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.
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).
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.