RD328 - Statewide Community-Based Corrections System – Status Report FY2020

Executive Summary:

In the past fiscal year, the Department of Corrections (DOC) has continued to transform towards 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 23.1% ranking it the lowest in the country for the fourth year in a row among the 45 other states that measure recidivism similarly.

• During the last four months of FY 2020 the COVID 19 pandemic and the Governor's Emergency Orders caused major operational changes for community corrections. DOC set a high standard in complying with the Center for Disease Control and Virginia Department of Health guidance to adapt its probation supervision techniques, putting the welfare of staff and offenders as a first priority. While some services have been suspended due to requirements, the Department has utilized many innovate ways to safely provide probation supervision. This includes:

o electronic methods of conducting case openings and contacts with probationers, using drive-by methods for home contacts,

o providing programming and mental health consults through teletherapy applications such as Google Meets,

o donning full PPE for GPS installation or drug testing,

o utilizing cutting edge point prevalence COVID 19 testing at facilities to identify and quarantine any offenders or staff who tested positive,

o eliminating movement among housing units at facilities,

o providing three months of prescribed medications to offenders being released from DOC facilities,

o suspending outside visitation and non-essential contractors,

o establishing aggressive sanitation procedures, and

o requiring social distancing and mandating all staff and probationers to wear masks.

• During the pandemic the Department has continued to provide programmatic services at the Community Corrections Alternative Program facilities either virtually or utilizing social distancing and masks, however intake to the facilities was suspended to reduce the likelihood of contamination.

• DOC continues to focus major efforts on reducing the number of homeless releases from prison. This includes efforts 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.

• The General Assembly provided the agency with 6 positions for cognitive behavioral programming at 6 probation and parole districts. This pilot has been extremely successful in FY 2020, allowing an increase in programmatic services at those districts and freeing up probation officers to focus more on field supervision. The pilot is a model that should be replicated at all probation and parole districts.

• 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 ti research based model. It has now become an established business practice in community corrections.

• DOC has collaborated with George Mason University's Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence and implemented the SOARING project that expanded 3 original pilot locations to 21 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 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 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 Learning Teams were suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic but will restart virtually in the near future.

• The DOC expanded its Community Corrections Alternative Programs {CCAP) to an additional facility in an attempt to meet the high demands from programming by sentencing courts. The programs are very popular with Circuit Courts because they offer substance abuse treatment and residential treatment resources in the community are scarce. The operation of these programs is addressed more thoroughly later in this report.

• Offenders discharging prison are provided with brief cognitive-behavioral peer support groups to follow up prison treatment and provide guidance immediately upon reentry. Due to COVID-19 these groups were suspended and some are offered virtually.

• 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 or non-profit organizations. These Councils are suspended due to COVID 19 though some meet virtually.

• DOC's Voice Verification Biometrics Unit for low-level supervision continues to operate successfully. The recidivism data shows over-supervision of these cases not only does not reduc~ 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 conjunction with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and local Community Services Boards, the DOC offers a pilot medically assisted treatment {MAT) program for individuals reentering the community after completing substance use disorder treatment in prison or in a CCAP facility. The pilot operates in conjunction with counseling and provides Vivitrol to volunteering offenders to support their desistance from opiate use after release. The initial dose is provided within the correctional facility, with MAT services after release provided by the local Community Services Boards. The pilot program is offered to program participants releasing to high opiate use areas of Richmond, Norfolk and southwest Virginia (Tazewell).


In addition to sizable accomplishments many challenges remain. The COVID 19 pandemic continues to require the Department to rethink how all services are provided and establish a "new normal" going forward. The agency will continue to be innovative while putting the welfare of probationers and staff as a first priority.

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 assisted living, 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 challenges.

Substance use disorder continues to be rampant among criminal justice involved offenders and community resources for treatment, particularly residential treatment, are extremely limited. Services in rural areas are also very limited.

Moving Forward:

With its many successes and despite the challenges, the DOC is committed to creating lasting public safety by preparing offenders to reintegrate into law-abiding lives after the course of community correctional supervision is completed. The Department continues to see significant benefits from our organizational development and evidence based business practices 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, and

• Continue to evaluate our supervision practices and services and seek ways to improve our operations to achieve our goal of creating lasting public safety.