Intensive Supervision Probation: Assessing Texas Programs
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This paper identifies effective practices for Intensive Supervision Probation (ISP) programs and assesses the extent to which Texas ISP programs use those practices. Effective ISP practices are derived from a review of criminal justice and ISP literature. The effective JSP practices identified in the literature are organized into five categories: mission and goal statements, target population and selection criteria, treatment and control activities, program integrity, and community justice. Twenty-three ISP programs are assessed for their use of effective practices in all five categories. All programs are funded primarily by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Community Justice Assistance Division (TDCJ-CJAD), and operated by local probation departments.
The sample has some unique characteristics. The assessment was originally designed to use survey research as the primary source of evidence, and content analysis or telephone interviews as a secondary source. Multiple sources of evidence were meant to increase data validity in each case. A low survey response rate resulted in using content analysis and telephone interviews as primary sources for a large number of programs. Data coding was not consistent across all sources of evidence, so the number of cases varies for each item.
Texas ISP programs, In general, meet the criteria for providing need-based treatment services and including long-term outcomes in their program goals. Texas ISP programs did not have clearly written mission and goal statements unique to the program. Programs did not adhere to criteria that place offenders who will do best into their programs. Regular program audits are the only tool in place to ensure program integrity. Special staff training and program evaluation did not take place in any of the programs. Finally, programs have not implemented community justice concepts to any recognizable extent.
Local departments that operate the programs and TDCJ-CJAD, the agency that funds the programs, can implement changes to move ISP toward the known effective practices. Local departments should develop clear missions and goals, adhere to selection criteria identified in the literature, implement processes to assist in adhering to these criteria, require ISP-specific training, evaluate programs, and implement community justice concepts. TDCJ-CJAD should: re-name ISP programs that are operating as "specialized caseloads", establish a training curriculum for ISP based on the American Probation and Parole Association's curriculum, evaluate programs, validate the risk assessment instrument currently used by departments, and promote the principles of community justice when funding ISP programs.