RD277 - Statewide Community-Based Corrections System Status Report FY2018
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 rate is 22.4% ranking it the lowest in the country among the 45 other states that measure recidivism similarly.
• DOC continues to improve 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.
• DOC continues to focus major efforts on reducing the number of homeless releases from prison. 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 94% of staff trained thusfar.
• DOC has collaborated 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. 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.
• The DOC transformed its Detention and Diversion Centers to bring them in line with evidence based practices. The Community Corrections Alternative Program (CCAP) provides improved services for offenders and better meets the needs of sentencing courts. The new program is driven by the risks and needs for the offender and is performance based, with programs based on research that produces recidivism reductions. These changes were effective May 1, 2017.
• Offenders discharging prison are provided with brief cognitive-behavioral peer support groups to follow up prison treatment and provide guidance immediately uponreentry.
• 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.
• In July 2017, the General Assembly fully funded 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.
• DOC established a Voice Verification Biometrics Unit for low-level supervision. The recidivism data shows over-supervision of these cases not only does not reduce recidivism, but also can actually cause it to rise. These offenders are monitored through the use of biometric surveillance for voice, facial, and location verification, as well as routine automated interviews.
In July of 2018, the Virginia Department of Corrections began a pilot program using part-time staff to visit district sites and witness the submission of urine samples for delivery to DCLS. Offenders are assigned a regimen of urine collection for the purpose of drug detection (typically once, twice, three or four times per month) and connected to a service that calls or texts them with instructions to report the following day during set periods of time for a “drug test." The contact is then automatically entered in the notes section of the offender’s official file. Two teams of one male and one female, each visit one of eight sites each day to witness submission and collect urine for drug detection. Thirty-two collection days distributed amongst six districts and two satellite sites occur each month.
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. The rising number of cases placed on G.P.S. and the rising number of gang members are also challenges.
A major issue has been the rise of offenders who use opiates. Evidence based practices point to the use of medically assisted treatment in these cases, yet costs are prohibitive. The DOC is participating in an interagency team to develop policy around the opiate problem. The team is led by the office of The Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security with membership of The Department of Behavioral Health Developmental Services.
Despite the 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 improve our operations to achieve our goal of creating lasting public safety.