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Program Profile: Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision (STICS)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on May 26, 2011

Program Summary

A job training program for probation officers to help them apply the risk-need-responsivity model with probationers to reduce recidivism. The program is rated Promising. The results of the study revealed significant changes in the officer population; but non-significant differences regarding offenders’ subsequent recidivism.

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

Program Description

Program Goals
STICS is a job training program for probation officers to help them apply the risk–need–responsivity (RNR) model with probationers to reduce recidivism. This program was implemented in three Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan.

The objectives of the training include changing how probation officers interact with offenders and adjusting the focus of sessions with clients. Research shows that probation officers often focus on non-criminogenic needs and infrequently use prosocial modeling, role playing, or other cognitive–behavioral techniques with probationers (Bonta et al. 2004, 2008). By training probation officers to implement RNR principles into their interactions with probationers, they may reduce recidivism rates in their probationers.

Program Theory
This model is based on the General Personality and Cognitive Social Learning theoretical perspective, which addresses how learning and risk/need factors affect criminal behavior. The theory suggests that criminal behavior is learned, that this learning occurs within a particular environment, and that some risk/need factors are more important in predicting criminal behavior than others. This theory then implies that offender behavior can change (as opposed, for instance, to a medical model that sees an offender as “sick”) (Bourgon et al. 2010).

The RNR model was first proposed by Andrews, Bonta, and Hoge in 1990, and has three core principles:
  • Risk Principle: The level of services should be matched to the level of 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, non-criminogenic 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.
There is a strong empirical base supporting the implementation of the RNR principles, although the research is more limited on incorporating these principles in a training program designed to change how probation officers deal with offenders.

Program Activities
The training program includes a 3-day training based on 10 modules. These modules are designed to explain the overview and rationale for STICS; introduce RNR model principles; teach how to implement those principles when working with probationers; encourage the use of prosocial modeling, reinforcement, and other cognitive–behavioral techniques; and explain the benefits of using a strategic supervision structure in individual sessions.

The training is followed by monthly meetings designed for skill maintenance. In these meetings, groups of 3 to 12 officers are encouraged to discuss and practice their skills. Prior to the meetings, officers receive themed exercises with audiotaped examples. Trainers are present via teleconference to guide the sessions and provide feedback. Also, formal clinical feedback is given to the officers based on their officer–client sessions, which are audiotaped and submitted for review.

A 1-day refresher course is delivered approximately 1 year after the initial training.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

The results of the study by Bonta and colleagues (2010) revealed significant changes in the officer population, but non-significant, though positive, differences regarding offenders’ subsequent recidivism.


Changes in Officer Population

Compared to control group officers, officers in the experimental group who received the risk-need-responsivity (RNR) training spent significantly more session time focusing on criminogenic needs and procriminal attitudes (p<.01). Likewise, they demonstrated higher-quality RNR–based skills and interventions (p<.01), with the exception of behavioral techniques, where there was no statistically significant differences between groups (p=.06).


Offender Recidivism

The results for offender survival rates and recidivism rates were encouraging. The offenders recruited by the officers assigned to the experimental group had the longest survival rate compared to both the control offenders and the “retrospective” probationer samples. Similarly, the offenders recruited by the officers assigned to the experimental group had lower recidivism rates than the offenders recruited by the officers assigned to the control group. Though the difference was statistically non-significant, it represented a 15 percent reduction (40.5 percent for the control clients; 25.3 percent for the experimental clients).

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

Bonta and colleagues (2010) analyzed the results of a randomized field trial. Probation officers were randomly assigned to the treatment group that received the risk-need-responsivity (RNR) training or a control group. The two groups were approximately equivalent; however, officers volunteered to participate in the pool that was randomized, so results may be impacted by a selection effect. Officers were drawn from three provinces in Canada: 55 out of a possible 268 probation officers from British Columbia, 10 out of a possible 15 from Prince Edward Island, and 15 out of a possible 129 from Saskatchewan.

Seventy-eight of the 80 officers submitted a pretraining audiotape. Officers were asked to recruit two medium- and four high-risk clients and audiotape their sessions with these probationers at three different points during supervision (at the beginning, at 3 months of supervision, and again at 6 months). The risk and demographic profiles of the offenders was similar between the experimental and control groups. Each group lost approximately one third of the original officers. Fifty-two participating officers (33 treatment group officers, 19 control group officers) submitted a total of 295 audiotapes (220 for the treatment group; 75 for the control group) for 143 active cases.


Researchers coded the audiotaped segments to assess whether the material covered in the training was implemented by the experimental group officers in sessions with probationers. The posttraining tapes of seven officers who left the project early were included in the analysis based on the intent-to-treat principle.


Outcomes included the content of officer/offender interaction, officer skills, survival rates, and recidivism rates. The study period was approximately 2 years. Both officer report and ratings and offender self-report data were used in the analysis. One-year recidivism outcomes were drawn from official provincial and national records. To assess baseline officer effectiveness, retrospective recidivism data was collected for clients supervised by officers 1 year prior to the start of the project.

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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
Bonta, James, Guy Bourgon, Tanya Rugge, Terri–Lynne Scott, Annie K. Yessine, Leticia Gutierrez, and Jobina Li. 2010. The Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision: Risk–Need–Responsivity in the Real World. Ottawa, Canada: Public Safety Canada.
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Additional References

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

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

Bonta, James, Tanya Rugge, Bill Sedo, and Ron Coles. 2004. Case Management in Manitoba Probation. Ottawa, Canada: Public Safety Canada.

Bonta, James, Tanya Rugge, Terri­–Lynne Scott, Guy Bourgon, and Annie K. Yessine. 2008. “Exploring the Black Box of Community Supervision.” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 47:248–70.

Bourgon, Guy, James Bonta, Tanya Rugge, Terri–Lynne Scott, and Annie K. Yessine. 2010. “The Role of Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation in Evidence-Based ‘Real World’ Community Supervision.” Federal Probation 74(1):2–15.

Bourgon, Guy, and Leticia Gutierrez. 2012. “The General Responsivity Principle in Community Supervision: The Importance of Probation Officers Using Cognitive Intervention Techniques and Its Influence on Recidivism.” Journal of Crime and Justice 35(2):149–66.

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Related Practices

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Following are 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

Adult Reentry Programs
This practice involves correctional programs that focus on the transition of individuals from prison into the community. Reentry programs involve treatment or services that have been initiated while the individual is in custody and a follow-up component after the individual is released. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, White, Other

Geography: Rural, Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Workplace, Other Community Setting

Program Type: Probation/Parole Services, Vocational/Job Training

Targeted Population: High Risk Offenders

Current Program Status: Active