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Probation and Parole - Supervision

For several decades, supervision agencies have been leveraging a variety of technological innovations to better manage justice-involved individuals in the community. Perhaps no tool has captured the imagination of the criminal justice professionals and the public alike as much as location tracking system (LTS) technology, first introduced in 1996. The ability to track an individual in near-real time represented a substantial improvement over the previous technology, which was limited to monitoring an individual’s presence at a fixed location, usually the home.

Since that time, the use of location tracking has achieved acceptance within the criminal justice system. Further, use of an LTS is generally supported by the public, judges, and legislators, who believe this level of monitoring provides greater accountability and control for individuals in the community. By some measures LTS usage is growing rapidly. According to a 2015 survey by the Pew Charitable Trusts, more than 88,0001 individuals were supervised using an LTS, a thirtyfold increase from the roughly 2,900 reported a decade earlier (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2015). Despite this rapid growth, those under supervision with location tracking represent little more than 1% of the nearly seven million individuals under correctional control and under 2% of the 4.6 million on probation or parole supervision. 

In this broad grouping of programs, intensive supervision probation/parole (ISP) emphasizes a higher degree of surveillance than traditional supervision in the community. The average number of face-to-face monthly contacts for studies included in our metaanalysis was 12. ISP could be delivered in lieu of incarceration, as a conditional release from incarceration in the form of parole, or as a probation sentence. Conditions of supervision vary across the studies, but some characteristics include urinalysis testing, increased face-to-face or collateral contacts, or required participation in treatment.

This report describes efforts of Kansas to implement justice reinvestment—"a data-driven approach designed to reduce corrections spending and reinvest savings in strategies that can reduce recidivism and improve public safety". Kansas's justice reinvestment policy framework "designed to strengthen community-based supervision, promote successful reentry, and target scare resources more effectively" and legislation created to support this framework are reviewed (p. 1). Sections contained in this brief include: background; key public safety provisions in HB 2170; developing policy solutions—legislation (HB2170) and its projected impact; looking ahead—addressing expected prison overcrowding; "Actual and Estimated Impact of HB 2170 on Kansas's Prison Population" graph; and "Summary of Full Projected Impact, Savings, and Recommended Reinvestment" table. HB2170 is projected to reduce prison operating costs by $56 million and construction costs by $25 million for the period of FY2014 through FY2018.

Justice Reinvestment in Kansas: Strengthening Probation Supervision and Promoting Successful Reentry cover

This paper will address the use of smartphone applications installed on a client’s personal device, or a device provided to the client, to be used in support of the community supervision process.

"Faced with a prison system at 159 percent of capacity and expected to grow to 170 percent of capacity by FY2020, state leaders in Nebraska pursued justice reinvestment. After extensive analyses identified key challenges in the state’s criminal justice system, policymakers developed a policy framework designed to reduce prison overcrowding and expand the use of probation and parole supervision. Justice reinvestment legislation was enacted in May 2015 and is projected to avert $306 million in construction and operations costs by FY2020." Sections of this brief include: overview; summary of the justice reinvestment process—challenge, findings, and solutions; summary of LB 605policies to use probation rather than incarceration for people convicted of low-level offenses, and increase penalty thresholds for property offenses, enhance felony classifications, ensure post-release supervision for most people upon release from prison, and address victims' needs, and improve parole supervision to reduce recidivism; looking ahead; sustainability policies in LB 605; and "Projected Impact of LB 605 on Nebraska's Prison Population" chart.

Nebraska’s Justice Reinvestment Approach: Reduce Prison Overcrowding and Expanding Probation and Parole Supervision cover

As of 2016, 1 in 55 U.S. adults (nearly 4.5 million people) are on probation or parole, more than twice the number incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails. Historically, probation and parole were intended to provide a less punitive, more constructive alternative to incarceration, but a growing body of evidence suggests that a frequent emphasis on surveillance and monitoring of people under supervision rather than on promoting their success, along with the resource demands of ever-larger caseloads, has transformed community supervision into a primary driver of incarceration. This shift has produced an array of troubling consequences, not only for individuals on probation and parole but for taxpayers and communities as well.

“This article is about the relationship between recidivism rates and supervision skills used by probation officers (or others who supervise offenders on community-based orders or parole). It focuses on routine day-to-day supervision rather than on intensive supervision programs or other specialized programs or interventions.” Issues discussed include: the impact of probation officer skills; and skills or practices that are consistently related to reduced recidivism—pro-social modeling and reinforcement, problem solving, the use of cognitive techniques, work-client relationship, and risk level of clients.

Reducing Recidivism Through Probation Supervision: What We Know and Don’t Know From Four Decades of Research Cover

This memorandum explains how response guidelines may assist a supervising agency in achieving better outcomes with its supervisees and sending fewer people to prison on a revocation.

 This article reconsiders probation in the era of mass incarceration, providing the first comprehensive evaluation of the role of probation in the build-up of the criminal justice system.

These two role-played scenarios can be used in training or skill coding sessions as examples of:

  • 1) A traditional probation supervision session
  • 2) A supervision session during which the probation officer uses motivational interviewing skills.


Two Probation Officer/Offender Contact Sessions (PO 1 & 2) [Motivational Interviewing] Cover
Two Probation Officer/Offender Contact Sessions (PO 1 & 2) [Motivational Interviewing] Video


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