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Program Profile: Effective Practices in Community Supervision (EPICS)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on April 11, 2016

Program Summary

This is an initial training and coaching model targeted at community supervision officers. The overall goal is to teach community supervision officers how to translate principles of effective intervention into practice, and how to use core correctional practices in their interactions with offenders. The program is rated Promising. Officers in the treatment condition exhibited a greater use of core correctional skills over time than officers in the comparison condition.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Effective Practices in Community Supervision (EPICS) model aims to teach community supervision officers how to translate principles of effective intervention into practice, and how to use core correctional practices in face-to-face interactions with offenders. Community supervision officers are taught to follow a structured approach to their interactions with offenders, by adhering to the risk, needs, and responsivity (RNR) principles.

Program Theory
Research indicates that adherence to the principles of RNR can improve the effectiveness of community supervision; therefore, the EPICS model incorporates these principles into practice. The risk principle asserts that treatment intensity should match the level of risk an offender poses, so that higher-risk offenders receive more services than lower-risk offenders. The need principle requires that officers target changeable, crime-producing risk factors (also known as criminogenic needs) to reduce recidivism. Common criminogenic needs may include antisocial personality, antisocial cognition, or antisocial associates. Finally, the responsivity principle emphasizes the importance of providing cognitive behavioral treatment to offenders according to their specific learning styles, motivations, abilities, and strengths (Labrecque and Smith 2015).

Program Components
During the three-day EPICS training led by program staff, community supervision officers are trained to address the RNR principles and use core correctional skills during their contact sessions with offenders. The EPICS model ensures that community supervision officers focus on higher-risk offenders, treat criminogenic needs of offenders, and use treatment strategies that match the learning styles and motivations of offenders. Additionally, the EPICS model ensures that officers are trained on skills that are designed to increase the therapeutic potential of a correctional program, including anticriminal modeling, effective reinforcement, effective disapproval, effective use of authority, structured learning, problem solving, cognitive restructuring, and relationship skills. 

In anticriminal modeling, officers serve as role models by exhibiting prosocial behaviors and reinforcing the offenders when they exhibit these behaviors. Effective reinforcement includes the use of immediate statements of approval and support to reinforce positive behaviors exhibited by the offender. The officer also explains why the behavior is desirable and discusses its short- and long-term benefits. Alternatively, effective disapproval occurs when officers communicate disapproval to the offender for specific behavior, and explains why the behavior is undesirable and the short- and long-term consequences. Officers make effective use of authority by guiding offenders to compliance by discussing positive behaviors in a direct and specific way. Structured learning occurs when officers use behavioral strategies to help offenders learn prosocial behaviors and how to avoid risky situations. Officers teach problem solving to offenders to address high-risk situations. Cognitive restructuring is the process through which officers assist offenders in generating descriptions of problematic situations, identifying the related thoughts and feelings that occur in those situations, and practicing prosocial alternatives. Finally, relationship skills involve promoting positive officer–offender relationships, including training the officer to be flexible, nonjudgmental, engaging, solution-focused, and empathetic (Latessa et al. 2013). 

The first day of training introduces the EPICS model, the rationale for the model, the model structure (check-in, review, intervention, and homework), and the importance of the officer–offender relationship. The second day focuses on intervention techniques such as cognitive restructuring, problem solving, and restructured learning. The final day focuses on behavioral practices such as anticriminal modeling, effective reinforcement, effective disapproval, and effective use of authority. The training typically includes presentations, demonstration of skills, workbook activities, group activities, and opportunities for officers to practice their newly learned skills. 

In addition to the 3-day training, officers also participate in 24 coaching sessions. The purpose of these sessions is to increase the use of the skills taught in the training. The structure of the coaching sessions is similar to the structure of the EPICS sessions. For example, the sessions begin with a check-in, during which officers discuss any outstanding questions or concerns. The topic from the previous session is then discussed until the officers express confidence in their ability to use that skill in face-to-face interactions with offenders. A different topic is then reviewed and modeled, and officers are given the opportunity to practice the new skill and receive feedback. Finally, officers are provided with homework to practice the reviewed skills during a contact session with one of their offenders prior to the next coaching session. To ensure treatment fidelity, officers are required to submit at least one audio-recorded, officer-offender interaction per month through a secure website. Trained researchers listen to the recording and provide the officers with feedback on their performance. 

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Anticriminal Modeling
Labrecque and Smith (2015) found that community supervision officers trained on the Effective Practices in Community Supervision (EPICS) model received significantly higher scores on their adherence to anticriminal modeling than the untrained group of community supervision officers. 

Effective Reinforcement
In terms of effective reinforcement, trained community supervision officers did not differ from the untrained group on their adherence rating for effective reinforcement.  

Effective Disapproval
Trained community supervision officers were rated significantly higher than the untrained group on their adherence to effective disapproval.
 
Problem Solving
Trained community supervision officers were rated significantly higher than the untrained group on their adherence to problem solving.
 
Structured Learning
Trained community supervision officers were rated significantly higher than the untrained group on their adherence to structured learning. Moreover, the trained community supervision officers increased their use of structured learning skills over time, whereas the untrained group remained more stable.
 
Effective Use of Authority
Trained community supervision officers did not differ from the untrained group on their adherence rating for effective use of authority.
 
Cognitive Restructuring
Trained community supervision officers were rated significantly higher than the untrained group on their adherence to cognitive restructuring. Moreover, the trained community supervision officers increased their use of cognitive restructuring skills over time, whereas the untrained group remained more stable.
 
Relationship Skills
Trained community supervision officers were rated significantly higher than the untrained group on their adherence to relationship skills. Moreover, trained community supervision officers increased their use of relationship skills over time, whereas the untrained group remained more stable.
 
EPICS Total Score
At each of the 3-month increments examined over the 18-month follow-up period, the trained group of community supervision officers had higher scores than the untrained group. Moreover, the trained group increased their use of skills over time, whereas the untrained group remained relatively stable in their use of skills.  
*Definitions of each of these outcomes are provided in the Program Description section of the profile. 
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
To investigate the impact of the Effective Practices in Community Supervision (EPICS) model on the core correctional practices of probation and parole officers, Labrecque and Smith (2015) used a quasi-experimental design; they assigned 28 officers to the treatment condition and 15 to the control condition. Officers in the treatment condition were trained and coached in the EPICS model; officers in the control condition were untrained and not coached in the EPICS model. The officers in both the treatment and control conditions were predominately white and female, with approximately 10 years of correctional experience. There were no significant differences between the treatment and control groups on any characteristics examined. 

To evaluate the impact of the EPICS model and the ongoing coaching feedback, trained researchers listened to the audio-recordings of the officer-offender interactions. Through the recordings, the researchers measured adherence to the eight service-delivery skills, which included anticriminal modeling, effective reinforcement, effective disapproval, problem solving, structured learning, effective use of authority, cognitive restructuring, and relationship skills. Items were scored as “0” if the officer had the opportunity to use a skill, but did not; “0.5” if the officer used the skill, but missed major steps; and “1” if the officer demonstrated proficient use of the skill. Yes/no items were scored as “yes” if the officer used the skill and “no” if the officer did not use the skill. Only those items in which the officer had an opportunity to use the skill during the session with the offender were included. 

Although there were originally 755 audiotapes submitted, 169 tapes were missing date information and were excluded. The remaining 586 audiotapes were binned into 3-month increments, following the initial training. To assess the use of skills over time, the study examined audiotapes for up to 18 months following training. Five audiotapes that included data subsequent to the 18-month follow-up period were excluded; thus, a total sample of 581 audiotapes were examined. The 28 officers in the treatment condition (trained on the EPICS model) contributed 391 audiotapes; the 15 officers in the control condition (untrained group) contributed 190 audiotapes. 
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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For more information on the Effective Practices in Community Supervision (EPICS) model visit: https://www.uc.edu/corrections/services/trainings/effective_practices_in_community_supervision.html
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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
Labrecque, Ryan M., and Paula Smith. 2015. “Does Training and Coaching Matter? An 18-Month Evaluation of a Community Supervision Model.” Victims & Offenders 00:1­-20.
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Additional References

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

Latessa, Edward J., Paula Smith, Myrinda Schweitzer, and Ryan Labrecque. 2013. Evaluation of the Effective Practices in Community Supervision Model (EPICS) in Ohio. Cincinnati, Ohio: University of Cincinnati, School of Criminal Justice.
(This study was reviewed but did not meet Crime Solutions' criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)


Smith, Paula, Myrinda Schweitzer, Ryan M. Labrecque, and Edward J. Latessa. “Improving Probation Officers’ Supervision Skills: An Evaluation of the EPICS Model.” Journal of Crime and Justice 35(2): 189-99.
(This study was reviewed but did not meet Crime Solutions' criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)

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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: White, Other

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Correctional, Other Community Setting

Program Type: Probation/Parole Services, Vocational/Job Training, Wraparound/Case Management

Current Program Status: Active

Program Developer:
University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute
Campus Recreation Center PO Box 210389
Cincinnati OH 45221
Phone: 513-556-7765
Website
Email

Researcher:
Ryan Labrecque
Assistant Professor
Division of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Portland State University
Portland OR 97207
Phone: 503-725-5164
Website
Email