"Oftentimes, parole and probation officers are the only positive role models offenders have. About a decade ago, criminologists began asking if parole and probation visits were a missed opportunity for law enforcement. What if officers developed a more supportive relationship with offenders? What if they demonstrated to clients that they weren’t just checking boxes and delivering sanctions? The working theory was that given some personal attention, offenders might be more receptive to advice about resolving conflicts and avoiding crime. Amid a flurry of academic journal articles and pilot projects, researchers from the University of Cincinnati developed EPICS, short for Effective Practices in Community Supervision, a new model for structured face-to-face meetings between officers and their clients ... Since 2006, more than 80 state and county criminal justice departments have adopted EPICS , including Multnomah County. By focusing on behavioral change, rather than just threats of being thrown back in jail, EPICS and similar efforts may help break the cycle of incarceration ... The guiding principle behind EPICS is that offenders need help learning how to approach life in a more constructive way. If they’re offered drugs, they need to know how to weigh the long-term cost of incarceration against the short-term benefit of getting high. They need to practice overriding impulsive responses to situations. More broadly, they need to understand how their default thought patterns, without a conscious effort to change, will lead to further crime and punishment" (p. 36-37). This article discusses: what EPICS entails-the four steps of check-in, review, intervention, and homework; difference between EPICS and traditional community supervision; the "black box" of EPICS' effectiveness; potential success of EPICS in Multnomah County, Oregon; the need for program fidelity; the fact that EPICS adds structure to offender-officer interactions and facilitating criminal behavior change; while some officers like EPICS, others don't; some offenders don't like it either; the future.
The Changing Relationship Between Ex-Criminals and Their Parole Officers
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