These findings suggest that CBM, like other models that facilitate the integration of parole and addiction treatment (Thanner and Taxman 2003
), increased parole contacts and treatment utilization. CBM increased the extent to which parole and treatment were delivered on the same day, making both treatment and parole more convenient for the parolee/client and facilitating integration of services. Perhaps most importantly, CBM intensified and temporally integrated these processes, without increasing parole violations. The CBM intervention thus appeared to integrate community parole and addiction treatment successfully, increasing adherence to both community supervision and treatment without adverse consequences.
Greater integration of supervision and addiction treatment hold great potential to improve the outcomes of parolees involved in both systems (Byrne et al. 2002
; Thanner and Taxman 2003
; Fletcher and Chandler 2006
). Thanner and Taxman (2003)
, in their evaluation of a seamless system model, similarly found that high-risk offenders receiving integrated treatment and parole services were more likely to attend and complete drug treatment and less likely to be arrested. A recent evaluation of Maryland’s proactive community supervision project found that an integrated model where the officers were trained in motivational interviewing reduced both technical violations and rearrests (Taxman 2008
). Ongoing analyses of the Step’n Out project will examine whether CBM yields similar improvements in distal outcomes.
Directly or indirectly, integration has the potential to increase supervisory contacts and intensify parole; indeed, CBM increased the number of parole contacts and face-to-face contacts between parole officers and parolees. Research on and practice of intensive parole have been haunted by findings that suggested that closer surveillance might lead to more detection of technical violations and more revocations, thus increasing re-incarceration costs without improving public safety (Petersilia 1990
; Petersilia and Turner 1993
). Like recent findings from the Maryland proactive community supervision project (Taxman 2008
), CBM intensified parole supervision without increasing parole violations. Taken together, this accumulating evidence suggests that nihilism surrounding intensive parole supervision might be contravened if parole practice was grounded in theory-based models of behavioral management.
noted the atheoretical nature of parole practice in her qualitative review of the effectiveness of probation and parole supervision. Face-to-face contacts have been based on a surveillance ‘check in’ model, where the offender meets for a brief period of time with the officer to provide information about his/her compliance with parole conditions. Observations of contacts found that parole officers were rushed, tended to ask pointed and direct questions, made little eye contact with the offender, and tended to focus on the offender’s failure to meet conditions (which can range from three to more than 12). Such sessions do little more than provide opportunities for offenders to be perceived as failing, damaging self-efficacy and reinforcing their view of supervision as setting them up to fail (Maruna 2001
Recent advances in the supervision field have viewed contact as an opportunity to deliver brief interventions that build clients’ motivation, self-efficacy and recovery-related skills. CBM conceptualizes the contact as a brief intervention in which treatment counselors and parole officers assist offenders in setting feasible goals that facilitate recovery, making targeted progress on those goals and problem solving, and reinforcing progress. Of course, behaviors that are not allowed (e.g., possession of a gun) require traditional parole responses, but the CBM process provides an opportunity for more graduated responses to manage less egregious behavior. The Step’n Out study demonstrates that parole can be integrated with treatment and that parole contacts based on sound behavioral management principles can reinforce participation in rehabilitative processes.
The Step’n Out study has several limitations. First, parole officers and treatment counselors volunteered to participate in the CBM intervention, so differences in their motivation might have contributed to the observed effect. That said, in real world settings, assignment to specialized caseloads is often voluntary. Second, in many of our study sites, parole and treatment were already co-located at the parole office. While this situation might have laid the geographic groundwork for collaboration between the CBM parole officer and treatment counselor, it also might have increased the extent of collaboration within the control groups, making difference more difficult to detect. Third, heterogeneity in the effectiveness of CBM is likely among the sites, but it is difficult to assess site-level effects with only six sites. Fourth, we cannot comment on the reliability with which parole officers and treatment counselors recorded their contacts in charts, but we have no reason to believe that such recording differed between the study conditions. Fifth, technical violations came from client self-reports over a short period, the first 12 weeks of the parole. Although these self-reports are of uncertain validity, it is unlikely that they would vary differentially by study group. Sixth, study participants were research volunteers, who likely differed from those who did not volunteer. Thus, CBM might work better or less well if it were mandated among all transitioning drug-involved offenders.
Seventh, centralized fidelity assessment of audiotaped sessions, while highly standardized, reduced the timeliness of feedback to parole officers and counselors. Delays occurred in submitting the audiotapes to centralized assessors and in obtaining feedback from the assessors. Commonly delayed for months, the feedback given to the CBM officers and counselors from the tape reviews did not serve as a useful quality improvement tool. Real world implementation of CBM will require greater attention to fidelity issues and training of local supervisors to provide ongoing monitoring and feedback to parole officers and counselors.
Eighth, a computerized program, called SNOCONE (the Step’n Out computerized input environment), was developed as a tool to assist officers in implementing CBM. This program allowed the officers to enter information on the goals set for each client and the progress made towards these goals each week. While this program was used for the majority of clients, some officers had problems using SNOCONE, sometimes due to technical issues with the program and sometimes due to technical issues with the system as it ran on their agency’s network. The system calculated points automatically, but if all client contacts were not entered into SNOCONE, the points were not correctly tracked, and officers had to track progress manually. With greater development, computerized decision support holds promise to provide community supervision officers with needed tools for behavioral management.
Finally, in most of the parole offices, only one or two officers were implementing CBM, while all of the other officers continued to deliver traditional parole. Since we did not have information about individual POs in the control group, and the number of parolees assigned to each PO would be small, analyses did not nest clients within PO. CBM parole officers, in informal discussions, reported feeling ‘isolated’, having no on-site resources for intervention, and being considered ‘soft’ by their peers for using this technique. With more extensive implementation, the partnership between parole and treatment might create a culture in which parole and treatment share a mutual appreciation of their respective roles in the recovery process. POs gain greater understanding of the importance of treatment and a positive rehabilitative approach in producing long-term behavioral change, while addiction treatment providers better understand the POs’ role in managing offender behavior and ensuring public safety. Discussions with our parole officers and treatment counselors revealed that they had not previously considered their roles to be complementary. Instead of competing for the attention of the offender, the CBM model helped them align their work to complement each other, as well as to work together towards engaging the offender in a mutually supportive parole and treatment process. Future analyses will examine whether collaborative behavioral management improves parole officer–parolee relationships, criminal justice and drug use outcomes.
The proposed integration of the community supervision and addiction treatment systems might be conceived of as a joint venture or contractual alliance, in which both parties contribute resources and expertise to create a system better designed for the task of reintegrating drug-involved offenders back into the community. The Step’n Out study suggests that this re-engineered system, grounded in sound behavioral principles, might safely integrate and intensify transitioning offenders’ participation in essential community supervision and substance abuse treatment services.