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The effectiveness of probation supervision towards reducing reoffending: A Rapid Evidence Assessment

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Abstract

In response to the lack of universal agreement about ‘What Works’ in probation supervision (Trotter, 2013) we undertook a Rapid Evidence Assessment of the empirical literature. Our analysis of research into the effect of probation supervision reducing reoffending included 13 studies, all of which employed robust research designs, originating in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia, published between 2006 and 2016. We describe the papers included in our review, and the meta-analyses of their findings. Overall, we found that the likelihood of reoffending was shown to be lower for offenders who had been exposed to some type of supervision. This finding should be interpreted cautiously however, given the heterogeneity of the studies. We suggest future research and methodological considerations to develop the evidence base concerning the effectiveness of probation supervision.
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=/001&>5+
??-
-+ 6
/00"&.)+%/0"8&:<
)
,+,
3,&
*?*3
+-+
-+
,6@/0"$&*
@*,,
6+:A<+
?+)/0"$&
%!++?
+B/0"1&
+B<-
++,)
,)) )&,+-4
43+4
--@7,3@73&+) )
,+45--
4+45.2 ,(/0"C&6
+4"/+
+:<&*( )+
*+?<7,*,-4
+,-,,@73
,) ):44<+
-) )=*7/0"8&
>?
+<
 ,@/0"1&.+6
++
,3
-D+,++
&
+D>%E/0"1/"&
!36$#
+B3/0"#&2
+(+-
--,
+?%-
,@/0"1&.
-/$#0C8,103,/0"8
+--,+B/0"F&
+%!
E,-/FG1"G+B/0"F,&
.,<,1/
,-/00"/00$,+
,@(2H/00F&
Dierent approaches to supervision
3+5
,,+
+=-5
+
39+
++E+
="III&!,
?<
E,J-
,9K
,
(-/00$&.+
9++
,,E,:!!<,
+--
"II#L)/008&(
+-+
3+
-++<
+>=.,/0"0&*+
+4-
,+ ,-
++
53
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,+
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,-<+
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+E+
+ @ L
,--!/008(-
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!/0"/&
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,*,+
,=/001&
7
+
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-,!/0"C&-
,!
/008&J622&
6+,+
5+++,+
@23/00#&!/00F&,
E,
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,-+,
6
,-J!/00F&
:!!<-2
-+
--6(
:!!<-,
29D+6
5D!/00FC01&
3+-:-
-<---:-<
N+
-+
O3!/001#& +
+,--5,,
+@/0"1M7/0"0&
The empirical evidence underpinning supervision
*64,
>-(-/00C&+
:<+ @ 4+
+
-"IIF++-+
--5
+4+M+M+M
M,MM
./0"1&9-4
+4,.</0"1&
-:!+
-,44+
,,;<=5F
+-+-,H4,
-*,+
-5,-+
,H 4
+,9
.-,+-4-
4,-
,E
3/0"/&6+
+,+-
3/0"/&6-+,+
,,+64
E++-
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,+++
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/00F&
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"FP/I"I&
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+
-
D+-,-2
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3:<-
+
*4(/00$&5/C6
946
5
6-+-
-
What areas need further exploration?
>+
,+H+-
+.
/0"0&.-./0"1&+5
-4.
+,+
.6+
--."II$&!-
,9+
-9++

Approach and research question
. %(--,
9 !-
-,
6+
+,5!
+,,9-
.+-+-
!2-
+)B3-3%
!+"F+
,,-
6
"2+,
+-,+-!6+
*2M
/0"F&2-
-,-&.
,&
+
+-&,+
#.-+
,+
3,%+/00$
2%)>-,+-
.+-
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-+,/0"0&
R2 ,R2 R2 DRD2 R&(@>
,R2 R2 &(@>4R2 R2 R
2 4R2 R2 4R2 R2 42 
2 DD&(@>2 62 2
2 R&&
Screening and risk of bias assessment
(-)
---&++
-.,5++
.--,+
+6.+6+
,6-+
%,  - + + ,  )
+3S/0"C&@4-
 2*@34*3/0"$&.
+ -  , + %(
-?-:
 +     +< =  ( /00F
"FF& +,9+
,  5          %    -    ,  -
-                ?  -
  3     ,  +      +  ,  - ,9
6+ %(.-+,-,
,++ %(-
Data extraction and synthesis
>-6++,+6
35M+,&
*
MA+
&

+MMAI#G
5&
4-+
-!5-+,,
+&-
++,
3"

Searching and screening
25F18++
6-+/".
,,+
&
($%!"&)*&%+,,-.
 +
,  - ? 6
    
"J+4,+KK4
KKK5K4+
+,+6++!+
   ,-5
&-6---
,
Narrative synthesis
+,+4-
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2/K"1&+,,-
?IK"1&,--3(2
-)"&("&2
-+1#
353-
&.
+1-&
#-946
>>M73&
C3+,A

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-+?+-
3(,++.
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-
++,-,
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+25
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-+44+-
64-,-
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+
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+"0$.-
-10G*,-
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,,--,,
.:
--
%7<B, /0"//11&
(+
-+---
(+---
,+

+%&
) 
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@-

C
6 1
 #
+- "
. 1
( /
.+
,6+
9+3-+
+-+"/41$
(,+
+
*,+
-5+,

Meta-analysis
J/1,--4+
J/-,6-
+--
+-&(,-"
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0$+
0$+
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=A
+--
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
A)6&.
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(0%( */
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1+.
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-5+5
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+
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,-+-,6+
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69+
)---.</0"1&+
5T
,--
T./0"1C1&2,9
,--5,+
+,5+
=-5+"1,
++
,--!+
+,
.+,5-
,++,+9+
-&-
+*
+,
+
,<,./0"1&
 @ .-++
L!/008&-++T
,+,5
M>-/0"/&*
-,-,+
-,,
-,.-
+9+,
,+-!/0"#C/&.5
,+
,H,+
+

>+,+
5++
2/0"/&-+
,-+-
5+=-
.+ ,
J6/0"$&+-
-,--++
!9
-+
-,
-T-T
/0"/&-,+
,5+5,.
--,+
++,+7/0""&
+)A-U/00000,
+--.
+-M>-/0"C&
5+
Limitations of this review
2-,?,+J- %(
4-,
66-!,-
,9-+
5+
+5.
+4,
+++,
J--
-+!,
+
6-3)),
/00/&
!+,+9
-+,
-6.-5
+-,,
,-5)
6+,
&++
--!-
,93C#&
,+5
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2#67WX(,
KK---KK44,4444+4
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... The lay probation officers are interviewed, trained and supervised by then Ministry of Social Affairs. 12 Unlike the UK probation system pre 2020 which was largely fragmented, 13 there is a good synergy between the lay and regular probation officers in Singapore, given that both are managed by Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) (Smith et al., 2018;Grierson, 2018). The two-tier system here appears to have been given much thought in terms of functionality, effective management and supervision of probationers. ...
... Some countries have shown formal support for evidence based criminal justice policies and practices (Anderson and Hyatt, 2020:225-233). 20 For instance, in 2013, United Kingdom conducted a rapid evidence assessment of the empirical literature to ascertain what works in probation supervision, in particular, the effect of probation supervision on recidivism (Smith et al., 2018). 21 RCTs can be useful in assessing the efficacy of probation as a community-based sentencing tool, particularly whether the policy orientation of probation meets the goal of reducing recidivism. ...
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Probation has been in existence in Singapore for more than 70 years. Given its long existence and vested interest in community-based sentencing, this paper calls for an effective measurement of probation officers training and supervision of the offenders measured against recidivism. First the paper focuses on the genesis and evolution of probation coupled with a brief description of programs conducted by probation officers since its introduction till its present iteration, along with its merits. The emphasis lies in the shift from a supervisory program to one which proactively seeks to transform behaviour, hence reaffirming remodelling character of probation. Second, it is recommended that effectiveness of training, supervision of offenders by Probation Officers be measured against the rate of recidivism. To this end, it is proposed that effectiveness of probation can only be measured against recidivism given that probation targets criminogenic needs of offenders. An evaluation of data presented on recidivism suggests that while the recidivism rate is decreasing, it does not maximize the potential role of Probation Officers. Third, training along the lines of Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision (STICs) program can be considered to enhance lower recidivism rates. Lastly, it is recommended that Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) be conducted for evidence-based policy making in criminal justice system, since RCTs can be useful in assessing the efficacy of probation as a community-based sentencing tool, particularly whether the policy orientation of probation meets the goal of reducing crime.
... Accordingly, we would expect community supervision to lower recidivism. In line with this expectation, there is evidence that supervision can reduce recidivism under certain conditions (Smith et al., 2018). However, in 2008, a quantitative review found that community supervision only produced an average reduction in recidivism of 2% and no reduction in violent recidivism (Bonta, Rugge, Scott, Bourgon, & Yessine, 2008). ...
Article
Purpose To evaluate the province-wide implementation of the Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision (STICS) in British Columbia, Canada. Methods Probation officers (PO) audio recorded a sample of their supervision sessions with probationers prior to and after receiving STICS training. Training involved teaching POs to apply cognitive-behavioral interventions to address the criminogenic needs of their clients. Both the general and violent recidivism rates of probationers were measured using a national criminal history database. Recidivism was defined as a new conviction. Results After training, audio recordings showed clear improvements in the content of discussions and the intervention techniques used by POs. Compared to a random sample of probationers supervised prior to STICS training, clients of STICS-trained POs had significantly lower 2-year general recidivism rates (43.0% vs. 61.4%; OR = 0.48, 95% CI [0.37, 0.61]) and violent recidivism rates (14.9% vs. 21.2%; OR = 0.65, 95% CI [0.48, 0.89]). Conclusions Training POs in how to address criminogenic needs using cognitive-behavioral interventions was associated with significant reductions in client recidivism. This project demonstrated that a community corrections agency can benefit from an evidence-based approach to supervision.
... Based on the idea of forming a purposeful working relationship between supervisor and supervisee, supervision had been the foundation of probation practice in England & Wales for more than a century (Vanstone 2004;Robinson & McNeill 2017) and research conducted over many years has established its importance as a key ingredient of effective one-to-one work with offenders (e.g. Robinson 2005;Shapland et al 2012;Robinson et al 2014;Smith et al 2018;Dominey 2019). In this comment piece, we argue that the current proposals for a further wave of probation reforms in England & Wales (Ministry of Justice 2019a) present an opportune moment to revisit the evidence base that underpins effective rehabilitative work, reinstate supervision as the bedrock of effective probation practice and do away with the failed Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR) which replaced it. ...
Article
Considering the current review of probation services in England and Wales, this comment piece acknowledges the disappearance of supervision as a cornerstone of effective rehabilitation and the emergence of Rehabilitative Activity Requirements (RARs) replacing supervision. The authors raise concerns about the effectiveness of RARs and at this juncture argue the importance of retaining supervision within the responsibilities of National Probation Service case managers and safeguarding against it becoming an intervention that is delivered by external providers.
... Smith and colleagues (2018) undertook a rapid evidence assessment 379 of the research on the effectiveness of probation supervision in reducing reoffending. They cited several studies ( Smith et al., 2018, pp. 4-5) that argue that supervision practice has changed considerably in both the UK and abroad, shifting from methods oriented toward social care to those which focus on punishment, risk management and public protection -increasing workloads and time constraints have prioritised risk (via monitoring and enforcement) over rehabilitation. ...
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In October 2017, the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council received a Terms of Reference from the Attorney-General and Leader of the House to examine community-based sentencing orders, imprisonment and parole options. The reference was made in response to recommendations of the 2016 Sofronoff review of Queensland’s parole system. QSAC commissioned a literature review to assist in informing its broader advice to the government. This report presents the findings of the review. It contains two components: • A review of each order to present its legislative and practical framework. • A review of existing literature to identify the effectiveness of each sentencing option.
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Communities in the Bakken region of Montana and North Dakota that experienced a resource-based boom starting in the mid-2000s had significant increases in the volume and seriousness of violence toward women. We identify five community factors distinctive to these boomtowns that created a perfect storm where these crimes proliferated including: (a) precarious housing arrangements; (b) the social isolation of women; (c) lack of domestic violence shelters and other social supports for survivors; (d) a workplace culture in the oilfields supportive of substance abuse and hyper-masculinity, and; (e) the inability of boomtown justice systems to respond to these crimes in an effective or timely manner. Although this critical analysis describes the outcomes in a U.S. jurisdiction, the conditions in rapid growth communities are similar throughout the globe and we suggest these community factors be considered in the responses to domestic and intimate partner violence in these rural areas. Our goal in identifying these factors is to work toward the development of an intervention model for officials anticipating resource-based booms to mitigate this violence.
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Communities in the Bakken region of Montana and North Dakota that experienced a resource based boom starting in the mid-2000s had significant increases in the volume and seriousness of violence toward women. We identify five community factors distinctive to these boomtowns that created a perfect storm where these crimes proliferated including: (a) precarious housing arrangements; (b) the social isolation of women; (c) lack of domestic violence shelters and other social supports for survivors; (d) a workplace culture in the oilfields supportive of substance abuse and hyper-masculinity, and; (e) the inability of boomtown justice systems to respond to these crimes in an effective or timely manner. Although this critical analysis describes the outcomes in a U.S. jurisdiction, the conditions in rapid growth communities are similar throughout the globe and we suggest these community factors be considered in the responses to domestic and intimate partner violence in these rural areas. Our goal in identifying these factors is to work toward the development of an intervention model for officials anticipating resource based booms to mitigate this violence.
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There appears to be considerable variation between different national jurisdictions and between different sectors of public policy in the use of evidence and particularly the use of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to evaluate non-healthcare sector programmes.
Chapter
We argued in the Introduction that, to date, penological scholarship has been dominated by prison research. It is perhaps not surprising therefore to find that the overviews of the existing research in the previous chapters show that the available knowledge on offender supervision in Europe is dispersed and unsystematic, addressing varied questions and drawing on varied methods and sources. The chapters in this volume also reflect, to some extent, the particular and delimited interests of the few researchers who have engaged with the topic, as well as, sometimes, the interests of the governments which have sponsored the research. Our chapter authors rightly warn against drawing straightforward and unwarranted conclusions about possible differences or parallels in the uses, experiences and practices of supervision between different countries, recognising that these studies are deeply embedded in their own social, political and legal contexts. Consequently, when we seek to compare on the basis of independent studies designed and conducted in different places for different reasons, we risk comparing apples and pears.
Chapter
It is somehow surprising to note that after more than one hundred years of offender supervision the number of studies looking at the subjective experience of those receiving or affected by supervision is still quite limited. Searching in international databases or in library catalogues produces very little satisfaction for someone looking for literature in this area. Acknowledging this constraint, this chapter aims at consolidating the knowledge about how ‘offenders’ experi- ence different forms of supervision and how others are interacting with this process.
Chapter
The numbers of adult offenders1 under supervision in the community have grown rapidly in recent decades. In most jurisdictions in and beyond Europe, offenders under supervision (whether as an alterna- tive to prosecution or sentence, as a community sentence in its own right, or as part of a post-custody licence) heavily outnumber those detained in custody. In Germany, for example, whereas the number of prisoners has decreased in recent years, the number of offenders under probation supervision has increased, such that by 2011 there were about 190,000 people under supervision as opposed to 55,000 sentenced prisoners (Federal Statistics Office, 2013 a, 2013b). To take a second example, in March 2013 in England and Wales the prison population was 83,769, while the population of offenders under stat- utory supervision in the community at the end of 2012 was 224,823 (Ministry of Justice, 2013). Systems and practices of offender super- vision have also developed swiftly in Central and Eastern Europe, where nascent probation systems have been a part of post-Soviet-era criminal justice reforms.
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When the Coalition government’s ‘rehabilitation revolution’ was first articulated, innovation was an important theme, encompassing innovation by frontline staff, by organisations working within a mixed economy and even social entrepreneurs. Under Transforming Rehabilitation, innovation remained a stated aim of criminal justice reform, but the scope of innovation envisaged seemed to narrow. This paper describes the early stages of a socially innovative project to develop and implement a personalised approach to offender rehabilitation in the context of Transforming Rehabilitation. It draws on the concept of ‘desistance’. This in turn leads to consideration of community capacity-building and market development that draws on experience from the social care sector. A number of early challenges and plans to overcome them are discussed. Challenges include the inherent uncertainty of the innovation process; the importance of collaborating with a wide range of stakeholders, including service users and local community organisations; innovating during a period of organisational change and wider public sector cuts; and the public presentation of personalised working with offenders. Plans to address these challenges include moving gradually from small-scale prototyping to larger pilots and close collaboration between service providers and evaluators.