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Federal Probation Journal - June 2016

This Issue in Brief

The Supervision of Low-risk Offenders: How the Low-risk Policy Has Changed Federal Supervision Practices without Compromising Community Safety

By Thomas H. Cohen, David Cook, Christopher T. Lowenkamp

The authors present a preliminary analysis of the federal probation system’s recently adopted evidence-based supervision policy for low-risk offenders, asking 1) Have the number of officer/offender interactions changed after implementation of the low-risk policy, 2) What are the recidivism patterns of low-risk offenders supervised by officers before and after the low-risk policy went into effect, and 3) Has the collection of imposed fines and restitution changed following adoption of the low-risk policy?

Examining Overrides of Risk Classifications for Offenders on Federal Supervision

By Thomas H. Cohen, Bailey Pendergast, Scott W. VanBenschoten

The federal probation system’s Post Conviction Risk Assessment instrument (PCRA) has been empirically shown to effectively predict the likelihood that an offender will recidivate during his or her supervision period. Judicial policy allows officers the option to override the PCRA’s risk classification of an offender for certain policy-related reasons (sex offender, persistently violent, mental health issues, or serious youthful offender) or as “discretionary overrides.” In this article the authors first examine the overall prevalence of overrides for offenders under federal supervision, the types of overrides, and the rationales. They then explore whether offenders with overrides are supervised differently compared to those without and whether they recidivate at rates similar to their original or reclassified risk levels.

Trademarks, Press Releases, and Policy: Will Rigorous Research Get in the Way?

By Kristin Bechtel, Anthony W. Flores, Alexander M. Holsinger, Christopher T. Lowenkamp

It is no secret that reports regarding new practices or concepts can be broadly branded, trademarked, marketed, and distributed when the information has not been subjected to replication and peer review. What are the implications when policies and practices are adopted and substantial funding is allocated without an adequate level of empirical support?

A Case Study of the Implementation of Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Rearrest (STARR)

By Tammatha A. Clodfelter, Jefferson E. Holcomb, Melissa A. Alexander, Catherine D. Marcum, Tara N. Richards

Research on evidence-based correctional practices notes the critical importance of program implementation in assessing program effectiveness. In this article, the authors describe the implementation of a training program to improve officer-offender interactions in the federal probation system. They use several sources of information to assess implementation strategies and the success of those efforts within a single federal district.

Street-level Discretion and Organizational Effectiveness in Probation Services

By Alese Wooditch, Lauren Duhaime, Kimberly Meyer

The authors provide an overview of street-level discretion among probation officers (and in probation departments more generally) and discuss how discretion supports the attainment of goals at the organizational level. They also examine the limitations of the street-level bureaucrat approach and conclude with recommendations for how future practices and scholarship may overcome these limitations.

Extralegal Factors and the Imposition of Lifetime Supervised Release for Child Pornography Offenders

By Niquita M. Vinyard

For child pornography offenders, the supervised release term is particularly important because of the statutory override found in 18 U.S.C. 3583(k) enhancing the length of the term from a maximum of five years to a minimum of five years to life and providing for the revocation of supervised release resulting in the incarceration of the defendant for the remainder of the period. The author examines the effects of legal and extralegal factors on supervised release outcomes, specifically lifetime supervised release for child pornography offenders.

Trends in the Criminality and Victimization of the Elderly

By Peter C. Kratcoski, Maximilian Edelbacher

Among the relatively reliable variables predictive of amount and types of crime is age: The proportion of violent crimes will decline as the ages of the offenders increases. On the other hand, the proportion of the elderly who are victimized by crime, particularly theft, financial fraud, and physical abuse, exceeds that of other age groups. The authors focus on changes in the amount and types of crime committed by the elderly and also on the various methods used to victimize the elderly.

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