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Program Profile: Reduced Probation Caseload in Evidence-Based Setting (Oklahoma City)

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on July 17, 2012

Program Summary

The program aims to reduce recidivism of high-risk probationers by assigning them to intensive supervision by an officer with a reduced caseload and through the use of evidence-based practices. The program is rated Effective. Their evaluation found a significantly higher revocation rate for the treatment compared with the control group. However, the rate of revocations was still very low for the treatment and 1.3 percent for control probationers. The results showed that the treatment group was a

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Reduced Probation Caseload in Evidence-Based Setting (Oklahoma City, Okla.) program aims to intensify the probation experience by reducing the caseloads of probation officers dealing with certain offenders—typically the more high-risk probationers. In conjunction with the use of other evidence-based tools and risk assessment techniques, the reduction in caseloads aims to reduce probationers’ recidivism in high-risk cases by providing more hands-on monitoring and greater scrutiny of their rehabilitative efforts and treatment progress.

Program Components and Theory
The program combines both the use of increased supervision and greater adherence to a required treatment regimen, in combination with an officer who is more available and thus more responsive to the particular needs, risks, and abilities of the probationer. This program also depends on an integration of evidence-based practices within the probation services, as previous literature has shown that, by itself, reducing probation caseloads does not reduce recidivism (see the Gendreau, Goggin, and Fulton 2000 meta-analysis of 47 studies of intensive supervision probation). In order to implement this program, probation departments should have implemented the following practices:

  • Risk/needs assessments
  • Separate specialized caseloads for domestic violence, sex offenders, mental health, and the like
  • Concentrated services/treatment on assessed dynamic risks of medium- and high-risk probationers
  • Considered responsivity (cognitive–behavioral programs, motivate change)
  • Comprehensive case management
The principal evidence-based practices that the program relies on are officer training to identify probationers’ static and dynamic risks to determine the appropriate level of supervision based on likelihood of reoffense. In evidence-based settings, resources are concentrated on high-risk offenders, including treating and monitoring dynamic factors, such as illegal drug use. This allows for only the highest-risk offenders to be placed on the reduced probation caseloads, making best use of correctional resources in a risk–needs–responsivity (RNR) framework. The RNR model (Andrews and Bonta 2003; Andrews, Bonta, and Hoge 1990) has three core principles:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Target Population/Eligibility
By using evidence-based practices in the selection of candidates for intensive supervision, the program aims to increase the effectiveness of probation. The assignment of a probationer to an officer with reduced probation caseload is done on the basis of a risk assessment and careful case planning. These offenders are those whose risk of recidivism is highest, for whom treatment may be a requirement of their release into the community, and whose environment may also be volatile and changeable.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Revocation Rates

Jalbert and colleagues (2011) hypothesized that revocation rates might be higher for the treatment group because of better detection of technical breaches of probation requirements. Their evaluation found a significantly higher revocation rate for the treatment compared with the control group. However, the rate of revocations was still very low, at only 5.2 percent for treatment and 1.3 percent for control probationers.

Arrests for Criminal Offenses
The results showed that the treatment group was arrested less often than the control group. At the maximum 1½-year follow-up, the treatment group had a significantly lower probability of recidivism than the control group, with a roughly 30 percent lower recidivism rate.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
The Jalbert and colleagues (2011) evaluation of the Reduced Probation Caseload in Evidence-Based Setting (Oklahoma City, Okla.) program examined the effects of reducing caseloads for treatment probation officers, who averaged 54 cases, compared with control probation officers, who averaged 106 cases during the study period. Oklahoma City had implemented evidence-based practices in the assignment of probationers to administrative and active caseloads to a level that was deemed sufficient by the researchers to include as a study site. The design of the study originally used a random assignment of officers with sufficient training to treatment (reduced caseloads) and control (roughly double the size of treatment caseload) conditions. The random assignment deteriorated, however, after numerous officers dropped out of the control group, thus requiring the study authors to use difference-in-differences estimators calculated using Cox proportional hazard models—a form of survival analysis. They controlled for offenders’ Level of Service Inventory—Revised (LSI–R), gender, education, alcohol and drug use, and prior conviction, probation, or prison term. Additionally, the analysis used multiple imputation to deal with missing data in the LSI–R scores.

The authors confirmed that treatment officers with smaller caseloads had more contacts with their probationers and were more likely to assign correctional interventions. The study followed the probationers during the 1½-year postimplementation. Officers with reduced probation caseloads monitored 1,054 offenders, and 3,877 offenders were supervised by control officers. The only significant difference between the groups was in their history of alcohol and drug abuse, which was present in 41.8 percent of treatment probationers but in only 29.7 percent of control probationers. Otherwise the groups were similar on their LSI–R (with a score of 16.16 for control and 16.6 for treatment) and in regard to gender (with 71.4 percent males in the control and 73.4 percent males in the treatment group). The reduced caseload probationers holding a high school diploma or higher made up 53.1 percent of their group, while 52.9 percent of control offenders reached the same level of educational attainment. Finally, 56.1 percent of the treatment probationers had a prior conviction, incarceration, or probation—compared with 49.8 percent of the control group.
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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
Jalbert, Sarah Kuck, William Rhodes, Michael Kane, Elyse Clawson, Bradford Bogue, Christopher Flygare, Ryan Kling, and Meaghan Guevara. 2011. A Multisite Evaluation of Reduced Probation Caseload Size in an Evidence-Based Practice Setting. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
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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.

Gendreau, Paul, Claire Goggin, and Betsy A. Fulton. 2000. “Intensive Supervision in Probation and Parole.” In Clive R. Hollin (ed.), Handbook of Offender Assessment and Treatment. Chichester, English: John Wiley, 195–204.

Jalbert, Sarah Kuck, William Rhodes, Christopher Flygare, and Michael Kane. 2010. “Testing Probation Outcomes in an Evidence-Based Practice Setting: Reduced Caseload Size and Intensive Supervision Effectiveness.” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 49(4):233–53.

Jalbert, Sarah Kuck, and William Rhodes. 2012. “Reduced Caseloads Improve Probation Outcomes.” Journal of Crime and Justice 35(2):221–38.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Rehabilitation Programs for Adult Offenders
This practice includes programs that are designed to reduce recidivism among adult offenders by improving their behaviors, skills, mental health, social functioning, and access to education and employment. Offenders may become participants in rehabilitation programs during multiple points in their involvement with the criminal justice system. This practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism among adult offenders.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Aftercare/Reentry, Probation/Parole Services, Motivational Interviewing

Targeted Population: High Risk Offenders

Current Program Status: Active

Program Developer:
Reginald Hines
Deputy Director, Division of Community Corrections
Oklahoma Department of Corrections
3700 N. Classen, Suite 110
Oklahoma City OK 73118
Phone: 405.523.3075
Fax: 405.525.4529

Program Director:
Kristie Phillips
Assistant District Supervisor
Oklahoma Department of Corrections
1131 West Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City OK 73106
Phone: 405.778.7200
Fax: 405.778.7248

Sarah Kuck Jalbert
Senior Associate
Abt Associates Inc.
55 Wheeler Street
Cambridge MA 02138
Phone: 617.492.7100
Fax: 617.492.5219