Magazine article Corrections Forum

Case Management in the Criminal Justice System - Highlights

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Case Management in the Criminal Justice System - Highlights

Article excerpt

Jurisdictions

across the country have adopted case management techniques to combat recidivism, homelessness, and joblessness. Case management is being used for arrestees, probationers, and parolees who need services such as batterer intervention, drug treatment, mental health treatment, or to provide help for mentally retarded offenders. This Research in Action examines different criminal justice case management models and critical issues regarding existing case management programs.

The case management of offenders is most likely to be supervised by probation and parole officers. Based on the social service models of the late 1960s and early 1970s, today's criminal justice case management models link inmates returning to the community with drug treatment programs, mental health services, and social service agencies prior to their release.

The fundamental activities of criminal justice case management include engaging the client in the treatment process, assessing the client's needs, developing a service plan, linking the client with appropriate services, monitoring client progress, intervening with sanctions when necessary, and advocating for the client as needed. Case management within a criminal justice context requires the case manager to take on additional tasks beyond those assumed by traditional social service case workers.

In the original social work setting, the case manager served exclusively as a broker of services but did not become involved in counseling the client. In the criminal justice setting, case managers broker services but also are likely to provide informal guidance to their clients. Case managers interviewed for this report consider informal counseling to be a vital component in their relationship with their clients. A number of correctional case management programs consciously blur the broker and treatment roles and emphasize the need for cross-training between case managers and mental health providers, substance abuse counselors, domestic violence program counselors, and other social service providers.

Practitioners consider effective offender monitoring and the use of graduated sanctions for offenders who fail to comply with service plans to be the keys to successful case management. Because two or more case managers may be employed to supervise an inmate's probation and progress through treatment, practitioners interviewed for this report said it is critical that philosophical differences are ironed out prior to the intervention. Expectations between, say, probation officials and drug treatment or mental health counselors must be fully aligned to ensure uninterrupted and successful treatment for the client.

The case management of offenders raises a number of challenges, including how to provide continuous service to inmates returning to the community, how to best use sanctions to maximize service participation while avoiding unnecessary incarceration, and how to measure program effectiveness. Uniquely in criminal justice case management, case managers must develop employment resources for offenders reentering the community; prepare offenders to find, qualify for, and retain employment; and help resolve difficult family problems.

While support for case management as a tool for use with criminal justice populations is strong among experts, administrators, program directors, and case managers themselves, several interviewed for this report said that poorly designed programs and overburdened case managers can severely undermine such a program's performance. Case management programs require clear lines of communication and cooperation between probation/parole and treatment staff. Failure to develop this rapport can result in increased paperwork, lack of managerial control of cases, and poor supervision of client progress through treatment and courtordered sanctions.

CASE MANAGEMENT MODELS

Most current literature on mental health or social work case management has distilled the fundamental functions of the case manager into five sequential activities: (1) assessing the client's needs; (2) developing a service plan; (3) linking the client to appropriate services; (4) monitoring client progress; and (5) advocating for the client as needed. …

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