There are more than 4 million individuals on probation or parole, but the percentage of successful exits? Only about 50% – and 20% more have unknown outcomes. Is there something that community supervision officers and agencies can do to improve these outcomes? Brian Lovins shares concepts to affect behavior changes and ultimately successful outcomes for probation clients.
Brian is a Principal for Justice System Partners (JSP), an organization that helps justice system organizations make sense of local systems using available data to create solutions to address their challenges. He is also the current President of the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and the Associate Director for the University of Cincinnati’s Corrections Institute.
Topics covered in this discussion include:
- Statistics that illustrate concerns surrounding the probation and parole system.
- The disconnect between punishment-based intervention and expectations of behavior changes and reduced recidivism.
- The unchanged system of modern-day community supervision since the 1970s that requires immediate compliance without providing resources for the change to occur.
- The critical role of hope in affecting positive behavior change and the three factors required to build hope.
- The 4 to 1 ratio: How the amount of reinforcement vs. sanctions in marriages impacts the likelihood of divorce, and in supervision affects the likelihood of successful outcomes.
- A run-through into the characteristics, activities, and roles of referees and coaches and how they impact the outcome of the game.
- Seeing law enforcement-social worker and referee-coach dynamics as continuums instead of dichotomies, where both roles are needed to come up with successful outcomes.
- Steps that Community Supervision Officers must take to assume the role of the coach that highlights:
- Believing in everyone’s potential for change and recognizing their strengths, barriers, and needs.
- Developing a playbook that incorporates skills, behaviors, and core correctional practices to help clients improve and set them up for success.
- Taking on challenges, owning losses and mistakes, and adjusting accordingly to improve and correct these.
- Key agency characteristics to provide Community Supervision Officers the support they need as coaches.
- Supporting winning and focusing on outcomes while accepting failures and fostering a learning environment.
- Encouraging and reinforcing staff to develop small innovative ways to facilitate agency change and improvement.
- Focusing on competence fidelity and behavioral change instead of operational issues and risk reduction strategies.
- Integrating values into policies.
- The value in building up individuals to work towards success instead of punishing them for past failures.
- Questions and options to consider between being a referee or a coach.
- Examples and analogies were to better demonstrate…
- How deterrence may not result in the intended goals and instead create adverse outcomes.
- How allowing people to commit and own up to mistakes cultivates improvement.
- How focusing on the next step instead of the previous mistake creates better results.
Points raised during the Q&A are about:
- How staff can work within their purview to create and influence change.
- Recommended rewards and reinforcement in adult corrections to facilitate behavior change.
Resources and Handouts
- Handout: Coaching Network for Change
- Handout: Article – Probation Officer as a Coach: Building a New Professional Identity by Lovins, Cullen, Latessa and Jonson
- “I just love the concept of: focusing on the next step, Not the previous step. Super cool and very powerful.” — Maya
- “Comparing probation officers to law enforcement. We are not whistleblowers rather we are a resource to help people make those positive changes in their lives. I really appreciated this webinar. Good job!!” — Miranda
- “I enjoyed the analogies utilized throughout the presentation that help develop the idea of providing/modeling behavior change to our clients.” — Wendi
- “This was by far one of the best trainings I’ve taken. I feel like there was so much more that could have been discussed. I look forward to more trainings with Dr.Lovins.” — Aida
- “Great paradigm shift for probation officers and leadership.” — Adam
- “Excellent Presenter and Webinar. This concept applies over many fields, not just probation. Great job!” — Cathy
- “I loved the examples and they made total sense. I have recently been feeling like I had lost my passion for probation. Being a “coach” could help me find that passion again.” — Suzanne
- “Everything! It was explained so clearly and the use of his scenarios and examples really put the coach approach into perspective!” — Monica
- “We are focusing on philosophy change at our agency and this falls right in line with what we are implementing. I loved all the stories he gave to help give a different mindset around what we are expecting from clients on our caseload (learning to speak French, losing weight, targeting in football, etc.). I also really liked the goals around what is expected of a Coach (PO) and what is expected for a General Manager (Agency). A lot of good info!” — Jessica
- “It reinforced what I am doing with my team so I found it very useful.” — John
- “How being a coach can really help to motivate and cultivate change. Like he said during the webinar, strict punishments do nothing to help the probationer, we have to really dig deep to help our clients with their basic needs & then work towards making those changes. We also have to know that there will be setbacks. We have to address those setbacks & figure out a way together to redirect the course towards success. The goal should be to help this person see what good they can accomplish in their lives.” — Leslie
- “I like how he reframed the idea of conditions to be part of re-enforcing the positive aspects of the person under supervision.” — Heather
- “Focusing on the next step instead of the previous step being articulated was helpful. I never realized that is what I’ve been doing. I also always thought that everyone believed that all people can change. Stating that “you must believe that people can change” suggests that not all do. Re: Analogy of learning French needs modification. While learning news skills is needed to avoid reoffending, the analogy suggests that not knowing a skill (French) is akin to not knowing not to steal from others.” — Alexander
- “We have started really implementing with our PO’s the use of graduated responses-using sanctions and incentives to work with our juvenile population and be that coach with them not do checklist probation. And supervisors are really focused on coaching employees in working with them. This webinar was fantastic and confirmed a lot of things that we as a department are doing!” — Dena
- “The use of sports analogies and how the roles of coaches improve the outcome of a game, really helped put into perspective how an officer encouraging a client can really improve the outcome of a case. Dr. Lovins provided a lot of insight to the use of positive encouragement benefitting clients, especially those struggling with treatment and/or working on their GEDs.” — Sarah-Alexandra