Friday, October 3, 2008

California to Launch Parole Violation Decision Making Instrument to Help Agents Assess Risk and Needs in Determining Sanctions

SACRAMENTO - California is moving forward with a new evidence-based system for dealing with parole violations that will allow parole agents to scientifically weigh an offender’s risk level and the benefits of alternatives to prison as part of their decision making process. The centerpiece of the program is a new Parole Violation Decision Making Instrument (PVDMI) that was specifically designed and tested for California parolees, and was developed in coordination with national experts advising the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). This new model will help focus CDCR’s custody resources on higher risk offenders while targeting less serious offenders with proven treatment programs that seek to address the root of their problems.

“Our goal is to give parole agents the tools they need to make stronger decisions that are smart on crime, while being tougher on higher risk offenders,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “Rather than just issuing blanket parole revocations and sentencing violators to sit on a prison bunk for a few months at a time, this instrument will help target custody resources. Higher-risk offenders might be referred for prison time, while those offenders who can benefit from alternatives to incarceration might be steered into rehabilitation programs and other services. This is good public safety policy designed to reduce recidivism, which could lead to population reductions and cost savings as a by-product.”

“This new instrument will allow parole agents to make more consistent decisions on sanctions when a parolee commits a violation, based on proven risk factors,” said Scott Kernan, CDCR Undersecretary for Operations. “Parole agents will utilize objective and scientific criteria, while also drawing on their personal knowledge of the parolee, to evaluate violations and make smarter public safety decisions.”

The Parole Violation Decision Making Instrument will also help agents identify the types of programming needs and remedial sanctions that might be more appropriate for the parolee. The tool will supplement the parole agent’s knowledge of the offender, the violation, and resources available in their geographic location when considering an appropriate response.

Overview of the Parole Violation Decision Making Instrument: The PVDMI is part of an overall strategy designed to reduce the risk of recidivism, enhance success on parole, and utilize resources in the most effective manner. Specifically, the PVDMI:

  • Relies on the principles of evidence-based and effective interventions;
  • Identifies the appropriate response to each violation based on the offender’s risk level and the severity of the violation;
  • Ensures consistency and standard responses across California’s Parole Division; and
  • Promotes transparency by enabling CDCR Parole Agents, Board of Parole Hearings Deputy Commissioners, CDCR executive management, offenders, and the public to understand the rationale for violation responses, and to see them as a part of the California’s coordinated public safety strategy.
CDCR's use of such a parole violation instrument is consistent with recommendations made by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Rehabilitation Strike Team and the Expert Panel on Adult Offender and Recidivism Reduction Programming in 2007. Such an instrument was also recommended by the California Independent Review Panel (2004), the Little Hoover Commission (1993 and 2007), the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (2005), and the UCI Center for Evidence Based Corrections (2002 – Present).

Many other states have been using a structured decision making process for parole revocation. Since 1988, the Center for Evidence Based Public Policy (CEPP), who is assisting CDCR in the design and implementation of the PVDMI, has worked with many state and local jurisdictions across the country to develop policy driven responses to parole violations. According to a 2001 National Institute of Corrections (NIC) study, none of the 29 jurisdictions studied reported an increase in new crimes among parolees and many actually experienced a reduction in parole revocations.

“California is utilizing science and research to move away from a system that relies on subjective factors to make decisions to revoke a parolee back to prison, to one that is based on risk to re-offend. This is consistent with approaches that are working in other states, and will help ensure that parole agents from across California are consistently making good public safety decisions,” said Steve Chapman, CDCR Assistant Secretary for Research. “This instrument is just one piece of the broader parole and prison reforms that are underway in California to overhaul how we deal with offenders, focus on rehabilitation, and reduce recidivism rates.”

Implementation of PVDMI: The first phase of this program is schedule to begin in November, 2008, and will be implemented in a parole unit within each of the four parole regions as follows:

  • Region I – Stockton
  • Region II – Santa Maria
  • Region III – San Fernando Valley
  • Region IV – Chula Vista
For more information on the risk assessment and decision making instrument, please visit the PVDMI Information Page

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