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“Justice System Practices That Work” Travis County Community Corrections and Supervision Department (CSCD) Conference. June 29, 2006 Stephen F. Austin Hotel Austin, Texas. Welcome and Introduction. Dr. Geraldine Nagy Director of Travis CSCD since January 2005

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“Justice System Practices That Work”Travis County Community Corrections and Supervision Department (CSCD) Conference

June 29, 2006

Stephen F. Austin Hotel

Austin, Texas

welcome and introduction
Welcome and Introduction
  • Dr. Geraldine Nagy
    • Director of Travis CSCD since January 2005
    • Former Deputy Director for the Community Justice Assistance Division (CJAD) of the TDCJ
    • Prior with the Federal Bureau of Prisons; Deputy Director of Bastrop County CSCD
    • Ph.D. in Psychology, Kansas State University
purpose of conference
Purpose of Conference
  • Bring together Travis justice community to:
    • Learn about the “Travis Community Impact Supervision” initiative of the department
    • Hear from national experts about evidence of what works and the challenges of implementing successful policies
    • Explore how to be more innovative and get feedback from participants
challenges facing probation
Challenges Facing Probation

Demands for probation systems to become more effective in reducing recidivism and divert offenders from prison while protecting public safety

Evidence Based Practices (EBP) model as a strategy to enhance the effectiveness of probation

EBP are practices in which there is general evidence of effectiveness in reducing recidivism

Organizational practices

Testing in Travis County Probation Department

Austin, Texas

Diagnosis and supervision strategies

Program intervention and accountability

department assessment promising for ebp
Department Assessment Promising for EBP

Travis department has qualified personnel, strong processes, supportive judiciary and active Community Justice Council to provide foundation for EBP

Department needs to improve assessment and field supervision strategies, program monitoring, and training, and needs to bring balance to a culture in which process is main focus

Travis Community Impact Supervision Model (TCIS)

step one improve assessments of offenders

Low Risk Offender

Social Problem Offender

High Risk – “Last Chance” Offender

Minimum Supervision

Report on time, pay fines and fees

Programs and Progressive Sanctions

Change behavior

Surveillance Approach

Quick sanctioning and revocation

Differentiated Supervision Strategies

Step One: Improve Assessments of Offenders

Effective Assessments to Classify Population

overview of the day
Overview of the Day
  • Dr. Tony Fabelo
    • Former Director of the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council
    • Served under five governors and ten regular biennial legislative sessions
    • Now Senior Associate in Austin of The JFA Institute, Washington
    • Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin in Government
improving the effectiveness of probation
Improving the Effectiveness of Probation
  • 9:30 am to 10:45 am
  • Dr. Edward Latessa
    • Director, Division of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati
    • Ph.D. from Ohio State University
    • Among many studies, two recent studies for Ohio involving over 26,000 probationers and the review of over 100 programs
justice mapping thinking about location
Justice Mapping: Thinking About Location
  • 11:00 am to 11:45 am
  • Eric Cadora
    • Directs The JFA Mapping Center working with the Spatial Information Design Lab, Columbia University
    • Expert in spatial visualization studies
    • Works in many states and United Kingdom helping visualize Justice Reinvestment Strategies
better diagnosis practices as key to success
Better Diagnosis Practices as Key to Success
  • 11:45 am to 1:15 pm Lunch
  • 1:15 pm to 2:30 pm
  • Dr. Nagy and Dr. Fabelo
    • Review development of new diagnosis practices for probationers in Travis
  • 2:30 pm to 2:45 pm Break
proficient justice
Proficient Justice
  • 2:45 pm to 4:00 pm
  • Mark Carey
    • President, The Carey Group, consulting and training for justice system
    • Prior Deputy Commissioner, Community and Juvenile Services, Minnesota DOC
    • President this year of American Probation and Parole Association
bottom line
Bottom Line
  • Dr. Latessa
    • Successful probation programs depend on effective assessment of offenders
    • Treatment programs work but they have to be effectively implemented
  • Cadora
    • Geographical concentration of justice populations should be considered in creating more effective probation supervision strategies
bottom line continued
Bottom Line (continued)
  • Dr. Nagy and Dr. Fabelo
    • Travis is implementing a new offender diagnosis process for probationers relying on evidence-based assessment tools
  • Carey
    • Research shows what is effective for “proficient justice” but this requires some “culture” and organizational changes
present assessment and intake process
Present Assessment and Intake Process…..

….requires offenders to show up in different places

……makes them submit duplicative information…….

we are creating a central diagnosis process

All felons referred to Central Diagnosis Unit

Central Diagnosis Unit

Expert staff

Quality control policies

Main Functions of Unit

Assess offenders, make diagnosis, identify supervision strategy and recommend conditions of supervision

Present Central Diagnosis Report to the Courts

Conditions of supervision set

PO develops specific supervision plan and accountability measures

PO administers tolerance level for violations based on overall policy for particular strategy

PO sets neighborhood/field visit strategy as appropriate for particular supervision strategy

We Are Creating a Central Diagnosis Process

….that provides “one stop” for offenders

…….uses one set of diagnosis forms

…….is backed by an assessment process that uses scientifically validated tools

….and is administered by expert officers subject to centralized quality control

creating a diagnosis report a key change


Diagnosis Report

Identifying the offender along risk and behavioral characteristics related to supervision success using proven assessment tools and with short narratives generated from assessment instruments

Creating a Diagnosis Report a Key Change



A “biography” collected using inconsistent interview protocols, with the “story telling” affected by different writing styles and utilizing no proven diagnosis tools to assess offenders

two main assessment tools key to diagnosis
Two Main Assessment Tools Key to Diagnosis

Risk Assessment Instrument

Identify factors related to re-arrests and revocations

Scientifically validated for Travis probation population

Supervision Case Strategies (SCS)

Interview/assessment protocol

Identify most effective supervision strategy for type of offender

Validated in research studies and endorsed by CJAD

risk assessment
Risk Assessment

High Risk Group

Medium Risk Group

Low Risk Group

offenders in travis tracked for two years to validate risk assessment instrument

June 06 Study

7,287 offenders placed on probation during this period*

Study Group

Jan. 2003 to April 2004

16 Months

Feb. 2004 – Jan. 2005

12 Months

Feb. 2005 – May 2006

15 Months

Tracked re-arrests and revocations for at least two years from probation placement

* First study of March 3, 2006 tracked 3,907 offenders placed Jan. 03 to Jan. 04 for at least two years up to Jan. 2006

Offenders in Travis Tracked for Two Years to Validate Risk Assessment Instrument
instrument differentiate well for felons
Instrument Differentiate Well for Felons

Felony Offenders: Percent Arrested/Incarcerated Two Years after Assessment by Risk Level

26% of felons were incarcerated after two years

43% of revocations were for administrative reasons

*1, 760 felons tracked

differentiate also for misdemeanants
Differentiate Also for Misdemeanants

Misdemeanor Offenders: Percent Arrested/Incarcerated Two Years after Assessment by Risk Level

12% of misdemeanants were incarcerated after two years

49% of those revoked were for administrative reasons

*5,527 misdemeanants tracked

scs interview assessment protocol












Offense history

Plans &




SCS Interview/Assessment Protocol
  • Semi structured Interview protocol
  • Funnel approach to systematically identify key behavioral factors
    • Rating of 70 items
  • Cross-validation and other integrity techniques for scoring
  • Classification of offenders in one of five groups
protocol examines all relevant areas
Protocol Examines All Relevant Areas

Objective Background





Offense Pattern

Family Attitude

Attitudes about offense



School Adjustment

Mental Health



Substance/Alcohol Abuse

Plans and Problems

assessment leads to scs classification
Assessment Leads to SCS Classification

SIS – Pro-social, stable lifestyle: offenders who need to get back on track through “Selective Intervention”

SIT – Pro-social but with skill deficit and/or substance abuse: offenders who need to get back on track through “Selective Intervention with Treatment” (like outpatient programs)

ES – Impulsive, lacks skills, easily led: offenders who need “Environmental Structure” (like job skill classes, role model type of interventions)

CC –Destructive thinking, low self esteem and emotional problems: offenders who need “Case Control” (like residential programs and cognitive programs)

LS –Criminal thinking, seeks power, thrills, money: offenders who need “Limit Setting” (like electronic monitoring, field contacts)

minimize contacts for some max for others

SIS – Pro-social, stable lifestyle


Intervene selectivelyDelegate planning to themUse rational problem solving techniquesOver-supervision counterproductiveMore tolerance for non-compliance

Minimal Intervention

LS –Criminal thinking, seeks power, thrills, money


SurveillanceAddress criminal thinkingDetailed precise case plansCarefully documentUse legal leverage/less tolerance for non-compliance

More Intrusive Intervention

Minimize Contacts for Some, Max for Others
distribution of felony offenders

227 felons placed on probation*

Study Group

Jan. 16, 2006 to February 28, 2006

Distribution of Felony Offenders




*Report of 4/13/06

distribution of misdemeanor offenders
Distribution of Misdemeanor Offenders

468 misdemeanants placed on probation*

Study Group

Jan. 16, 2006 to February 28, 2006




*Report of 4/13/06

report to the court
Report to the Court

Identifiers/Case Processing

Offense/Criminal History

Victim Information

Narrative of Assessment Highlights

Diagnosis Matrix

important difference in culture
Important Difference in “Culture”

Probation department will not make a“recommendation” for or against probation

Probation department will say this is a low, medium or high risk “yellow”, “blue” or “red”offender to be supervised under the strategiesand conditions set for that group