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Probation And Pretrial Services - Annual Report 2010

The Administrative Office supports officers by providing training, technology tools, and research that helps them supervise federal offenders.

Study on Reentry Court Programs

Study on Reentry Court Programs

Probation and pretrial services officers spend substantial time working out in the community. Customized technology tools make information available to them in locations away from the office.

The Judicial Conference has endorsed the Committee on Criminal Law's recommendation that the FJC assess the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of federal offender reentry court programs. The two-part study involves tracking offender behavior over multiple years. First, relying on data from the Probation and Pretrial Services Automated Case Tracking System (PACTS), the Center will examine the supervision outcomes of defendants and offenders who have graduated from already-established federal reentry programs and compare those to the outcomes of similarly situated defendants and offenders who did not participate.

The second part of this study will be a controlled experiment involving several districts that do not yet have an established reentry court program. Five districts have expressed interest in participating in the experimental study: The Southern District of Iowa, Eastern District of Wisconsin, Southern District of New York, Middle District of Florida, and Central District of California. One of the primary measurements will be re-arrest for a new criminal offense within six, 12, 24, and 36 months of release from prison, and the number of days arrest-free after release. Interim outcomes will include adjustment to supervision; compliance with reentry program elements; change in educational, employment and financial status; and substance abuse and/or mental health treatment outcomes. The study will include a process evaluation to assess the extent to which the reentry program elements were implemented in each of the study locations.

Search and Seizure Regulations

More than 15 years after model search and seizure guidelines were first released, and with the benefit of feedback from probation officers nationwide, the Committee on Criminal Law asked the AO staff to review the guidelines and recommend any needed revisions. A working group of probation and pretrial services staff assisted in drafting changes to the guidelines, which were posted in August 2009 on the Judiciary intranet for review and comment. Input was also solicited from the U.S. Department of Justice. After unanimous recommendation by the Committee, the Judicial Conference in September 2010 adopted the new Search and Seizure Guidelines for United States Probation Officers in the Supervision of Offenders on Supervised Release or Probation.

The new guidelines reflect recent case law and current administrative policies and procedures. New data collection procedures will allow the Committee and the AO to monitor trends involving searches and seizures, review safety incidents and concerns, and monitor the effects on supervision outcomes. While the original guidelines required officers who engaged in searches to be trained by local or other federal law-enforcement agencies, the new guidelines would require such officers to complete a Judiciary training program developed by the AO. Officers will be trained at the Probation and Pretrial Services National Training Academy about use of the guidelines.

Evidence-Based Practices in Probation and Pretrial Services

An AO working group has developed a strategy for implementing research-based practices in probation and pretrial services, and nationwide training is underway. The AO has developed two risk-assessment instruments—the first to help officers make better pretrial release and detention recommendations, and the second to assist in post-conviction supervision planning. Combining practical knowledge with statistical data and methods, these empirical tools identify factors that increase the risk of failure while under supervision and assist officers in mitigating those risks. Key to an evidence-based philosophy is an ongoing assessment to ensure that the program is correctly implemented, effective, and fiscally sound. The Conference Committee on Criminal Law supports increased use of research-based practices in probation and pretrial services.

Study on Recidivism

Working with a leading research firm, the AO established an objective benchmark for measuring recidivism of persons under post-conviction supervision, both during the period of supervision and three years following. This is the first time that recidivism of the federal population has been measured on a large scale, with academic rigor that permits statistically valid comparisons over time. This baseline data will allow the AO to study the relationship between offender success and various supervision practices. These analyses can in turn inform policy and resourcing decisions.

Custom Technology Solutions

The AO continued to work with the courts to provide technology innovations that allow probation and pretrial services staff to be more effective and efficient. The Offender Payment Enhanced Report Access (OPERA) system was launched to help officers monitor fines and restitution payments made by persons under supervision. To reduce the paperwork burden on probation and pretrial services officers, 71 self-help kiosks were implemented and nearly 30,000 administrative data reports from defendants and offenders were collected, allowing officers to focus their personal interactions on more critical issues. Similarly, an Internet reporting version was developed during the year that will allow defendants and offenders to provide the same information using a web browser. A Spanish version of this reporting system also is being tested.

During fiscal year 2010, an assessment tool for calculating risk based on a research question-set was developed and tested in several courts. The Access to Law Enforcement System (ATLAS) continued to be enhanced over the past year, adding a 90-day automated criminal history background check feature. As a law enforcement resource, ATLAS experienced rising usage over the past year, with more than 900,000 transactions processed. The Electronic Probation and Pretrial Services System continued to collect case-related electronic documents with success, and now securely houses more than 8 million. During the year, a new feature was added that allows documents, including the Presentence Report, the Judgment and Commitment order, Statement of Reasons, Indictment, and Plea Agreement, to be electronically transmitted to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, resulting in significant administrative savings.