Volume 73 Number 3
Federal Probation

"Town Hall" Strategies for Organizational Change

Federal Criminal Filings and Postconviction Supervision

How Principles of High Reliability Organizations Relate to Corrections

Turnover Intention Among Probation Officers and Direct Care Staff: A Statewide Study

Good Job or Dirty Work? Public Perceptions of Correctional Employment

Sexual Victimization and Requests for Assistance in Inmates’ Letters to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission


"Town Hall" Strategies for Organizational Change

* The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge others who contributed to this article as well as to the efforts to develop community correction cen- ters, including Suzanne Fisher, Kenneth Coleman, Pamela Skelding, Victor Caldarola, and the case managers and correctional staff who are involved in this work. Further information about this study can be provided by Faye S. Taxman, Ph.D. at ftaxman@ gmu.edu.

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Federal Criminal Filings and Postconviction Supervision

  1. Unlike many state criminal systems, virtually all persons convicted in federal court are sentenced to some form of postconviction supervision, usually after a period of imprisonment.

  2. The U.S. Government's fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30.

  3. This is no longer the case. The FPSIS system was retired on September 30, 2005, and is now a legacy system. A new system is now in place, the National PACTS Reporting Database (NPR). Data are still submitted by the district probation offices, but now the database is maintained and administered by the AO's Office of Probation and Pretrial Services.

  4. The number of individuals reported as received into the postconviction supervision system in 2004, was 59,437. However, this number includes 7,218 cases in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) category that are duplicates of cases that were later opened in the "parole" or "term of supervised release" (TSR) categories. In March 2003, the Judicial Conference approved new supervision policies, which included the policy that probation officers were to become involved in re-entry and supervision planning for prisoners being released to supervision before they were actually released to the community. Districts were first advised in May 2003 (and again in November 2003) as to how they could open these cases in the database. They were to use the BOP case type category pending release of a new version of the software that would provide a field for entering a "prerelease supervision date." This would enable them to open a TSR or parole case prior to its being "received" without the need to open the case first as a BOP case. The new version of the software was released in July 2004, but most districts needed a few months to implement it and even more time to understand how the rules for opening a case prior to release had changed. (E-mail from B. Meierhoefer, 11/07/2006, Office of Probation and Pretrial Services, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.) Because the number published in Judicial Business of the United States, 2004, includes these duplicate cases, it does not match the number used in Figure 1 here. The number used in Figure 1 is 59,437 (published) minus 7,218 (duplicates) = 52,219.

  5. Duplicate defendants are defendants charged in more than one case when all of the cases are handled in the same year. These should not be confused with the duplicate cases discussed in footnote 4. Transfers were deleted from the analysis population so that defendants were not counted in both the original districts and the district to which they were transferred. Defendants transferred from one district to another or reassigned from one court or judge to another were considered transfers and omitted from the analysis.

  6. The category "other" includes deportation, suspended sentence, sealed sentence, imprisonment of four days or less, and no sentence.

  7. P.L. No. 98-4-8-473, 98 Stat. 1987.

  8. Hughes, John and Henkel, Karen S. (1997) "The Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System Since 1975: An Era of Growth and Change." 61 Federal Probation 103.

  9. Zenga, Ryan M. (1997) "Retroactive Law or Punishment for a New Offense-The Ex Post Facto Implications of Amending the Statutory Provisions Governing Violations of Supervised Release." 19 Western New England Law Review 499. Under the sentencing guidelines, prisoners must serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentence. Those sentenced before the guidelines took effect fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Parole Commission. In general, inmates who are parole-eligible may first be eligible for release on parole after serving one-third of their sentence. They must be released from prison to parole after serving two-thirds of their sentences, Parole-Eligible Federal Prison Inmates, General Accounting Office Report GGD-98-172R, July 14, 1998, at 1.

  10. Mistretta v. United States, 488 US 361 (1989).

  11. Criminal defendants were subject to substantially different treatment in the sentencing system in effect prior to the passage of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 1979 that, "if convicted of a crime, accused persons may receive different treatment at the time of sentencing. Official discretion frequently determines whether a defendant is incarcerated, the length of sentence imposed, and provisions affecting the time of incarceration before parole will be considered." Reducing Federal Judicial Sentencing and Prosecuting Disparities: A Systemwide Approach Needed, General Accounting Office Report GGD-78-112, March 19, 1979, at i. Moreover, the option of supervised release was created by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, as a new form of post-imprisonment supervision. Zenga, supra note 9, at 499. Supervised release differs from probation in that a term of supervised release occurs after an individual has served a term of imprisonment. Probation is a direct sentence to supervision with no intervening term of imprisonment.

  12. Walker, Patrick and O'Conor, Karen (1999) "Federal Probation: Trends in Persons Received, 1994-1998" (unpublished manuscript, on file in Statistics Division, Administrative Office of the United States Courts).

  13. Firearms Cases Rise in District Courts, 32 The Third Branch 4 (February 2000).

  14. Walker and O'Conor, supra note 12, at 4.

  15. Because the number for this single year is a "spike," and data return the following year to a level more consistent with that obtained previously, the 1996 spike may be due to a data error (e.g., incorrect coding). We spoke with staff in the Office of Proba-tion and Pretrial Services, who agreed that this spike seemed suspicious and suggests a data mistake. However, we could find no evidence to support this theory.

  16. Walker and O'Conor, supra note 12, at 4.

  17. Another possible explanation for the divergence of the two time series is that offenders sentenced under the sentencing guidelines were still working their way through the system during the period in question. The average prison sentence from 1987 to 2005 was 61.4 months, with only two years (1989 and 1990) having average sentences below the period average. However, in the years before 1996, the average prison sentence was 64.3 months; from 1996 through 2005, the average was 58.6 months, nearly six months less. Judicial Business of the United States, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (1990-2005).

  18. In this paper, we discuss long and short sentence offenses. The short sentence offenses and their average sentence (in months) from 1987-2005, are: immigration, 21.9; larceny, 27.6; embezzlement, 18.6; forgery 23.0; traffic, 26.2; and fraud, 25.2. Long sentence offenses and their average sentence from 1987 to 2005, are drugs, 80.6; firearms, 78.9; and, robbery, 103.2.

  19. Immigration offenses carry low average prison sentences (in 1990, 9.3 months; increasing through 1999 to 29.8 months; and declining to 25.7 months by 2005).

  20. Fewer than 5 percent of defendants charged with immigration offenses receive sentences of probation alone. Illegal entry and re-entry constitute less than one-half of these (several hundred).

  21. The ratio of offenders sentenced to prison to those sentenced directly to probation for all offenders is 3.6, i.e., 3.6 times as many offenders were sentenced to prison as were sentenced directly to probation. For all offenders except immigration offenders, it is 3.1.

  22. The Southwest border districts consist of the District of Arizona, the Southern District of California, the District of New Mexico, the Southern District of Texas, and the Western District of Texas.

  23. Bak, Thomas. (2008) "Illegal Immigration and the Southwest Border District Courts" 22 Georgetown Immigration Law Journal 570.

  24. Pub. L. 104-208

  25. Bak, supra note 22, at 570, 571.

  26. Bak, supra note 22, at 571.

  27. Bak, supra note 18, at 570.

  28. This is a logical policy, in that supervised release would be tantamount to giving temporary resident status to illegal aliens.

  29. The Supreme Court's decision in Kimbrough v. U.S., 128 S. Ct. 558 (2007), which granted federal judges the discretion to give reasonable, shorter prison sentences to crack cocaine offenders and thereby reduce the disparity between sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine, along with a ruling by the Federal Judicial Center (FJC) that these sentences can be challenged retroactively, could change both the length of the average sentence for crack cocaine convictions and the number of persons received into PCS. The FJC has estimated that at least 19,000 current prisoners convicted of crack cocaine charges could be eligible for sentence review.

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How Principles of High Reliability Organizations Relate to Corrections

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  3. Roberts, K.H., Characteristics of One Type of High Reliability Organization. Organization Science, 1990. 1(2): pp. 160-176.

  4. Roberts, K.H., High reliability organizations and systems of organizations: Getting from here to there. 2001, University of California, Berkeley: Berkeley, CA.

  5. Weick, K.E., Organizational Culture as a Source of High Reliability. California Management Review, 1987. 29(2): pp. 112-127.

  6. Weick, K.E. and K.M. Sutcliffe, Hospitals as Cultures of Entrapment: a re-analysis of the Bristol Royal infirmary. California Management Review, 2003. 45(2): pp. 73-84.

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  8. Wilson, R., The end of corrections as we know it: A review. Journal of Community Corrections, 2008: p. 5.

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  11. Austin, J., et al., Unlocking America: Why and how to reduce America's prison population. 2007, The JFA Institute: Washington, D.C. p. 32.

  12. Berman, D.A., Reorienting Progressive Perspectives for Twenty-First Century Punishment Realities. Harvard Law and Policy Review Online, 2008. 3: p. 20.

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  15. McNeill, F., et al., 21st Century Social Work: Reducing Re-Offending: Key Practice Skills, G.S.o.S. Work, Editor. 2005, Scottish Executive: Edinburgh. p. 46.

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Turnover Intention Among Probation Officers and Direct Care Staff: A Statewide Study

  1. Direct-care staff were defined as all Commu- nity Supervision and Corrections Departments (CSCD) employees who have direct contact with probationers or other clients as an assigned job duty, such as case workers, counselors, counselor interns, residential monitors, caseload technicians, and technicians assigned to the inter/intrastate caseloads, while excluding other staff, such as sec- retaries, general clerks, computer technicians, fiscal clerks, couriers, and transportation specialists, not assigned to a caseload or having contact with clien- tele as part of their regular duties.
  2. Respondents were required to select their depart- ment from a list, in order for the researcher to elicit a response rate for each department.
  3. Survey responses were obtained from a total of 3,241 line probation officers and direct-care staff. However, data provided by 6 line probation officers and 1 direct care staff were deleted due to missing information.
  4. A principal components factor analysis indicates that one of the original six items developed by Meyer and Allen (1997) was found to be heteroge- neous and was thereby discarded.
  5. A principal components factor analysis indi- cated that all factor loading scores exceeded the 0.50 cut-off, suggesting substantial loads (Comrey & Lee, 1992) and supporting the validity of the two sub-dimensional constructs of continuance commitment.
  6. Tukey’s HSD Post-Hoc test for the nine age groups indicates that high turnover intention was strongly prevalent among line officers whose age range was somewhere between 20-34 years. This age range group accounts for 42.8 percent (991 out of 2,618) of the total sampled line officers.
  7. Tukey’s HSD Post-Hoc test for the seven tenure groups indicates that high turnover intention was strongly prevalent among direct-care staff whose tenure range was somewhere between 0-3 years. This tenure group accounts for 45.6 percent (257 out of 564) of the total sampled direct-care staff population.
  8. Pay satisfaction developed by Dunham and Smith (1979) was classified by Williams et al. (2002) as multi-dimensional pay satisfaction, rather than uni-dimensional, pay-level satisfaction. However, due to no inclusion of benefits satisfaction, the study utilized and incorporated Spector’s (1997) benefits satisfaction scale into Dunham and Smith’s (1979) pay satisfaction scale.
  9. Two absolute fit (GFI = 0.99, RMEAS = 0.49) indices, well exceeding the recommended cut-off values, indicate that the hypothetical two-factor model, compared to alternative factor models, pro- vided best fit to the data. Also, the two-factor model provided a significant improvement: three incre- mental fit indices were better for the two-factor model (NFI = 0.99, CFI = 0.99, TLI = 0.98) than for the four-factor model (NFI = 0.94, CFI = 0.94, TLI = 0.83).
  10. Two absolute fit indices (GFI = 0.99, RMEAS = 0.01) fully support the absolute best-fit of the final model to the data. The three incremental fit indices were better for the final model (NFI = 0.999, CFI = 0.999, TLI = 0.998) than for the hypothetical model (NFI = 0.996, CFI = 0.996, TLI = 0.991).
  11. As demonstrated in Figure 1, the factor-loading score for pay satisfaction (0.79) showed a 1.49 times higher association with compensation satisfaction than the factor-loading score of benefit satisfaction (0.53).
  12. Even though a failure due to the current eco- nomic status and its subsequent statewide budget cuts, the concerted effort was recently made to vote to move forward with a recommendation of a $6,000 salary supplement for all probation line officers and direct care staff (A total amount of $45million for the biennium) to the Texas Legislature.

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Good Job or Dirty Work? Public Perceptions of Correctional Employment

  1. Thanks to Amber Herbeck and Chad Briggs for their help collecting and entering the data used for this project. The data were collected as part of Grant 98-CE-VX-0021 from the National Institute of Jus- tice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Correspondence may be directed to: Jody Sundt, Criminology and Criminal Justice, PO Box 751, Portland State University, Portland, OR 97207- 0751. Email:sundt@pdx.edu.
  2. These data include those employed in commu- nity corrections, prisons, and jails.

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Sexual Victimization and Requests for Assistance in Inmates’ Letters to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission

  1. The views contained and expressed in this docu- ment do not represent the position of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. All views and interpretations contained herein are those of the authors alone.
  2. It should be noted that the correspondence reviewed in this analysis is only a subset of cor- respondence received at the Commission from inmates. Correspondence received prior to June 2004 and after February 2008 is not included. Addi- tionally correspondence from individuals who are not inmates is not included in the analysis.
  3. Additionally, 42.4 percent of correspondence included supplementary materials. These supple- mentary materials included court documents, legal letters, affidavits, inmate grievance complaints with identifying information, hearing dispositions, news articles, declarations, inmate/parolee appeal forms, and official complaints filed against correctional personnel.

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