Webinar presenters Tiffany Marsitto and Christopher Greenway answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Advanced Supervision Strategies: ASSET Management. Here are some of their responses.
Audience Question: What do you use to determine whether or not a probation case is a high- risk case?
Tiffany & Christopher: When someone is sentenced or going to be sentenced, the judge orders a pre-sentence report with a standardized assessment for clients interviewed for probation. They're given a score of low risk, medium-low risk, medium-high risk, and high risk. This is what's used to gauge which client should go to which officer and unit.
Audience Question: You refer to probationers as clients, why do you call them clients when they're not buying a service and committed a crime?
Tiffany & Christopher: If you refer to them as a probationer, you're always referring to them a criminal. We don't want that reinforced to the clients. Calling them clients humanize them.
Audience Question: Is jail an automatic sanction or are there other sanctions that are available?
Tiffany & Christopher: Jail is the only sanction that our unit uses. Jail is the first sanction followed by the cognitive piece. When we run out of jail time, that's when the judge wishes to see them in court. Therefore we file a petition for revocation. We can also use other sanctions on top of the jail time. Other officers that are not in the ASSET unit have other sanctions when clients violate probation.
Audience Question: Is that deferred jail time an actual conditional probation that is put in as part of sentence order of the job?
Tiffany & Christopher: Yes. If they do come out of sentencing and they do not have that deferred jail time, we will ask the probation be modified to include that term.
Audience Question: How does the caseload size for IPS compare to regular probation caseloads?
Tiffany & Christopher: We try to have our specific units have fewer caseloads that the standard IPS. We try to cap our IPS clients at 12 per officer. We cap our standard officers at 35. Where regular caseloads is 65.
Audience Question: How long on average are clients in the IPS program?
Tiffany & Christopher: About 6 to 9 months. If they're having difficulties, around a year. People who are in IPS for over a year probably have other issues going on.
Audience Question: How long did it take to set that up and get the judges, defense attorneys, and prosecution on board with the program? Can you talk about the work you did with those other stakeholders to be able to set up this program?
Tiffany & Christopher: When this unit was created, Karen spent years looking at different and evidence-based practices and programs to incorporate into this specialized caseload, there's nothing that we offer geared toward the high-risk population. When deferred incarceration came out, all the other stakeholders and our jail knew about it. They knew the process of implementing the program, we notified the judge about our plans and she was supportive of it. County attorneys ensured that rights were upheld and following due process.
Audience Question: Is IPS only used in felony cases or do you use it on misdemeanor as well?
Tiffany & Christopher: IPS is for felony cases only.
Audience Question: An audience members' county probation only supervises misdemeanors so sentences are fairly short. Do you have any suggestions on how they may modify the program to fit misdemeanor offenders?
Tiffany & Christopher: For misdemeanor clients, they're only allowed to service 6 months total in jail. Not sure how jail sanctions can work for misdemeanor cases. I would assume that misdemeanor cases' population is medium-low to low-risk offenders, and I suggest to really work on the cognitive piece so they can avoid future offenses, while still establishing relationship and expectations, having swift and certain consequences.
Audience Question: What assessment tool do you use to determine risk?
Tiffany & Christopher: Our supreme court has an offender and re-offender screening tools. It is a set of questions that pre-sentence investigator and probation officer use regarding past criminal behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, relationships, employment, to get a picture of every aspect of their life, and where the risk is rooted.
Audience Question: Does every offender that scored high on the assessment tool, are they assigned to IPS, or is it just a subset of those who scored high risk?
Tiffany & Christopher: Depends on the sentencing, some high-risk offenders get sent to standard probation. And sometimes medium high is on intensive probation. It all depends on what the judge orders at sentencing and the recommendation of the pre-sentence officer.
Audience Question: How many offenders are currently in your A.S.S.E.T IPS program?
Tiffany & Christopher: About 22 who are currently being supervised.
Audience Question: At what point in your process do you leverage the techniques of motivational interview in the model of EPICS?
Tiffany & Christopher: It is incorporated throughout. EPICS II is just a branch of motivational interviewing, it is the next step of it.
Audience Question: In terms of the sanction, if every infraction is a violation, do you end sending just about every one of your clients to jail at some point during their term?
Tiffany & Christopher: No. We have clients who are very on top of things, but not all. These people aren't low risk so this isn't their first offense. These people often need our help and are struggling. While a curfew violation is minor, there's a reason they're placed in a curfew and be held accountable. By allowing them to deviate from the terms of their probation, then we're allowing them to repeat that behavior. Our goal is to teach them how to change their behavior and also hold them accountable. There is zero-tolerance.
Audience Question: Do you end up laboratory confirming before you end up sanctioning for using drugs while they're on probation?
Tiffany & Christopher: We can when they admit use. Building relationship is one of the key elements of this program, so the clients are more likely to admit to you and take responsibility for their actions, without having the need for confirmation tests.
There are lots of false positives in our alcohol-screening tests. If they don't admit, we'll send that for confirmation, if it comes back positive then it is addressed.
Audience Question: Before you send a client to jail, do you have to go to the court and get an order from the judicial officer or do you have that authority?
Tiffany & Christopher: In the draft to impose deferred incarceration, the client signs their right to waive a hearing and right to have an attorney present. After they're arrested and they sign that, then we submit it to the judge who orders. Then the jail is informed that the client is being held for however long.
Audience Question: What steps do you take to reinforce relationships between your clients and law enforcement? Clients often demonize law enforcement that when they try to reach out, it isn't reciprocated.
Tiffany & Christopher: One example is that of a client who recently got out of jail. Her old drug dealer came to her residence, demanding money that she owed. One of our officers visited her house and contacted law enforcement with her. So when the law enforcement came, she didn't want to rat on her drug dealer, but she had to do that because it is what was right. The officer came with her and illustrated how things ought to be when people break the law.
Criminals have a mentality that law enforcement, probation officers included, are out to get them. I would reach out to your local probation department and have conversations with them. Work side by side, do training together. Probation shouldn't talk negatively about law enforcement officers.
Audience Question: As a probation officer, what do you think about using the clients' circle of influence like family members to manage defined behavior and non-compliance?
Tiffany & Christopher: It's important to address every aspect of the client's life, including family. We maintain contact with their family if they're close — if the family's across the country it isn't quite as meaningful. It is beneficial to keep the family in the discussion. Though we must maintain confidentiality such that we can ask them for information about the client but cannot talk to the family and friends about the client.
Audience Question: Are sex offender clients managed as part of the IPS program, and does your approach change for them?
Tiffany & Christopher: Though their crimes are heinous, these clients are normally scored low-risk in the assessment tool. They're in a specialized sex offender unit.
Click here to view a recording of "Advanced Supervision Strategies: ASSET Management."