Oct 6, 2011

Are Parole Supervision agencies using practices grounded in evidence?

The Urban Institute recently released the results of their findings from a 2008 Parole Practices Survey that explores the use of evidenced based practices in the supervision of individuals on parole. According to the recent publication, Surveying the Field,  the survey results produced four key findings: 1)Widespread use of evidence-based practices (ebps)and many components of effective paroles supervision were reported; 2)Uncertaintly was common in the parole field regarding the definition of "evidenced-based practices"; 3)Many parole field offices do not know whether parolee recidivism is being tracked (suggesting that recidivism is not a key outcome for assessing field office performance in many states); and 4) Approaches to enhance parolee's motivation and engage the parolee's supports are not common in many states.

Although the results are mixed and various barriers exist to the implementation of evidenced based practices,  the developing focus on EPBs which target offender needs and risk, enhance intrinsic motivation, and engage pro-social supports in the client's community, is a new and exciting development that has the potential to transform the way parole is done (and, most importantly, to  reduce technical violations and recidivism). In New York State, for instance, DOCCS Community Supervision Staff (formerly known as Parole) is in the process of training staff on the COMPAS Assessment which assesses the needs and risk (both dynamic and static) of an individual being released from prison with the goal of providing enhanced supervision to those who are "high" risk, and less risk to those who are at the lower end of the risk spectrum.  The COMPAS Assessment also gives parole and reentry providers information on which of the needs and risk of the individual are greatest, and therefore should be focused upon. For more information on incorporating evidenced based reentry practices into community supervision and reentry programs, take a look at the publication, Implementing Evidence-Based Practices published by the Center for Effective Public Policy.