RD273 - "Continuing a Balanced Approach to Public Safety through the Healing Environment" -- Community Corrections Status Report - July 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016
This is a status report on the Statewide Community Based Corrections System for State Responsible Offenders as required by the 2016 Appropriations Act, Chapter 780, Item 389 A.
In the past year we have continued to transform the agency towards the goal of creating a healing, rewarding and motivating high performance learning organization. The Department of Corrections (DOC) has achieved significant accomplishments over the past year:
• DOC’s recidivism is 23.0%, ranking it the second lowest in the country among the 47 other states that measure recidivism similarly.
• DOC has improved the consistency of its probation and parole districts through the implementation of Operational Assessment Reviews conducted by teams of staff from other probation and parole districts. The Review looks at compliance with policies, contacts with offenders, case-plan driven supervision and use of evidence-based practices to reduce recidivism.
• All probation and parole districts completed active threat training enabling staff to evaluate current response concepts, plans and capabilities for a response to an active threat event including training to prepare staff for response to a potential event.
• DOC continues to focus major efforts on reducing the number of homeless releases from prison. The Community Residential Program contracts were re-bid over the past year, with new housing opportunities added to economically depressed areas such as Danville, VA. In addition, DOC continues to collaborate on community housing placements for offenders with health care needs through regular contact with local social services agencies, the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services, Department of Medical Assistance, local community services boards, local non-profit organizations, nursing homes and housing providers.
• DOC’s sex offender containment model of probation supervision has operated effectively and provided intensive GPS supervision, polygraph examinations and treatment services to sex offenders, including supervision of Sexually Violent Predator conditional release cases from the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation on behalf of the Department of Behavioral Health and Disability Services.
• DOC has expanded the use of evidence-based interventions with medium to high risk probation cases by training and coaching staff on the effective use of core correctional practices using the EPICS II research-based model, with 85% of staff trained thus far.
• DOC has partnered with George Mason University’s Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence and implemented the SOARING project that expanded from 3 pilot locations to 9 additional probation and parole districts during 2016. SOARING uses eLearning and supervisor observation and coaching to increase probation officer effectiveness in using risk and needs assessment, case planning and interactions with offenders to motivate and support change.
• DOC continues to operate “Learning Teams” in all community corrections units whereby staff meet together in small groups twice per month and utilize dialogue practices to resolve issues, advance team work, create improved operations and improve their intervention skills with offenders.
• DOC developed and is currently working to implement an extensive strategic plan to apply evidence-based practices in detention and diversion centers and improve effectiveness.
• The DOC is transforming its detention and diversion centers to bring them in line with evidence-based practices. The new programs, Community Corrections Alternative Programs, will provide improved services for offenders and better meet the needs of sentencing courts. The new programs will be driven by the risks and needs for the offender and be performance based, with programs based on research that produced recidivism reductions.
• Offenders discharging prison are provided with brief cognitive-behavioral peer support groups to follow up prison treatment and provide guidance immediately upon reentry.
• DOC continues to operate the Federal Fidelity Bonding Program for all criminal justice offenders in Virginia to assist with employability.
• DOC probation and parole chiefs actively participated as co-conveners of Local Reentry Councils in most localities in Virginia in partnership with the Virginia Department of Social Services.
• The DOC has a leading role in the Secretary of Public Safety’s Evidence Based Decision Making (EBDM) initiative. The EBDM project received technical assistance from the National Institute of Corrections to conduct extensive criminal justice planning in five jurisdictions with key stakeholders such as the courts, prosecutor, local jail, and victim witness, local and state corrections. The planning is directed at using data to make system changes and improve criminal justice outcomes.
• In the 2016 General Assembly, the DOC received funding to establish 20 mental health specialists and 6 cognitive counselors for the probation and parole districts. The positions are needed to prevent deterioration of behavior by persons with mental illness and to pilot cognitive interventions at the districts.
In addition to sizable accomplishments many challenges remain. Probation and parole districts continue to be confronted with large workloads, limiting the time and services that can be provided to offenders on supervision. Too many offenders still enter the community from prison without housing, particularly sex offenders and violent offenders. There is a critical need for housing for a small but impactful number of releasing offenders who need nursing home or geriatric care. Many offenders are released to state probation supervision from local jails without receiving any reentry preparation, medication or housing planning. Many community service boards do not provide mental health treatment to certain types of offenders, such as those convicted of sex offenses or murders, contributing to a higher public risk and recidivism rate for offenders with mental health needs. Although criminal thinking is identified as the primary driver to recidivism and research strongly supports cognitive-behavioral programs as an effective intervention, DOC is not funded to provide programming for the over 30,000 probation offenders with this need.
Despite these challenges we are steadfast in our overall mission to create lasting public safety by preparing offenders to reintegrate into law-abiding lives after the course of community correctional supervision is completed. We continue to see significant benefits from our organizational development initiatives to create a learning organization with the culture to sustain both staff and offender growth and positive change. We will continue to:
• Identify offenders’ risks and needs and give priority to those offenders who pose the greatest risk to public safety
• Develop and update case plans that address identified risks and needs
• Utilize evidence-based services to respond to individual needs and reduce the risk of recidivism as resources allow
• Quickly and appropriately respond to compliance and non-compliance with proportionate incentives and sanction
As we move forward, DOC will continue to evaluate our supervision practices and services and seek ways to continually improve our operations to achieve our goal of creating lasting public safety.
Harold W. Clarke
Director of Corrections