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Program Profile: Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Rearrest (STARR)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on May 01, 2012

Program Summary

A training program for federal community supervision officers providing direct service to offenders under supervision. The goal is to improve one-on-one officer-client interactions to reduce risk and recidivism. The program is rated Promising. Trained officers were twice as likely to capitalize on opportunities to use behavioral strategies that could help shape client behavior. Discussions about cognitions, peers or impulsivity were more likely to occur among officers in the experimental group.

Program Description

Program Goals
Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Rearrest (STARR) is a training program for federal community supervision officers providing direct service to clients (that is, offenders under supervision). Its overall goal is to reduce clients’ failure rates and recidivism by training officers to use behaviorally based skills during client interactions. STARR teaches officers about a structured cognitive–behavioral supervision approach that seeks to address dynamic risk factors of clients by improving one-on-one officer–client interactions.

Target Population
The STARR training program has been made available to community supervision officers in 16 federal districts. Officers primarily have had moderate- or high-risk clients on pretrial supervision or postconviction supervision.

Program Theory
The STARR curriculum was developed with the risk–need–responsivity (RNR) model (Andrews and Bonta 2003; Andrews, Bonta, and Hoge 1990), which has three core principles:
  • Risk principle: The level of services should be matched to the level of the offender. High-risk offenders should receive more intensive services; low-risk offenders should receive minimal services.
  • Need principle: Target criminogenic needs with services—that is, target those factors that are associated with criminal behavior. Such factors might include substance abuse, procriminal attitudes, criminal associates, and the like. Do not target other, noncriminogenic factors (such as emotional distress, self-esteem issues) unless they act as a barrier to changing criminogenic factors.
  • Responsivity principle: The ability and learning style of the offender should determine the style and mode of intervention. Research has shown the general effectiveness of using social learning and cognitive–behavioral style interventions.
Program Components
Officers in STARR participate in 3½-day classroom training sessions. The training sessions include a discussion of the theory and research supporting the development of the STARR curriculum (including the RNR model), a demonstration of each skill, exercises, and an opportunity for officers to practice each skill and receive feedback.

The STARR skills taught during training include specific strategies for Active Listening, Role Clarification, Effective Use of Authority, Effective Disapproval, Effective Reinforcement, Effective Punishment, and Problem Solving, and for Teaching, Applying and Reviewing the Cognitive Model. Skill cards were developed that outline the specific actions and activities that officers should do to successfully deliver each strategy. Video examples of some of the skills were also presented, while other skills were demonstrated in person. During the training, officers are given the opportunity to practice each skill. For example, after listening to the discussion on reinforcement, officers are asked to identify a behavior and a reinforcement strategy for a specific offender, and then role-play that interaction with another officer.

Officers in STARR also send in audiotaped interactions at designated intervals (one before the training sessions and up to 30 after training is completed). They were to send audiotapes from an initial meeting with a client, another audiotape of an interaction with the client 3 months later, and a third and final audiotape 3 months after that. The audiotapes were used to gain a better understanding of skill development and provide officers with feedback.

Four booster training sessions are held in the year following, to provide officers with additional training on skill deficits identified on the tapes. Booster trainings are delivered by phone and include discussion of specific skills, audiotape examples of the skill, and individual feedback and coaching.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Officer’s Use of Reinforcement and Disapproval

Robinson and colleagues (2011) found that 34 percent of the officers who went through the Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Rearrest (STARR) used reinforcement and disapproval during one-on-one meetings with their clients (i.e., offenders on parole), compared with 17 percent of the control group (a statistically significant difference). This suggests that trained officers were twice as likely to capitalize on opportunities to use behavioral strategies that could help shape client behavior.

Discussions of Cognitions, Peers, or Impulsivity
Discussions about cognitions, peers, and impulsivity were significantly more likely to occur with clients among officers in the experimental group than among officers in the control group (44 percent of interactions with clients, versus 33 percent, respectively). This shows a significant difference between the groups in how often primary risk factors are targeted (cognitions, peers, and impulsivity have been shown to be some of the strongest predictors of criminal behavior).

Officer’s Use of Cognitive Model
Officers in the experimental group were also significantly more likely to use the cognitive techniques to teach offenders the link between thinking and behavior, compared with officers in the control group (17 percent of interactions, versus 1 percent, respectively).

Failure Rates of Clients
At pretraining, there were no significant differences between the groups in failure rates of moderate- and high-risk clients (39 percent of the experimental group clients and 38 percent of the control group clients). At posttraining, the failure rate for clients in the experimental group decreased to 26 percent and was significantly lower than the failure rate for clients in the control group (34 percent).

When breaking out the failure rates by risk level, there were no significant differences in pretraining failure rates of moderate-risk clients in the experimental and control groups (32 percent versus 31 percent). At posttraining, the failure rate of clients in the control group stayed about the same (32 percent), while the failure rate of clients in the experimental group was significantly reduced to 16 percent. This is an absolute reduction of 16 percent and a relative risk reduction of 50 percent.

For high-risk clients, again there were no significant differences between the experimental and control group failure rates at pretraining (46 percent for both groups). However, at posttraining both groups saw significant reductions in the failure rates of clients (35 percent for experimental group clients and 37 percent for control group clients). Although this difference was significant, it suggests that the STARR skills did not produce any beneficial results for high-risk clients.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
The study by Robinson and colleagues (2011) used an experimental pretest/posttest design to examine the impact of Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Rearrest (STARR). Federal probation officers who volunteered to participate in STARR were randomly assigned to the experimental (trained) and control (untrained) groups. The randomization procedure was completed so that 66 percent of the officers were randomly assigned to the experimental group and the remaining officers were assigned to the control group. Although the officers were randomly assigned to the two study conditions, the clients (offenders on probation) were not. However, as with most community supervision agencies, client assignment was based on rotation, caseload size, or other factors that were unrelated to officer status in the study.

The total number of officers in the experimental group was 41, and the total number of officers in the control group was 26. Clients were identified for inclusion in the study based on when their period of supervision began. The sample included clients on pretrial supervision and postconviction supervision. Pretraining cases were those cases that either 1) began pretrial supervision during 2007 and 2008 and terminated supervision before the training event date, or 2) began postconviction supervision between May 31, 2007, and May 31, 2008. Posttraining cases were those that either 1) were assigned to study officers for pretrial supervision after May 31, 2009, or 2) were assigned for postconviction supervision after May 31, 2009, and up until Dec. 12, 2009. In total, there were 446 pretraining cases and 295 posttraining cases assigned to the experimental officers and 345 pretraining cases and 218 posttraining cases assigned to the control officers. Most of the clients were on postconviction supervision. Clients assigned to the experimental officers were 15 percent female and 57 percent minority, with an average age of 35.0 years. Clients assigned to the control officers were also 15 percent female and 57 percent minority, with an average age of 34.6 years. There were no significant differences between the clients on demographic characteristics.

Audiotape recordings of interactions between the officers and their clients were reviewed to measure the use of skills taught during STARR. In total, 731 audio recordings were submitted for review, which included 491 recordings from the experimental group and 240 from the control group. Trained raters coded the audiotapes and concentrated primarily on behaviors consistent with the skills introduced during the training. The analysis concentrated on three intermediate variables: 1) the officer’s use of reinforcement and disapproval, 2) interactions where cognitions, peers, or coping skills were discussed, and 3) the officer’s use of cognitive techniques during interactions with clients. There were no significant differences between the experimental and control groups in the use of these skills found in the analysis of pretraining audiotapes.

There were two client outcome measures used in the study. For pretrial clients, the outcome measure was failure on supervision, including failure to appear in court, supervision being revoked, or being arrested for a new criminal charge while on pretrial supervision. The data for this measure was collected from PACTS (Probation/Pretrial Services Automated Case Tracking System), an electronic case management tool used by probation and pretrial service officers in all 94 federal districts to track federal defendants and offenders. For postconviction clients, the outcome measure was arrest for a new criminal behavior. Data on arrests was collected from the National Crime Information Center and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, which together include data on federal and local charges.

Bivariate analyses were used to assess the change in officer behavior from pretraining to posttraining and across the experiment and control groups. Bivariate analyses were also used to assess the impact of training on client outcomes. Multivariate analyses were used to determine the interaction between individual and client characteristic and officer training, and their impact on client outcomes.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Robinson, Charles R., Scott W. VanBenschoten, Melissa Alexander, and Christopher T. Lowenkamp. 2011. “A Random (Almost) Study of Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Rearrest (STARR): Reducing Recidivism Through Intentional Design.” Federal Probation 75(2):57–63.
http://www.uscourts.gov/federal-probation-journal/2011/09/random-almost-study-staff-training-aimed-reducing-re-arrest-starr
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Andrews, Donald A., and James Bonta. 2003. The Psychology of Criminal Conduct (Third Edition). Cincinnati, Ohio: Anderson.

Andrews, Donald A., James Bonta, and Robert D. Hoge. 1990. “Classification for Effective Rehabilitation: Rediscovering Psychology.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 17:19–52.

Lowenkamp, Christopher T., Charles R. Robinson, and Scott W. VanBenschoten. 2011. “Initial STARR Results: A Positive Step Forward.” News & Views: A Biweekly Newsletter of the United States Probation and Pretrial Services System XXXVI(8)3–6.

Robinson, Charles R., Christopher T. Lowenkamp, Alexander M. Holsinger, Scott VanBenschoten, Melissa Alexander, and J.C. Oleson. 2012. “A Random Study of Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Re-arrest (STARR): Using Core Correctional Practices in Probation Interactions.” Journal of Crime and Justice:1–22.
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Pretrial Interventions for Ensuring Appearance in Court
During the pretrial process, defendants may be released on certain conditions. To ensure that released defendants show up to their court date, jurisdictions have used three strategies: 1) court-date reminder notifications, 2) bonds, and 3) supervision in the community. The goal of is to reduce the failure-to-appear rates of defendants. Across the three strategies, the practice is rated Promising for decreasing failure-to-appear rates, but rated No Effects for reducing arrest rates.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Justice Systems or Processes - Failure-to-Appear
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, White, Other

Setting (Delivery): Workplace, Other Community Setting

Program Type: Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, Probation/Parole Services

Targeted Population: High Risk Offenders

Current Program Status: Active

Program Developer:
Charles R. Robinson
Probation and Pretrial Services Administrator
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Office of Probation and Pretrial Services
One Columbus Circle, NE
Washington DC 20544
Phone: 202.502.1629
Email

Program Director:
Scott VanBenschoten
Probation and Pretrial Services Administrator
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Office of Probation and Pretrial Services
One Columbus Circle, NE
Washington DC 20544
Phone: 202.502.1629
Email

Researcher:
Christopher Lowenkamp
Probation and Pretrial Services Administrator
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Office of Probation and Pretrial Services
One Columbus Circle, NE
Washington DC 20544
Phone: 202.502.1629
Email

Training and TA Provider:
Melissa Alexander
Chief United States Probation Officer
United States District Court for Middle District of North Carolina
101 South Edgeworth Street, Suite 312
Greensboro NC 27401
Phone: 336.358.4202
Email