Posts Tagged ‘evidence-based practices’

Continue community improvements with 2nd Chance Reauthorization

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Update: In connection with the Second Chance Act, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance released a competitive grant announcement. The grant is for Smart Supervision Programs. Click here for the document.

Original post:

By reauthorizing the Second Chance Act (HB 3465 and S 1690), Congress can assure countless organizations throughout the country will continue to have the support needed to make profound and positive changes in their communities. The legislation currently under consideration would extend, for another five years, the support of various programs that reduce recidivism.

The Second Chance Act, originally signed into law in April 2008, enhances and improves communities by providing financial backing to agencies that support individuals returning from jails, prisons and juvenile facilities. This assistance takes many forms, such as mentoring and substance abuse and/or family counseling. During FY (fiscal year) 2013, the Second Chance Act invested more than $100 million in 62 projects across the U.S.

Below are few of the projects made possible by the Second Chance Act. These programs demonstrate the need and success that is achievable through this legislation. The funding available through the legislation allows agencies to creatively improve their communities through adaptation, flexibility and customization of projects to meet local community situations. There is also a need for additional funding, but that fight can live for another day.

Since its original passage, this bill and its funding has helped improve numerous communities throughout the nation. A five-year extension of this important act should be a priority of Congress. I urge you to get involved and contact your Representative and/or Senator today to urge action on this bill.

West Shorline 2nd Chance Connections (Ottawa County, Michigan)
This successful program includes a 13-week transitional employment initiative to prepare individuals for employment after incarceration.  Participants start with a temporary subsidized position.  They also receive special training in communication and problem solving to improve their chances of long-term employment success.

Co-occurring Program at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Lino Lakes (Minnesota)
This program focuses on two key issues among incarcerated individuals: substance abuse and mental illness.  Participants benefit from integrated treatment as they return to communities throughout the state.  Studies determined more than 10 percent of those in prison suffer from substance abuse and mental illness. In light of this statistic, this initiative’s components, which include mental health and substance abuse treatment along with pro-social skills development and employment and job readiness services, is essential.

Project Reconnect (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Women with children face special challenges when returning home from incarceration. The Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma serves the women of their community in this challenging transition. This project makes it possible for mothers to visit their children while still in prison. In addition, the work of the Girl Scouts provides parent classes for women as they near their release and supplementary education classes for the children.

Family Support for Treatment and Reentry Success Center for Family Success (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Treatment and family service providers in Oregon work with incarcerated individuals and their families to assure a smooth the return home from prison.  One impressive feature of the initiative provides services to help incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families repair relationships and reconnect with each other.

Major Changes in Federal Sentencing Policies

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech to the American Bar Association last week called for “sweeping, systematic changes” to the U.S. justice system, which are long overdue and very much welcomed. He outlined his new Smart On Crime plan for the Justice Department.

In speaking of his reforms, Holder said, “We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.” In addition to the new Justice Department policies, Holder also pointed to bi-partisan supported legislation that would save the nation billions of dollars by taking a more strategic approach to incarceration. For example, $80 billion was spent on incarceration in the U.S. in 2010 and the U.S. continues to incarcerate the largest percentage of its population than any other country.

Holder also described the Justice Department’s proactive partnering with the U.S. Department of Education to address a “school-to-pipeline” system and zero-tolerance discipline policies. He said these policies should land a student at a police station facing charges for a minor offense.

The Smart on Crime plan also includes expanding the use of alternatives to incarceration, which I agree and support. As Holder explained, incarceration can be an effective tool with strategic use when coupled with other components to cultivate a successful justice system and a safe community.

Alternatives to incarceration have proven to be effective by numerous studies and implementations by state and local governments. While Holder’s plan does not necessarily include electronic monitoring in every jurisdiction just beginning the dialogue on a national level is a huge start in the change process. Hopefully, this start will trickle down to more jurisdictions and allow further alternatives and sentencing reform to take hold.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I’ve addressed this topic before and shared the actions taken by individual states to improve their justice system by various means. So, it’s encouraging to see this emphasis on Justice Reinvestment is now taking hold at the federal level.

With your plan in place, train your team to carry it out

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

In my previous post, I talked about the importance for a GPS monitoring program to have effective policies and procedures in place before implementing the program. I discussed the need to use best practices, customize each program for a specific situation and keep the system as user friendly as possible.

Once these policies and procedures are established, it’s equally important to invest the necessary resources into training the supervising agents using the GPS monitoring system on a daily basis. Even the best GPS system is a tool and supervising agents using it need to know exactly how it works to consistently achieve an agency’s goals, including offender accountability and public safety.

With this mind, here are four keys to an effective training program:

Scheduling: Don’t scrimp on the amount of time needed for sufficient training – even if training does not involve new technology. We’ve experienced situations where the program managers want all of the training to take place in a much-condensed timeframe. This means the trainees receive a high level training at best and can’t really delve into deeper applications of the GPS monitoring system and how it can help your team in its daily work. It also means the team likely won’t have time to discuss the rationale behind various policies and procedures.

Curriculum: While every vendor has a basic curriculum to teach supervising agents about its GPS monitoring system, it needs customization to reflect the policies and procedures of the agency to increase its effectiveness. Some agencies change policies and procedures in many small ways, especially when changing vendors for its GPS monitoring program. By combining training on the new system with changes in policies and procedures, your team can visualize how all the parts should work together.

Follow up training: Sometimes follow up training is needed if your team experiences difficulty with certain aspects of a new GPS monitoring system and/or policies and procedures. Follow up training can help smooth out these bumps. To recognize bumps, you and your vendor must work closely together during the first several weeks after initial training. Staying alert for trouble areas can be tracked through inquiries to the vendor’s technical support center and the types and number of event notifications supervising agents receive in their daily summary report.

Open learning environment: Encourage your team to keep asking questions when they arise during training sessions and afterwards. Cultivate an environment where colleagues look out for ways to help each other find solutions and feel they can access the vendor’s technical support center for additional help or explanation.

Effective training is a foundational element to the success of any program, whether it’s a GPS monitoring program, sales and marketing, accounts payable/receivable, etc. And effective training is a responsibility of both the vendor and you, the agency’s program manager. Working together to develop a curriculum reflecting the expectations of the agency’s leadership cannot happen without input from both parties. Working together, solid policies and procedures and a good training programs are key elements to a community supervision program that fulfills its goals and mission.

Establishing solid policy and procedures: first step to an effective monitoring program

Friday, June 28th, 2013

While public perception may be correctional agencies can provide needed offender supervision simply by putting GPS or RF monitoring devices on these individuals, but the reality is much more complex. Even the best devices are simply tools. Agencies use these tools in a strategic manner to help carry out its mission and achieve its goals, which include offender accountability and public safety.

In the next couple of posts, I’ll discuss two of the most important ingredients to help an agency to operate an efficient EM monitoring program: policy and procedures and training.

Like any other tool, a GPS or RF monitoring system must be used within the framework of well-designed policies and procedures to guide the daily use of it. Critical questions, such as how supervising agents are to respond to each type of event, needs to be addressed in detail long before the system is activated. As each agency is unique, each agency’s protocols will reflect its mission and goals, however, some general guidelines should be kept in mind.

Use best practices: No need to reinvent the wheel. Data exists to provide guidance on what types of procedures work most effectively. This data can be used to establish solid starting points for creating protocols. Agencies can share effective practices with each other and discuss how they worked through various events. APPA, NIJ, ICCA and ACA are good resources to consider. And if agencies are looking at best practices, evidence-based practices should be introduced wherever possible so data can guide the program as well.

One size doesn’t fit all: Each agency knows its own jurisdiction, population(s), mission and goals best. After using available data, reports and evidence-based practices to develop and/or updating basic policies and procedures, they need some level of customization to meet the agency’s needs. Gathering input and feedback from a broad collection of stakeholders is beneficial.

Keep it effective, but not cumbersome: An effective policy that is not burdensome to those who must follow it is a difficult but achievable goal. Agencies need to implement effective policies and procedures that include the use of and access to appropriate tools, such as RF or GPS monitoring devices, without being onerous to the agents carrying out the policies.

Once solid policies and detailed procedures are in place, training is the next step, which I’ll discuss in my next post.

Justice Reinvestment improve recidivism and reduce corrections costs

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

The ever-increasing prison costs and decreasing revenues have been forcing many states to consider more effective ways to manage corrections for several years. It’s a challenging task to balance budget concerns with public safety priorities. However, a recent report from the Justice Center highlights the effective attempts at Justice Reinvestment undertaken by several states.

The examples of justice reinvestment included in the report encompass numerous aspects of the states’ justice systems. While these examples don’t necessarily include GPS monitoring, it’s encouraging to see states make the corrections process more efficient.

The study highlights six factors of an effective judicial reinvestment initiative.

  1. Comprehensive Data Analysis: In one cited example, Kansas examined more than 1 million pieces of data in its attempt to improve its system.
  2. Get Many Constituencies Involved: Kentucky included numerous county officials in its decision making process because state-level decisions would greatly affect county level workers.
  3. Focus on Those Most Likely to Re-offend: With limited resources, states like Ohio and North Carolina chose to focus on those individuals who were the highest risk to re-offend and return to prison.
  4. Reinvest in High Performing Programs: Relying on improved research techniques, states have been able to focus time and funds on programs found to be the most effective.
  5. Strengthen Community Supervision: Often justice reinvestment leads to more individuals on parole and probation, which means the ability to effectively supervise individuals in the community needs to increase proportionately as well.
  6. Incentivize Performance: Some states are taking the approach to reward local entities who reduced prison costs and populations with the dollar savings the local entities achieved.

As justice reinvestment continues across the country, I’m confident the GPS monitoring services offered by STOP will merit consideration as part of the overall solutions states take to improve their corrections systems.

Finally, a new outcomes study released

Friday, July 13th, 2012

It’s been years since a significant study of the efficacy of GPS on reducing recidivism and increasing compliance was completed and released. The original large-scale study was released in the mid-2000’s and nothing had been completed until recently. On March 31, 2012, Development Services Group, Inc. released a 100-page report on “Monitoring High-Risk Sex Offenders with GPS Technology: An Evaluation of the California Supervision Program.” This report was prepared through a grant from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

Although I found it an interesting read, to cut to the chase, the study showed, although slightly more expensive than traditional supervision, GPS monitoring improved program compliance and reduced recidivism when compared to the control group.

Important points of the report include the size of the study and the approach the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) takes to supervise parolees in the community. The Department provides an intensive supervision model few agencies employ, with lower case loads, available treatment programs and progressive sanctions.

I suggest you take some time to read this report and see how STOP can help you put together a program as successful as CDCR’s. The study can be found at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/238481.pdf.

Handling inquiries from news reporters and others

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Today’s post is penned by a guest blogger, Dennis Doffing, National Sales Manager for Service Providers, at Satellite Tracking of People. He has posted on using VeriTracks for evidence-based practices in the past. I appreciate his willingness to share his knowledge with the readers.

I’m happy to get another opportunity to be a “Guest Utterer” on Greg’s Blog. Remember the old joke you know it will be a bad day when you arrive at work and a 60 Minutes crew is waiting in the lobby? Well, running an EM program means at some point you or your agency will come to the attention of news reporters, local and otherwise. Preparation by having some guidelines in place NOW will be a great help when reporters call about an incident.

Check what your agency may already have in place to handle requests from news reporters. Most agencies have a designated media relations department or public information professional. Take time to get to know these people or the individual professional and help them understand the mission of the program and the tools used to help keep enrollees accountable and change their behavior. Also explain how the program and its available tools help maintain a high level of public safety. Give them a list of contact people, including phone numbers and email addresses for inquiries received after hours or on weekends/holidays. Make sure you update the list of contact people when needed, such as changes in responsibilities, new hires or new phone/email information.

The media relations department or public information professional can likely provide training to you and/or your staff for talking to reporters. Prior to talking to a reporter, know what information can be released and adhere to the privacy laws in your jurisdiction. Privacy laws differ by state but most have information classified as public, private and confidential. For example, names of enrollees may be public due to open court information (not so with most juvenile cases), but addresses, schedules and victim information is likely classified as private or confidential.

Other ideas and considerations include:

  • Have a media packet available for reporters, which provides good background information. This usually consists of general program information, sample forms, equipment brochure, program statistics, general profile of the type of individual enrolled in the program, reports documenting evidence-based practices, industry standards and the like. If your agency publishes an annual report, include it in the information packet.
  • Gather relevant information, reports and data on a situation as soon as possible. Also, discuss with staff members and others the need to route all media requests to the agency’s media relations department or public information professional. Reporters already know to start there, but they also want the opportunity for exclusive information and/or interviews, so they may contact you or others in your agency directly.
  • Provide a timely response to a reporter’s request. Even though all reporters work on strict deadlines, it’s okay to take time to research an answer to a question. But don’t avoid reporters and their questions. Doing so can only make you and/or agency look bad to the reading/viewing public or cause the reporter to escalate his/her request to the agency’s administration or a legal subpoena.
  • Generate a simple media response policy if your agency doesn’t already have one. It can be as straightforward as the agency doesn’t comment on personnel issues or doesn’t comment on pending violation investigations. Whatever the policy, make sure your staff knows it and strictly adheres to it.
  • When speaking to reporters, be aware of sound bites. You may answer a question with a long narrative response, but what airs in the TV report or is published in the newspaper or a web site is a very small portion of that answer. It’s the portion of your response the reporter deems to be the most relevant or news worthy to the overall story. Work the theme into your response whenever possible. This takes practice and the media relations department or public information professional can help you develop sound-bite friendly responses through training.
  • Get to know local reporters when not in the midst of a situation. Media outlets remain hungry for news and information, especially since many of them are looking to fill 24 hours of programming every day. Work with the media relations department or public information professional to proactively pitch stories to the reporter(s) covering criminal justice issues in your jurisdiction. It could be a possible story on the positive impact your program is having on enrollees, their family and the community; key points from a report highlighting positive statistics or dollar savings to taxpayers.

This is only a brief overview on some ideas related to reporter interactions. It’s important to know who in your agency is the go-to person for inquiries from news reporters and how to respond to questions from reporters. Preparation is key and will serve you well during times of stress.

Help support S.306, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2011

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Earlier this legislative session, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia re-introduced the National Criminal Justice Commission Act (NCJCA). It’s an important first step for addressing the problems with the criminal justice system. This commission will be tasked with the monumental effort of recommending concrete recommendations to reduce the number of individuals in our prisons and look for alternatives to protect the public, while offering rehabilitative and restitution opportunities.

According to the BJS (Bureau of Justice Statistics), more than 2.3 million men and women are in prisons throughout the U.S. Although our incarceration rate is the highest in the world, more than half of all people released from U.S. prisons re-enter the system within three years.

The NCJCA is currently supported by 20 Senators and has widespread bipartisan support. The NCJCA was passed by the House of Representatives during the previous legislative session, the 111th Congress, but was not brought to the Senate Floor.

It’s time to make a huge effort to pass the NCJCA in 2011. The experts and stakeholders that will be on the Commission can provide an important road map for the future of our criminal justice system. Please contact the U.S. Capital Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senator/Representative. You can also search online to find out who represents you in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and contact them. Express your support for S. 306 and make the 112th Congress the year NCJCA is enacted.

Evidence Based Practice and VeriTracks Tools to support your success!

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Dennis Doffing, STOP’s national sales manager for service providers, writes the following post on Evidence-Based Practices. Thanks, Dennis, for sharing your knowledge with our readers.

At our 2010 Training Institutes we offered a session on EBP as it pertains to GPS monitoring. Because the use of GPS in community supervision settings has grown swiftly, we sometimes don’t think about how to fully utilize the available tools to generate the needed data for EBP documentation.. You can use our products for more than tracking to/from home and work. VeriTracks has a number of options for use in an EBP environment. Examples include using:

  • Silent Inclusion Zones to monitor attendance and duration at key counseling and rehabilitation meetings. Listing AA meeting locations, outpatient treatment address, etc. as zones gives you an easy way to see if enrollees went and how long they stayed.
  • Silent Exclusion Zones to map out undesirable places, such as known drug areas, gang houses or areas of interest, to show if enrollees visited that location without requiring you to respond in real time to an alert. You can determine if a random drug test is in order or if the enrollees merely drove by the location on the way to work or some other approved location.
  • Caseload or Agency-wide summary reports such as Enrollee Events Summary Table or Notification Summary by Event Type can assist in determining where you to focus attention to reduce events and improve overall program performance. Both are among the more than 100 online reports in VeriTracks Reports tab.
  • The Reasoncode consistently applied when un-enrolling an enrollee provides you with better data over time when reviewing how and why people leave your program. Taking this extra step also helps better define and provide a benchmark of success for you, your program and the enrollees.

All of our end-users know what they need in their particular area of expertise and application of STOP equipment in their programs. If you are using VeriTracks and STOP’s products to assist in your own evidence-based practices please share your ideas in the comments section. We all learn from the combined pool of knowledge!