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Evaluating Probation and Parole Home Visits


Highlights

  • The effectiveness of community supervision field work is unknown.
  • We evaluated field contacts’ effects on recidivism and supervision violations.
  • Field contacts reduce recidivism/violations, but the findings are nuanced.
The Challenge

Case officer field contact with parolees and probationers has been part of the fabric of community supervision for more than a century. But there has been little research into field visits’ effectiveness and which visit components work best for whom. The National Institute of Justice awarded Abt a research grant to:

  1. Describe the varying practices of home and other field contacts in community supervision.
  2. Evaluate their effectiveness in maintaining public safety and promoting compliance with supervision requirements.
The Approach

Abt partnered with the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, the Minnesota Department of Correction, and three Minnesota county systems to implement three study components:

  1. A quantitative historical analysis of how supervision compliance and recidivism vary with field contact, offender risk level and supervision type
  2. A brief field contact checklist that documented circumstances surrounding a contact and the activities conducted
  3. A qualitative examination of how agency staff use home and field contacts in the course of supervision.
The Results

We found that field contacts reduced recidivism and the number of supervision violations by serving as an additional deterrent, by enabling officers to understand the stressors affecting their supervisees and build rapport, or both. This finding was consistent across supervision types (i.e., probation and parole), but varied by risk level. Field contacts were more effective for higher risk offenders. Important aspects of a field contact varied by state: unscheduled contacts had slightly different effects across states, and the effect of using evidence-based practices had significant impact only in Ohio. More research is needed to determine best practices.