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Probation And Pretrial Services - Annual Report 2011

This past year, the Administrative Office trained all officers in the use of a new risk prediction instrument for persons supervised by federal probation as a result of conviction for an offense. This marks a milestone in federal probation and pretrial services evidence-based practices approaches to community supervision.

Training for probation and pretrial services officers included a mix of classroom learning, practical instruction, and online sessions during 2011.

Training for probation and pretrial services officers included a mix of classroom learning, practical instruction, and online sessions during 2011.

Sex Offender Management Policy and Procedures Manual Released

As the number of convicted and accused sex offenders in the federal system continues to climb, probation and pretrial services officers are confronting more frequently certain case management issues relating to sex offender supervision. To assist officers in investigating and supervising these defendants and offenders, the AO Director appointed a working group to develop appropriate policies and procedures. At its March 2011 meeting, the Judicial Conference approved, on the Criminal Law Committee's recommendation, a new policy developed by the working group on management of sex offenders.

The new policy, which was published in theGuide to Judiciary Policy and distributed to the courts, gives probation and pretrial services officers a broad overview of sex offender management principles, and specifies that officers who work with sex offenders and sex offense victims should receive specialized training, support, and equipment. The policy states:

Officers who work with sex offenders may be subject to extraordinary pressures in trying to protect the community from new sex offenses. Managers in the probation and pretrial services system should monitor officers for signs of stress from working with sex offender cases and take appropriate steps to assist the officers. The AO has also distributed a new Sex Offender Management Procedures Manual, endorsed by the Criminal Law Committee. The manual, which complements the new policy, describes the use of the "containment model" to supervise sex offenders. The model is a supervision approach that requires the supervision officer, therapist, and polygraph examiner to work as a team to hold the offender accountable and address the offender's overall criminogenic needs, risk, and sex offense thoughts and behaviors. Training in the new policy and procedures manual is being developed and will be offered to probation and pretrial services staff during 2012.

Strategic Techniques Aimed at Reducing Re-arrest (STARR) Training Program

The AO has completed its initial analysis of the impact of the defendant/offender supervision skills program, Strategic Techniques Aimed at Reducing Re-arrest (STARR). The results are promising and suggest that the training will impact both officer-client interaction and recidivism. The study includes 67 officers from 10 districts and 1,304 defendants and offenders. The AO plans to continue analyzing the impact of STARR as more officers representing a larger number of districts are trained. The AO has developed initial, two-and-a-half-day classroom training, with follow-up activities to help develop an officer's use of the skills. Approximately 120 officers have been trained as coaches to assist with follow-up activities. The AO plans to use this strategy to help deliver the supervision skills training to interested districts.

National Search-and-Seizure Training Program Launched

Following the Judicial Conference's September 2010 approval of new search-and-seizure guidelines for probation officers, the AO began developing a new, comprehensive search-and-seizure training program. While the 1993 version of the guidelines required officers involved in searches to be trained by local or other federal law enforcement agencies, the new guidelines require officers to complete an AO-developed Judiciary training program. The two-week training program uses resources developed by the Judiciary's National Training Academy and includes classroom and practical instruction. Officers are trained in the Judiciary's use of force and firearms policies, receive an overview on legal issues and the Fourth Amendment, and learn how to manage a search- and-seizure program in their districts. Officers are also instructed on how to safely execute a search by practicing techniques in various scenario-based sessions.

This year, the AO is delivering three training programs, with up to 24 officers in each program. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 provided the Judiciary with the appropriations authority to purchase, rent, repair, and clean uniforms for probation and pretrial office staff.  This authority will enable districts and the AO to use appropriated funds to purchase clothing items necessary for officers and instructors to perform searches and other official duties safely.  Uniforms are used for training at the probation and pretrial services training academy where officers learn to safely work with offenders in the community, and to properly identify probation officers who participate in law enforcement activities with other agencies.

Post-conviction Supervision Risk Assessment (PCRA) Instrument Implementation

In 2010, the Administrative Office developed a new risk prediction instrument for use with persons being supervised by federal probation as a result of a conviction for a federal offense. The development of this instrument, known as the PCRA, updates earlier-generation risk prediction instruments that have been in use by federal probation for decades.  The PCRA leverages an emerging body of compelling research in community corrections about the factors that make persons most likely to engage in criminal behavior. Such research clearly indicates that a critical component of effective community corrections is the use of an actuarial risk and needs assessment tool to identify which persons to target for correctional interventions, what characteristics or needs to address, and how to deliver supervision and treatment in a way that mitigates the risk of future criminal behavior.

In 2011, the AO trained all officers who supervise persons on post-conviction supervision. The 16-hour training, conducted in 23 separate training events, covered the principles of evidence-based supervision practices, provided details on the PCRA scoring rules, gave officers time to practice the PCRA on test cases, and examined the relationship between PCRA output and application of that output to effective supervision strategies. Assisted by over 50 officers from probation offices across the country, Administrative Office staff members trained more than 3,500 officers to properly administer the PCRA. Officers are required to complete an online certification process before administering the PCRA, and are required to re-certify annually to ensure that they are correctly administering and interpreting the instrument.

Pretrial Risk Assessment (PTRA) Instrument Implementation

In 2010, the AO also developed a pretrial risk assessment instrument to assist officers in making recommendations regarding pretrial release of persons charged with federal crimes. The instrument assists officers by informing them of the statistical likelihood that the defendant, if released pending outcome of the federal charges, will fail to appear in court, be arrested in connection with new criminal conduct, or otherwise violate conditions of pretrial release. During FY 2011, more than 1,600 officers in all 93 federal district courts were certified to administer the PTRA.