Community supervision agencies are responsible for managing diverse populations with a range of offending behaviors such as shoplifting, violence or intimate partner violence, drug use, or involvement with street gangs. Complicating the picture are characteristics of the clients themselves. For instance, people under supervision have four to nine times higher rates of mental health and substance use disorders than the general population (Crilly et al., 2009; Fearn et al., 2016). Effectively supervising such a diverse range of people requires attention to the socio-economic/health needs that may drive offending behaviors and/or interfere with an individual’s ability to meet their probation or parole conditions. This in turn requires careful consideration of which conditions of supervision are appropriate for individuals with different needs. Too many conditions can undermine the success of individuals on supervision—especially by weakening their ability to meet requirements. Too many conditions can overburden an individual on supervision, which contributes to perceptions of procedural injustice. Too many conditions can also overburden the staff working to monitor conditions that might be less relevant to the individual’s success on supervision and in life.
This report presents 20 appropriateness statements on common supervision practices. While some conditions and practices1 are evidence-based and associated with positive supervision outcomes (e.g., desistance from crime or substance abuse, as well as employment, education, and other quality of life outcomes), others have little evidence to show a positive effect. Some supervision practices that are commonly used are even associated with negative outcomes. To promote consistent, effective, and procedurally just supervision practices, these appropriateness statements highlight the benefits and drawbacks of these practices. In many cases, practices are neither entirely effective or entirely harmful—much depends on how and with whom they are used.
The statements synthesize research evidence with perspectives from the field to detail which practices are appropriate under different circumstances. To do this, this project used a modified RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method (RAM; see Fitch et al., 2001). The RAM defines an appropriate practice as one where the benefits exceed the consequences, with benefits and consequences determined by combining research and practice expertise. To appraise the current research evidence, the project team conducted a systematic search of meta-analyses and studies of high-impact interventions and treatments. A framing document that summarizes the research can be found by contacting the study team (see Lee et al., 2021). Practice expertise was solicited from stakeholders in the supervision field (131 individuals in the supervision field) and individuals who have been involved in the criminal justice system (244 formerly or currently justice-system-involved individuals [JSI]). Respondents rated the appropriateness (i.e., never appropriate, sometimes appropriate, or always appropriate) of common conditions used in community supervision separately for Gang-Involved, General Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Serious Mental Illness, and Substance Use Disorder populations. In addition, four focus groups were conducted with supervision staff and two with JSI to obtain practical insights on the use and effects of different practices.
1 The terms “condition” and “practice” are used interchangeably in this Guide.