As a result, researchers and practitioners increasingly emphasize core correctional practices using proactive and behavioral management approaches in community supervision.

A core set of community supervision practices has been defined as effective in reducing recidivism. Referred to as evidence-based practices (EBPs), these core practices are:

* standardized, validated assessment instruments to assess risk and identify service needs;

* matching of offenders to treatment and referrals made according to identified risk and needs;

* provision of more treatment and referrals to offenders who pose the highest risk for reoffending;

* use of a human service environment; and

* use of cognitive behavioral and social learning approaches to work with clients. While the use of proactive and behavioral management approaches to supervision has gained currency in recent years, embedding EBPs within routine community supervision practices has presented significant challenges for researchers and practitioners alike.

A major drawback to the advancement of practice is that there are few reliable measures to describe these practices. We propose a series of measures of supervision that may be gleaned from administrative databases. In this article, we review the administrative data from four community supervision agencies to explore the measures and highlight their utility. We then discuss the implications of using these performance measures.

Evidence-Based Practices in Community Corrections

Growing evidence on the ineffectiveness of control-oriented supervision practices has led to an emphasis on EBPs-that is, practices that are empirically tied to recidivism reduction (Petersilia & Turner, 1993; Taxman, 2002; Taxman, 2008). In general, EBPs refer to the combined use of rigorous research and best available data to guide policy and practice decisions that improve outcomes for individuals under supervision (Bourgon, 2013). When applied to supervision specifically, EBPs refer to a core set of correctional practices found to be associated with effective intervention and reductions in recidivism (Dowden & Andrews, 2004). In one of the few metaanalytic studies on the topic, Chadwick and colleagues (2015) found that offenders supervised by trained officers in these skills had a 13 percent reduction in recidivism. This is promising given that in the most recent major national-level study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 43 percent of prisoners were rearrested within one year of release to the community (see Durose, Cooper, & Snyder, 2014), and 40 percent of probationers are unsuccessful on supervision (Taxman, 2012). While adherence to evidence-based supervision strategies results in positive outcomes among individuals involved in the criminal justice system, we know little about the supervision process and its effectiveness due to a lack of research evidence (Bonta, Bourgon, Rugge, Scott, Yessine, & Gutierrez, 2011; Taxman, 2002; Taxman, 2008). …

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