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COMP STAT - Probation and Parole
By Kevin H. Kempf
Published: 05/16/2011

Statistics Thanks to the New York City Police Department, more and more police agencies are adopting COMP STAT for their Command Staff performance, planning, and overall crime reduction. COMP STAT (short for computer statistics or comprehensive statistics) was developed in 1994 and had an instant impact on crime reduction in New York. Sixteen years later, many law enforcement agencies have adopted COMP STAT for the same reasons. Only recently have Corrections and Probation/Parole agencies started to look at adopting this type of program. One state in particular, my home state of Idaho, adopted COMP STAT in 2006. We started the process by gathering all of the state’s “Best Practice” experts and worked on defining what we should and could measure. Here is what we came up with, how we did it, and the results.

First, what we came up with. We started the process by identifying things that Best Practices say reduce recidivism and enhance public safety. We talked about drug testing, risk assessments, programming, and violation rates. We agreed and put into practice a COMP STAT meeting each and every month where our statewide managers are on a conference call with the Chief of the Division and answering to what was being measured. It’s a great way to praise managers for their success and assist managers who need to improve. Here is what we measure….
  1. Drug testing- Research tells us that offenders who have a substance abuse history will reduce drug use when they know they are part of a regular drug testing process. Drug and Mental Health Courts understand this concept. So, it makes sense that agencies develop a standard for drug testing that is realistic to their budget and measure this on a monthly basis.
  2. Risk Assessments- All legitimate research has shown us the importance of risk assessments. Risk assessments describe the risk to recidivate, programming needs, and how the offender should be supervised. Their excellent for resource allocation and providing a road map that the agency can follow. That said, the assessment is only as good as the person giving the assessment. So, makes sense that agencies need to track and measure error rates that occur with these assessments. Most companies that sell risk assessments will have a standard acceptable error rate and will also have tools to determine mistakes made by the Officer, etc. Measuring these errors and ensuring that the error rate is going down is extremely important to the agency.
  3. Programming- By now you should understand that treatment works. Changing the way offenders think and providing them tools with how to make wiser decisions is a main component to public safety. Agencies should be measuring how many offenders are in treatment, how many are successful, and how many group hours the counselors are involved in.
  4. Violation rates- Wow, this was a major area for Idaho as I’m sure it is for other systems. First off, when we started looking into how many offenders we were violating compared to how many Judges and the Parole Commission were re-instating, we found some staggering numbers. For instance, we found that nearly 60% of all violations were returned back to supervision. Think of how much time was wasted writing these PV’s, going through court, and taking up inmate beds while they awaited the hearing. We learned that old practices allowed for fellow Senior Officers to sign off on probation and parole violations. Lastly, we quickly figured out that no matrix or standard existed to help PO’s know when they should/shouldn’t violate someone. As you can imagine, we instantly stopped the process of fellow Officers signing off on violations. We developed polices to ensure that a Supervisor can only authorize a violation. We met with the Parole Commission and the Judiciary and jointly developed a violation matrix. This matrix is a road map for staff to know what action they should take. Lastly, we measure violation rates on a monthly basis and see what is trending and why.

The Results

Prior to COMP STAT in Idaho, two thirds of all Idaho inmates came from failed probation and parole supervision. Over the past 4 years Idaho’s Prison system experienced only 3% growth compared to 7% in prior years. After developing the Violation Matrix, violations were nearly cut in half. That’s less work for our staff and fewer violation hearings for the courts. Our time and energy is now spent on the offenders who “deserve” to be violated, not the ones we’re mad at. Prior to measuring error rates in our risk assessment, we averaged 30% to 40% errors. With COMP STAT in place, we average between 2% and 5%. Our cost of supervision collections increased because we track it and measure how we’re doing. And lastly, we track and measure our drug testing. When our programming is above standard, coupled with our drug testing, our violation rates decrease. When these numbers are down, our violations increase. It’s amazing what you’ll find when you start looking at the numbers and holding your managers accountable.

With the success Idaho has had using COMP STAT in Probation and Parole, they are adopting these same measuring tools in the Prisons and Education and Treatment Divisions. Thank you New York City Police Department and all those that helped develop this tool. Idaho department of Corrections is a data driven agency that is showing some excellent results!

Editor's note: Kevin has been in the field of Corrections for over 15 years. In that time, He has served in the capacity of Correctional Officer, Probation officer, Supervisor, District Manager, Warden, and Chief of Community Corrections. Kevin also serves as consultant/developer of POcheck LLC. Kevin is largely considered an expert in Best Practices as they relate to the Community Correction Field.

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  1. P&PVet on 05/17/2011:

    Great report. We are also facing high numbers of violations within our Probation area. I will take this to our Director.

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