Jun 8, 2010

Division of Parole & Evidence Practices: "Parole Beyond All Limits"

Today I attended New York State Division of Parole’s Conference entitled “Parole Beyond All Limits: Rebuilding, Families, Communities and Individual Lives.” The conference included three panels, “Faith Based Community’s Response to Prisoner Reentry,” Strengthening the Family for Successful Family Unification,” and “Parole Beyond All Limits.”

The “Parole Beyond All Limits” panel focused on the future of parole in the state of New York and its transition towards evidence-based practices, which is a hallmark of the Transition from Prison to the Community model (TPC) that New York has adopted. With 86% of individuals leaving prison on parole, Steve Miller, Division of Parole, addressed the importance of using a model “based on research and documented findings” to assure the transformation from ex-offender to productive citizen. Among the new initiatives Mr. Miller highlighted are the following:

1) The use of the Transition from Prison model which uses a collaborative approach to maximize experience and resources
2) The introduction of COMPAS, an actuarial risk assessment tool that identifies the risk and needs of individuals being released from prison and indicates how to respond with a case management plan
3) The development of an online document that will follow an individual from incarceration through release called a Transitional Accountability Plan (TAP). This document will ensure communication between Parole and Department of Corrections, continuity of services, and reduce duplicative efforts.

Parole also introduced their new Graduated Response Decision Making Tool. This scheme, created in collaboration with the Vera Institute of Justice, helps Parole Officers determine how to respond swiftly and proportionately to behaviors that indicate a risk of reoffending. The guide recommends interventions that address the underlying cause of the behavior and are responsive to the level of risk of reoffending that the behavior signals. The graduated response tool has also formalized an incentive structure for positive behavior. Affirmation of positive behavior through the use of incentives has been shown to be crucial in promoting program compliance. ( Harrell, Cavanagh and Roman 1998)

Ms. Letricia McClearly, a Senior Parole Officer in Brooklyn outlined the scheme and commented on three of the findings of the study that she found notable.

1) The crime of conviction is not a strong predictor of the risk of reoffending. (Instead, the presence of criminogenic factors such as substance abuse, lack of employment/training, anti-social behavior, contributes to a likelihood of reoffending).
2) A long stay in a shelter greatly increases the likelihood of recidivism.
3) More contacts with individuals on parole are associated with increased technical violations.

While Ms. McCleary praised the hard work of Parole Officers (POs) she also acknowledged that Parole must look at the quality of interactions between parolees and their POs, ensure that POs are offered “education and training” to successfully implement the Division’s new approaches, and abandon the “cookie cutter approach” that leads to failure.

As the Taskforce continues working with Parole on our Pilot Case Management Program and at Harlem Community Justice Center’s Parole Reentry Court, we are excited to be piloting many of the evidence based practices described in the conference and reporting to you on our successes.