- History of Police-Probation/Parole Partnerships
- Research and Evaluation on Partnerships
- Problems Associated with Partnership
- Recommendations for Policy and Practice on Police-Probation/Parole Partnerships
IN MANY CASES, law enforcement is likely to come into contact with individuals who possess a long history of criminal involvement (Kennedy, 1997). Police may express frustration over apprehending criminals only to see them walking the streets a month later, sometimes referred to as the “revolving door” of the justice system. It is no secret that a majority of offenders will be rearrested for new crime after release; roughly one-half to two-thirds will recidivate (i.e., be rearrested) within three years (Langan & Levin, 2002; Pew Center on the States, 2011). In an evaluation of Boston’s Operation Ceasefire, researchers found that a small number of youth were responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime (Braga, Kennedy, Waring, & Piehl, 2001). Specifically, 1 percent of youth (often gang-affiliated) were responsible for up to 60 percent of all youth homicides. Up to 50 percent of these offenders, as well as many victims, were under probation or parole supervision at the time of the crime (Braga, 2008a).
Similar trends have been found in other cities. Researchers of homicide in Lowell, Massachusetts, report that 44 percent of offenders and 18 percent of victims were under probation supervision at the time of the crime (Braga, Pierce, McDevitt, Bond, & Cronin, 2008). Further, 94 percent of homicide offenders had served time in an adult or juvenile correctional institution and 89 percent had served former probation terms. Looking to the West Coast, a study of Stockton, California, described a similar trend (Braga, 2008b). Forty-five percent of homicide offenders had served a prior term of probation, and 40 percent were actively under probation supervision at the time of the offense. Looking at victims, 41 percent had served a prior term of probation, while 24 percent were under community supervision at the time of their death.
Though these figures are based on the most violent of crimes (i.e., murder), the larger reality that a small proportion of youth and young adults are responsible for a majority of crime, consistent with the developmental/life-course criminological theories (Laub & Sampson, 2006; Moffitt, 2006), has distinct implications for law enforcement and community corrections. Namely, if a large majority of these former offenders are under community supervision, the fact that their crimes are committed without intervention speaks to a gap in the criminal justice system to detect and intervene accordingly.
Over the last two decades, several agencies across the country have moved to address this gap between agencies and initiated various programs (such as Boston’s Operation Night Light) to harness the collaborative potential of law enforcement and community corrections agencies (Katz & Bonham, 2009). The primary assumption of these programs is that both entities possess distinct intelligence and resources that if combined should better address, prevent, or intervene in the violence perpetuated by this criminogenic population. Despite the potential, police-probation/parole partnerships continue to be highly individualized and informal. Additionally, many authors have cited various dangers inherent in such partnerships, including stalking horse incidents, organizational lag, mission distortion, and mission creep (Kim, Gerber & Beto, 2010; Murphy & Lutze, 2009; Murphy & Worrall, 2007).
This review begins with a summary of the history of partnerships between law enforcement and probation/parole agencies and continues with discussion of the various types of partnerships, their goals, the current climate of research, and notable problems. From this review, recommendations for policy and practice are presented and discussed.back to top
History of Police-Probation/Parole Partnerships
Law enforcement’s willingness to get involved in interagency collaborations is in part associated with the shift to a community-policing (also known as problem-oriented policing) mindset over the past few decades (Byrne & Hummer, 2004). A common criticism of law enforcement and the justice system in general has been the predisposition to be reactive (Peak & Glensor, 1999). The political pressure to improve police practice and respond to crime more proactively has motivated law enforcement agencies to rethink how they have done business. As a result, the historically paramilitaristic approach has given way to a modern approach aimed at including the community and related agencies in the crime problem-solving process (Benekos & Merlo, 2006; Marion & Oliver, 2012).
Boston’s Operation Night Light, a component of a larger initiative known as Operation Ceasefire (also known as Boston’s Gun Project) is regarded as the first formal police-probation partnership (Corbett, 1998; Corbett, Fitzgerald, & Jordan, 1998; Jordan, 1998; Kennedy, Braga, & Piehl, 2001; Minor & Matz, 2012). This distinction as a “formal” partnership is important because up to that point many informal partnerships or communications between police officers and probation officers who knew each other likely existed but went undocumented. The motivation for formalizing the Boston partnership was a dramatic increase in youth gang-related activity in the early 1990s. The central goal of the partnership was to reduce juvenile recidivism and violent victimization through increased enforcement of curfews, geographic restrictions, gang-association restrictions, and other probationer constraints.
Prompted by a chance meeting between members of Massachusetts’ Dorchester District Court and the Boston Police Department anti-gang unit, police and probation officers realized they were often dealing with the same individuals. Informal meetings led to a series of brainstorming sessions. On November 12, 1992, two probation officers, Stewart and Skinner, got in a police car with two police officers, Merner and Fratalia, to perform the first of many joint patrols (Corbett, 1998). Officer Stewart later went on record stating:
We never used to leave the office or talk to police…but in the early 1990s the probation office looked like a MASH unit and we were seeing these [police] officers in the courthouse all the time, and we realized we were all dealing with the same kids. And one day they said, do you want to ride together? (Kennedy et al., 2001, pp. 11–12)
The basic regimen of the partnership consisted of probation officers selecting 10–15 of their most high-risk youths from among those between the ages of 17 and 25 and gang-affiliated (Corbett, 1998). The plain-clothed police and probation officers used unmarked cruisers while visiting each probationer at home, school, or workplace while also driving through hotspot locations known for criminal behavior and youthful congregation. Courts offer probation officers wider latitude in conducting full-blown searches of offenders and their homes than they do average citizens (see for example U.S. v. Knights, 2001). While conducting these visits and checking for probationary compliance, officers would also discuss substance abuse treatment and other social service options with youths and their families.
As the peak time for criminal behavior is in the evening to late-night hours, the probation officers also adjusted their normal business hours (8-5) accordingly. It was believed that this late-night presence would send a stronger message of accountability to probationers. The involvement of the police offered additional authority figures for probation efforts and provided support. By being involved, the police became more aware of the probationers and their corresponding conditions so that, when not on joint patrols, police could continue to serve as additional eyes for probation.
Operation Night Light included an information-sharing component between police and probation but also with other justice agencies (Corbett, 1998). For example, probation officers often used the police gang unit’s intelligence when justifying to judges the need for specific curfew and area restrictions as conditions of probation supervision. Law enforcement also engaged federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in gathering and sharing pertinent information.
As a result of the successes achieved with Boston’s Operation Night Light, other jurisdictions throughout the country created partnerships between law enforcement and probation/parole agencies (Kim et al., 2010). For those jurisdictions amenable to collaboration, police-probation/parole partnerships are likely to exist under a few different models and to fulfill different purposes, including enhanced supervision (e.g., joint patrols), fugitive apprehension, information sharing, specialized enforcement (by focusing on a specific problem such as gang membership), and interagency problem solving (Benekos & Merlo, 2006; Kim et al., 2010; Parent & Snyder, 1999). A given partnership may include one or several such purposes or even progressively alternate between these models. In addition, the degree to which these partnerships are formalized tends to vary, with the majority existing under informal communications between police and probation officers (Kim et al., 2010).
Enhanced supervision partnerships are the most common model, operating in numerous jurisdictions across the United States. Enhanced supervision partnerships are most notable for having joint patrols, with police and probation/parole officers riding together in the same cruiser. These coordinated joint patrols target specific high-risk individuals and consist of random compliance checks under the conditions of their probation/parole. Examples of enhanced supervision partnerships include the Minneapolis Anti-Violence Initiative (MAVI) in Minnesota; Operation Night Light in Boston; Project One Voice in New Haven, Connecticut; Smart Partners in Bellevue and Redmond, Washington; Neighborhood Probation in Maricopa County/Phoenix, Arizona; Nightlight in San Bernardino, California; the Juvenile Intensive Supervision Team (JIST) in Kentucky; the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Texas’ Project Spotlight (Anonymous, 1999; Jucovy & McClanahan, 2008; Kim et al., 2010; Lowe, Dawson-Edwards, Minor, & Wells, 2008; McClanahan, 2004; Worrall & Gaines, 2006). Though an exact figure is not available, there are believed to be well over 20 police-probation/parole enhanced supervision partnerships across the country (Decker, 2008).
As an example of an information-sharing partnership, the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) is in the process of implementing an automated information exchange between the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision and state fusion centers (Matz, 2012). Once implemented, participating state fusion centers will receive automatic e-mail notices of probationers/parolees being transferred into their state. State fusion centers will subsequently share this information with local law enforcement. This example involves the coordination of multiple agencies, but it fails to address community problems through street-level collaboration with probation and parole. Nonetheless, information-sharing partnerships typically involve the sharing of offender information within legal limits (e.g., sensitive treatment and health information is protected by HIPAA, 42 C.F.R.) (Matz, 2012).
Fugitive apprehension units are similar to information-sharing efforts but focus specifically on locating and apprehending absconding probationers or parolees (Kim et al., 2010). In addition, unlike information-sharing partnerships, which are meant to be long-term, fugitive apprehension units may be temporarily formed to address a very specific problem.
Finally, specialized enforcement partnerships and interagency problem-solving partnerships, with the involvement of a variety of justice and non-justice organizations, aim at the detection of and response to a given community problem. Examples of such programs include the Boston Reentry Initiative (Braga, Piehl, & Hureau, 2009), Project Safe Neighborhoods (Papachristos, Meares, & Fagan, 2007), Operation Ceasefire (Braga et al., 2001), Weed & Seed (Benekos & Merlo, 2006), and Project Exile (Rosenfeld, Fornango, & Baumer, 2005). While these collaborations included law enforcement and community corrections, they also included community and faith-based organizations. In most cases, law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, the courts, and corrections served as the deterrence message to high-risk probationers/parolees, while community-based organizations provided offenders with services and options to assist with desistance (e.g., job training, substance abuse treatment).back to top
Research and Evaluation on Partnerships
In terms of measureable effectiveness (i.e., outcomes) in reducing crime, police-
probation/parole partnerships have not been comprehensively and systematically evaluated (Anonymous, 1999; Worrall & Gaines, 2006). However, one of a few exceptions was Corbett (1998), who attempted to quantify the effectiveness of Boston’s Operation Night Light partnership, which was initiated in November 1992. He did so by comparing homicide trends in Boston before and after Operation Night Light using available homicide data between 1993 and 1997. That is, there were 93 homicides in 1993 as compared to 39 through November of 1997. The number of firearm-related assaults dropped from 799 in 1995 to 126 through November of 1997 (Corbett et al., 1998). Additionally, from 1995 to 1997, there were no juvenile firearm-related homicides. Corbett’s findings, however, fail to account for any other variables that may have impacted homicide trends. First, many other initiatives associated with the Boston Gun Project (such as ATF gun seizures and increased prosecution) were targeting at-risk youth at that time (Kennedy, 2001). Second, homicide rates have dramatically declined across the country over the past two decades (Rosenfeld et al., 2005).
An evaluation of San Bernardino’s Nightlight partnership by Worrall and Gaines (2006) used more rigorous statistical techniques (time series and displacement/diffusion analysis) but came up with inconclusive results. Program components were similar to Boston’s Operation Night Light, including curfew enforcement, joint patrols, and school contacts. The authors used arrest records as a proxy to crime, which they admitted come with inherent limitations (i.e., arrest record trends may not be analogous to crime trends). Nonetheless, their time-series analysis showed a significant reduction in burglary, assault, and theft when comparing San Bernardino (the experimental city) with Fontana (the control city) during the time of the partnership.
Though the statistical techniques were more rigorous compared to previous studies, the Worrall and Gaines (2006) study has similar limitations to Corbett’s (1998) study. Namely, other variables may have led to the decline in San Bernardino arrests (e.g., other initiatives, demographic differences between cities). Further, arrest counts may owe more to changes in police behavior than in criminal behavior. Finally, while Corbett (1998) looked at homicide rates, Worrall and Gaines (2006) omitted homicide from their analyses. Worrall and Gaines instead used the 11 most common offenses based on available statistics: felony robbery, assault, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, misdemeanor assault/battery, petty theft, marijuana arrests, disturbing the peace, vandalism, and curfew violations. As such, police-probation/parole partnership effectiveness continues to be a point of contention, and at this time there is no established, uniform method to assess a partnership’s impact on criminal behavior.
Despite inconclusive academic evidence on the benefits of the partnerships in terms of crime reductions, consistent anecdotal evidence from practitioners indicates that these partnerships have several potential benefits (Kim et al., 2010). Of utmost importance is the fact that each agency is likely to benefit, establishing a quid pro quo that is a necessary element of any sustainable relationship. From the community corrections perspective, the police can offer additional protection. This protection may be especially valuable for unarmed probation officers. Further, police often have more advanced telecommunications services and technology than probation agencies, and police have a greater street presence than community corrections. Meanwhile, police obtain a new means of intelligence gathering and greater involvement in offender monitoring.back to top
Problems Associated with Partnership
Though the benefits are plentiful, partnerships also involve several obstacles and dangers, including the notion of the stalking horse, net widening, turfism, mission distortion, mission creep, and organizational lag (Kim et al., 2010; Murphy & Lutze, 2009; Murphy & Worrall, 2007). Some of these issues, such as the stalking horse, may border on infringing upon an individual’s civil rights, while others involve the subconscious altering of an organization’s mission and changing the way individual officers perform their job. Given the lack of conclusive research findings, agencies must take care to understand the risk posed by police-probation/parole partnerships, in addition to the potential but unclarified benefits.
First, the stalking horse refers to situations when police officers use probation officers inappropriately as a means to enter a probationer’s home without a search warrant or probable cause (Murphy & Worrall, 2007). In such cases, police officers may use probation’s legitimate access to a probationer’s residence as a means to harass probationers and conduct illegal searches that are at odds with a probationer’s fourth amendment protections from unreasonable search and seizures (Samaha, 2002). Though probationers have a lesser right to privacy than normal citizens, they only forfeit their right to freedom from searches by probation officers as a condition of their probationary term, not to police (unless explicitly written into a probationer’s conditional supervision as ruled in U.S. v. Knights, 2001). In most cases, police officers must still obtain probable cause to search a probationer or his or her residence. When police officers direct probation officers on searches, a concern arises that this could constitute an abuse of authority (Murphy & Worrall, 2007). Several negative ramifications could occur from stalking horse incidents, including any evidence obtained being inadmissible in court, a threat to the integrity of the police-probation partnership, and civil liability placed on the probation officer (Adelman, 2002).
Though net widening most often refers to the use of diversion programs and other alternatives to incarceration that have increased the number of individuals under state control, here it refers to the additional surveillance of offenders who would otherwise receive less supervision under community supervision for the same offense (such as lower-risk probationers receiving increased offender monitoring) (Byrne & Hummer, 2004). Giblin (2002) evaluated the Anchorage Coordinated Agency Network (CAN) program in Alaska; CAN increased normal nonviolent probationary terms, which consisted of about one monthly in-person contact, to three monthly in-person contacts, with the assistance of law enforcement. Giblin found that the increased supervision and surveillance of the police-probation partnership led to an increase in the number of probation violations. This is consistent with previous literature demonstrating that with increased offender monitoring there are greater rates of technical violations for noncompliance. As highlighted by the risk/need/responsivity (RNR) principles, too much monitoring (particularly for low-risk individuals) may do more harm than good (Andrews, Bonta, & Hoge, 1990; Looman, Dickie, & Abracen, 2005).
Turfism concerns the issue of self-interest and territorial protection within organizations (Giacomazzi & Smithey, 2001). Establishing an interagency partnership requires two or more autonomous agencies to voluntarily join forces to address a common dilemma. Yet even when collaboration is mutually desirable, not all agencies are able or willing to be involved. Likewise, some may only be involved as long as they hold the majority of the final decision-making power. In some cases, agencies may choose to take part in the partnership out of self-interest and the preservation of their turf, and individuals may strive to maintain control of the partnership to protect their own interests (such as funding). A common error is for the law enforcement agency, which often instigates partnerships, to unilaterally determine both the problem and the appropriate response strategy prior to convening the collaborative. In the East Bay Public Safety Corridor Partnership, for example, the community-based agencies and community members were displeased with the crime response because they were not included until late in the project’s life cycle (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1997). In essence, law enforcement had already determined the problem and defined the strategy, with little consultation with community partners. It was not until the intervention stage that community partners were asked to participate. As a result, the partnership was considerably weaker and the partner organizations were less cooperative.
The notion of mission distortion is of concern specifically to probation officers (Murphy & Worrall, 2007). Mission distortion is the process by which a given professional’s role orientation becomes skewed by the influence and ideology of a partner agency. Probation/parole officers are particularly susceptible to adopting a law enforcement orientation, in which officers focus exclusively on the role of enforcement as opposed to addressing reintegration needs such as substance abuse, employment, housing, and anger management (Corbett, 1998; Kim et al., 2010; Murphy & Lutze, 2009). This can lead to increased offender monitoring—with the resulting problems mentioned earlier—in lieu of effective reentry strategies. Meanwhile, police officers are at risk of taking on more of a social worker role than their agency mission may dictate. Proper partnership management and administration have been cited as the key to keeping partner agency roles in check (Murphy & Worrall, 2007).
Taking a slightly different angle, mission creep concerns the continued expansion of the probation/parole or police officer role as a result of greater community collaboration (Corbett, 1998). As officers become more engaged in the community, they will likely assume additional tasks and responsibilities outside their original responsibilities. For example, this may involve officers serving as brokers or referral agents for human services, community, and faith-based organizations, or responding to situations outside of their agencies’ purview (e.g., non-probation/parole or police complaints).
Finally, organizational lag concerns the issue of conducting organizational transformation amidst often overriding bureaucratization in the justice system (Corbett, 1998). Bureaucracies have a tendency to perpetuate traditional methods and prioritize organizational longevity over equitable justice (Benekos & Merlo, 2006; Marion & Oliver, 2012). As the concept of interagency partnerships between police and probation agencies is relatively new, it requires innovation and flexibility to thrive. If an interagency partnership is overly constrained by traditional agency practices and protocols, the bureaucratization may lead to the partnership’s collapse. A willingness by management and administration to allow the partnership participants to innovate and experiment within the collaborative is important for interagency growth. Given the top-down chain of command that permeates government and the justice system, partnerships must be endorsed and driven by organizational leaders with the ability to motivate and mobilize officers on the street and in offenders’ homes.back to top
Recommendations for Policy and Practice on Police-Probation/Parole Partnerships
Though police-probation/parole partnerships continue to become more formalized, as described in the literature, a comprehensive understanding of their formation, how they work, and their effectiveness is still within the infancy stage of empirical examination (Kim et al., 2010). Their formation has been little understood and often described as informal in nature. Their operation and purposes appear to vary based on need, with some consistent themes such as joint patrols, increased offender supervision, and information sharing. There appears to be a lack of consistent methodology for measuring partnership success, though various practitioners have articulated their benefits on several occasions.
The literature has focused mostly on the existence and rationale of police-probation/parole partnerships, with a great deal of effort put into highlighting their dangers (Anonymous, 1999; Condon, 2003; Corbett, 1998; Corbett et al., 1998; Evans, 1997; Jannetta & Lachman, 2011; Jones & Sigler, 2002; Jordan, 1998; Katz & Bonham, 2009; Malcan, 1997; McKay & Paris, 1998; Minetti & Malcan, 1997; Murphy & Lutze, 2009; Murphy & Worrall, 2007; Parent & Snyder, 1999; Taxman, Young, & Byrne, 2003; Wooten, 1998). Some authors have tried, with limited results, to establish a link between partnerships and crime reduction (Corbett, 1998; Worrall & Gaines, 2006).
To progress away from informal partnerships, an intuitive and comprehensive logic model is sorely needed (Taylor-Powell, Steele, & Douglah, 1996). Logic models (similar to business process mapping) are commonly used for program development, implementation, and evaluation (Taylor-Powell, Rossing, & Geran, 1998). Such models graphically outline how a program/project/collaborative is expected to work and how it will achieve its goals and objectives. A national baseline logic model for police-probation/parole partnerships could outline the various situations in which partnership is relevant, the priorities of the partnership (e.g., gangs), resources necessary (e.g., officer time, willingness to alter business flow), activities to be conducted (e.g., joint patrols, information to be shared), clientele (e.g., probationers, parolees, families of offenders), and desired outcomes (e.g., reduced recidivism, desistance).
Currently, there is little guidance for law enforcement or community corrections outside of a handful of government reports (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2007; Carter, Bumby, Gavin, Stroker, & Woodward, 2005; Jucovy & McClanahan, 2008; Katz & Bonham, 2009; Rinehart, Laszlo, & Briscoe, 2001). While initiatives such as Project Safe Neighborhoods and collaborative toolkits such as the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s comprehensive gang model (2002) and the APPA’s C.A.R.E. model may provide some support for partnerships more generally (DeMichele & Matz, 2012; 2010; Matz, Lowe, & DeMichele, 2011), stricter guidance at the national level specific to police-probation/parole partnerships would support formalization at the local level (see Jucovy and McClanahan’s guide for implementing the YVRP, for example). Formalization, in turn, would yield a climate more conducive to research, specifically process and outcome measurements. This research can then be used to improve the programs.
That said, collaboration has become somewhat of a buzzword at the federal level. Many U.S. Department of Justice programs require agencies to establish partnerships as a condition of their grant awards (e.g., Project Safe Neighborhoods) (Taxman et al., 2003). While this is undoubtedly well intended and necessary, the act of collaborating itself is a complex endeavor that remains under-examined from an empirical perspective (Kim et al., 2010), with research focused more on outcomes (i.e., crime-reduction figures) than processes (i.e., how the programs/interventions/partnerships operate).
The infusion of research with practice is often met with resistance from local agencies. For example, in a Broward County, Florida, experiment on domestic violence, the researchers received constant resistance from the prosecutor’s office concerning random assignment of treatment (Feder, Jolin, & Feyerherm, 2000). Though the research was funded by the National Institute of Justice and passed Institutional Review Board review, the prosecutor’s office was adamant that the practice of randomly assigning participants was unethical, and the office went so far as to file an appeal against the study’s methodology. In another example, an Oregon domestic violence experiment had garnered the support of the police chief and involved a supportive steering committee of victim advocates and justice personnel (Feder et al., 2000). However, during the process of the program’s administration, it was discovered that the police administrator would unilaterally change the intervention plan to reach more individuals. While many federal government grant programs require research or performance metrics, these examples suggest that there needs to be a greater emphasis placed on educating practitioners in the field about how process and outcome evaluations work and why researchers use random assignment and dosage to determine effectiveness. In addition, researchers should take extra time to explain their study’s methodology prior to implementation.
It is unlikely that police-probation/parole partnerships will be met with public criticism or political backlash. Many interest groups, such as the APPA and International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), strongly support law enforcement and community corrections collaboration. Further, the local agencies have been continually developing and formalizing their partnerships, as evidenced by various programs populating research articles over the past two decades (Anonymous, 1999).
Legally, the stalking horse has been the most contested aspect of police-probation/parole partnerships (Adelman, 2002). However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Knights (2001) that if a probationer/parolee consents to searches by police and probation/parole officers as a condition of his/her supervision, then police are only required to articulate a reasonable suspicion, as opposed to probable cause, for conducting a search of the person or residence (without the probation/parole officer’s presence). It should be noted that rarely do the courts or community corrections agencies require probationers/parolees to submit to law enforcement searches as a condition of supervision; rather this is typically reserved for the probation/parole officers. The question then becomes whether courts should include law enforcement searches as a condition of supervision. The local courts and community corrections agencies have significant discretion in determining what conditions are necessary. However, empowering police officers to perform warrantless searches on probationers/parolees, while it may be popular with the public and politicians, represents a reduction in the probationers/parolees’ civil rights. Such decisions should carefully weigh this loss of civil rights against the risk posed to public safety, and may, unless carefully circumscribed, face legal challenges that they go beyond the recent court precedents.
The use of partnerships, particularly enhanced supervision, should be focused on high-risk offenders. For instance, the majority of partnerships have been prompted by gang activity (Corbett, 1998; Kim et al., 2010), a good target for intensive intervention. Prior research has demonstrated that intensive programming (e.g., increased monitoring) can lead to increased criminality of low-risk offenders (Andrews et al., 1990; Looman et al., 2005). The risk/needs/responsivity (RNR) principle has gained wide acceptance in community corrections, and efforts should be made to convey to law enforcement this evidence-based strategy of focusing on higher-risk offenders.
Finally, partnership is beneficial for community corrections, in part, because of poor resource allocation. Nine out of every ten dollars spent on corrections goes to institutions (i.e., jails, prisons) (Pew Center on the States, 2009). Though about 5 million adults are under community supervision compared to the 2 million incarcerated (Wodahl & Garland, 2009), community corrections continues to receive the lesser share of the financial support. Community corrections agencies continue to suffer from organizational strains such as high caseloads, extensive workloads (report writing, court appearances), and limited mobility that prohibit proactive supervision strategies (DeMichele, 2008; DeMichele & Payne, 2008; DeMichele, Payne, & Matz, 2011). Additionally, budgetary woes from the recent recession have led some correctional institutions, such as Montana’s Department of Corrections, to develop early-release programs (Wright & Rosky, 2011). These early releases come at the expense of adequate reentry planning and exacerbate the strains experienced by probation and parole agencies (referred to as “criminal justice thermodynamics” by Wright and Rosky).
Durlauf and Nagin (2011) suggest the need to reduce the reliance on incarceration in favor of policing or support for probation and parole. With this in mind, it is imperative that community corrections, amidst shifts in policing or corrections, receive greater support than it has been given to date. While partnership with law enforcement enables probation and parole to provide more intensive supervision on the street, it should not serve as a substitute for additional support and organizational independence. Police agencies are larger than probation and parole. As a result, mission distortion is a large concern. Though partnerships are needed, law enforcement should not consume or replace the probation/parole agency.
In summary, here are seven recommendations for policy and practice in police-probation/parole partnerships:
- Formalize police-probation partnerships as programs with clear, measureable goals and objectives.
- Define policies and legal parameters on searches of probationers/parolees conducted by law enforcement with or without the presence of the probation/parole officer.
- Institute policies on interagency interactions that provide boundaries and preserve each agency’s mission.
- Promote partnership research through practitioner training/education.
- Garner political and public support through buy-in and transparency.
- Reserve enhanced supervision partnerships for high-risk probationers/parolees.
- Improve resource allocation for community corrections.
Interagency partnerships are well received by the media and public, supported by the federal government and various interest groups (e.g., APPA, IACP), and positively regarded by local agencies. The literature reviewed convincingly indicates the benefits of police-probation/parole partnerships and the need for formalizing those partnerships. However, much remains to be learned. The impact of the partnerships between police and probation/parole on outcomes is highly disparate because of differences in goals and implementation strategies. While some evidence provides support for these programs’ effectiveness (Corbett, 1998; Worrall & Gaines, 2006), results remain inconclusive and additional research is needed. That said, many partnerships are informal and those that are formal tend to be more developed and possess unique objectives. To conduct research on these partnerships, a comprehensive logic model is needed (Taylor-Powell et al., 1996). Additionally, more information is required about multiple financial, logistical, and geographic barriers to formalizing the partnerships between police and probation/parole that will likely require innovative methods to overcome.
While the community policing mindset coincides well with community corrections and offender reentry, a clear line needs to be drawn to limit how far law enforcement can go acting independently within the partnership. It is concerning that in some cases probationers/parolees may be subjected to warrantless searches by police officers with merely a reasonable cause, with little or no input from the community corrections officer. Policies and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) need to be carefully articulated to maintain each agency’s independent authority.
Finally, enhanced supervision partnerships should be focused on the most high-risk offenders (Andrews et al., 1990; Looman et al., 2005). These offenders require greater supervision. Law enforcement is in a position to provide a street presence that, due to various organizational limitations, probation and parole cannot achieve. Until greater support is allocated to community supervision, law enforcement may be the optimal supplemental resource for supervising high-risk offenders in the community.back to top