RD627 - Community Cognitive Counselor Positions Legislative Report FY2023 – November 1, 2023

Executive Summary:

The Council of State Governments Justice Center reports that “research has demonstrated that programs that adhere to the principles of risk, need, and responsivity and use a cognitive-behavioral approach are the most effective at reducing recidivism" (Three Core Elements of Programs that Reduce Recidivism: Who, What, and How Well, 2018). Commonly referred to as “criminal thinking" in the corrections profession, addressing this issue is typically the domain of criminal justice professionals because expertise does not exist in the wider community.

Although resources existed for substance use disorder and mental health treatment within the VADOC community corrections, positions to provide cognitive-behavioral programming remained a large gap and was an unmet need for many individuals supervised on probation and/or parole. Seeking to fill this treatment gap as a means to increase public safety, in 2018 the VADOC established a pilot program in six Probation and Parole Districts across the State. The goal was to provide the pilot cognitive-behavioral programming to probation and parole supervisees (supervisees) with assessed moderate-to-high risk of recidivism who also had a high need for cognitive behavioral programming. In this way, limited resources could target the higher risk and higher needs supervisees for the best public safety outcomes. Preliminary data from the pilot collected in 2021 showed promising results: an increase in program participation rates, positive impacts of supervision success for program participants and decreases in drug use by program participants.

In 2022, these pilot program success indicators resulted in budgetary support and allowed for an expansion of the program at additional Probation and Parole Offices across the state. The VADOC’s progress in implementing cognitive-behavioral programs in community corrections is the basis for this update.