Transform Your Practice By Using Guidelines Informed by Research, Staff and Justice-Involved Individuals

Summary of the evidence

In-Patient & Out-Patient Treatment

  • Both in-patient (residential) and out-patient (community-based) treatment for alcohol and drug use are evidence-based practices shown to reduce both drug use and recidivism.
  • Treatment that follows the RNR principles is more effective than treatment that does not.
  • In-patient and out-patient care can include many of the same services (i.e., individual therapy, group therapy, etc.) but they differ in the amount they control the client’s environment while receiving services.
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Mental Health Screening and Evaluation

  • Mental health screening and evaluation is a process to (1) determine if a client experiences mental illness (screening) and (2) identify the mental illness and determine how it may be affecting the client (evaluation).
  • Mental health screening and evaluation is an evidence-based practice that can help officers select the best strategies to work with clients who experience mental illness.
  • Supervision staff and people involved in the criminal justice system are generally favorable toward mental health screening and evaluation.
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Substance Use Screening and Evaluation

  • Substance use screening and evaluation are evidence-based practices.
  • Strong empirical evidence supports the use of evidence-based screenings and evaluations.
  • If possible, probation staff should outsource their screening and evaluation to clinical staff trained to diagnose behavioral health disorders.
  • Risk-assessment tools are not effective SUD screeners or evaluations.
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Alcohol and Drug Use Education

  • Alcohol and drug use education (ADE) is educational but does not provide clinical services. It is not an evidence-based practice.
  • There is evidence that ADEs may reduce both alcohol and drug use for youth, but the effects are small.
  • ADE is often a component of in-patient and out-patient treatment, but it is not a replacement for clinically based drug treatment services. The goal is to provide an understanding of the neurobiological impact that substance use has on behavior and functioning.
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Cognitive Behavioral Techniques

  • Cognitive behavioral techniques help clients assess their responses to situations and change their patterns of thinking (cognitions) and behaving.
  • Officers can use these techniques during face-to-face contacts with clients.
  • Cognitive behavioral techniques are evidence-based and can be used without formal clinical training (unlike cognitive behavioral therapy, which should be done by trained therapists).
  • Probation staff and people involved in the criminal legal system (the “criminal justice” or “legal” system is referred to as the criminal legal system in this document) are generally favorable to the use of cognitive behavioral techniques with clients, particularly clients at medium and high-risk levels of recidivism.
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  • Incentives are a way to change behavior by rewarding clients for addressing pre-determined goals and complying with supervision conditions.
  • Incentives are effective with diverse populations.
    • Incentives are generally found to be more effective than sanctions at changing behavior; it is recommended to give four incentives for each sanction (4:1 ratio).
  • Supervision staff and people involved in the criminal legal system (the “criminal justice” or “legal” system is referred to as the criminal legal system in this document) generally support the use of incentives.
    • Supervision staff particularly favor the use of incentives with medium- and high-risk clients.
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Prosocial Modeling

  • The evidence shows that prosocial modeling is effective in reducing recidivism.
  • There is evidence that supervision models that include prosocial modeling have lower recidivism rates compared to those that do not.
  • Evidence shows that clients prefer working with an officer who promotes success through positive communication, active listening, respect, and empathy.
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  • Sanctions are widely used in community supervision and can include legal pressure, legal mandates, and involuntary requirements, often considered coercive. Sanctioning is not monitoring, but it is how the monitoring is delivered.
  • Sanctions are not an evidence-based practice due to insufficient studies that demonstrate how to use the authority of supervision officers.
  • While probation and parole officers must often balance compliance/monitoring (law enforcement) and care (social work/treatment), evidence suggests that sanctioning has less impact on long-term behavior change than incentives.
  • Sanctions may damage the PO-client relationship. This can undermine efforts to foster engagement in change-producing services and efforts, as well as reduce long-term behavior change in clients.
  • Since sanctions may involve the threats of punishment (e.g., incarceration), it can incur high costs if those sanctions are used in response to noncompliant behavior.
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Environmental Restructuring

  • Environmental restructuring is an evidence-based practice.
  • Environmental restructuring involves working to change the people clients associate with and the places they frequent.
  • Environmental restructuring relies on the officer-client relationship to be most effective.
  • Supervision staff and people involved in the criminal legal system are generally favorable toward environmental restructuring. (The “criminal justice” or “legal” system is referred to as the criminal legal system in this document.)
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Transportation Resources

  • Transportation resources (reliable transportation to meet supervision requirements provided by the officer/supervision agency to the client) are an evidence-informed practice.
    • Clients without access to transportation are less likely to be able to access treatment and obtain employment, and they may be more likely to abscond.
  • Providing clients with transportation resources can help build and/or maintain the officer-client relationship.
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