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Police/Corrections Partnerships Tackle Community Challenges
By Michelle Gaseau, Managing Editor
Published: 01/15/2001

Corrections seems to be following a move by law enforcement in the last decade to become community oriented and as a result has taken a more pro-active role in ensuring the success of those who leave custody. This role has come in the form of partnerships, mainly with law enforcement agencies, to share information, keep track of offenders' violations of probation and apprehend those who are absconders from probation and parole.

'In the last 3 or 4 years [agencies have had] a perspective of probation and parole as being neighborhood-based. Police state their function as solving neighborhood problems, and there is a parallel role for corrections and probation and parole. Also they [police and corrections] have had the realization as they started talking that they were dealing with the same kind of clientele,' said Dale Parent, Senior Associate for Abt Associates, a research firm in Massachusetts, and co-author of the National Institute of Justice publication Police-Corrections Partnerships.

Some partnerships have come about through political pressure to get a better handle on the growing number of probationers, while others have been developed through a realized need to improve supervision and reduce the number of re-offenders.

Benefits outlined by supporters of the idea include better community protections with increased supervision and better delivery of services to released offenders through partnerships with other social agencies. Critics caution however, that the distinctions between police and corrections can be blurred by these partnerships and some partnerships may support the idea of warrant-less searches by parole or probation officers.

Those agencies involved in partnerships claim that joint efforts by criminal justice and community agencies to better supervise and serve offenders have positive results.

Supervision Partnerships

Across the country, probation and police departments have joined to provide enhanced supervision of probationers with the idea of reducing violations and/or determining which offenders have violated. This type of partnership helps both agencies better manage the behavior of probationers and can provide added support to surveillance of certain types of offenders, such as those with gang links.

In New Haven, Conn., police and probation officers work together in a program called Project One Voice. According to Douglas MacDonald, Assistant Chief of the New Haven Police Department, the project grew from a partnership developed early on between police and probation to get a handle on drug-related violence in the city. After that effort was deemed successful, the agencies decided to focus on the volume of offenders on the juvenile and adult probation and parole roles.

Unlike other police/probation officer supervision partnerships, the project did not solely utilize joint night ride-alongs. The police officers on their patrols of a neighborhood might see, for example, a probationer violate his probation requirements, call him over to the car, and then explain that his probation officer will have a violation notice for him the next day. 
'They would beg [for me to not report them.]. It was a way to have an external control and it was a great tool for a police officer. All they had to do was report their observations and it got done. They didn't have to get out and run after someone,' said Douglas.

The officers are provided with sheets of paper describing the offenders on probation, parole, juvenile probation and pretrial detention as well as their rap sheet, supervision conditions and persons they may not associate with. In addition, probation and police officers conduct joint ride-alongs and may conduct unannounced home visits to confirm residency and curfew compliance.

'They know there are extra eyes and they can see the relationship between police and probation,' said Douglas.

In addition, the department is in the process of developing a program that brings people who are placed on probation into the office to learn how they will be supervised. 'When a person's behavior reaches a certain level, our intention is to have the client meet with the probation officer and a district manager or police officer where the probationer resides to get the full benefit of what the partnership between police and corrections is.
If they are going to be influenced by their peers, they can also lean on us,' he added. 

In addition to introducing the program's format to the offenders, judges were also clued in so they knew to look for offenders on the Operation One Voice caseloads and would understand why they were back in court. According to Douglas, the results of the program have been positive. In one neighborhood there is approximately 1,000 people on supervision. About 400 were on intensive supervision through Project One Voice; 58 were on parole and were One Voice clients. The re-arrest rate was 6 to 7 percent. 
Douglas said one important factor to note is that without the support of higher-ups such
as Corrections Commissioner John Armstrong, New Haven Police Chief Waring and William Carbone, Director of Court Support Services a program such as this one wouldn't go far. 

Fugitive Apprehension Partnerships

In California, several law enforcement agencies and other groups within the criminal justice system and the state government joined together to form the Law Enforcement Consortium. The group, which includes police chiefs, the sheriffs' association, DA and governor's office, established a regular forum for discussing issues, new trends and developing programs for criminal justice agencies. Out of this forum came several ideas including a statewide parolee database on the internet for law enforcement, ways to address import/export issues with parolees where jurisdictions complained they had a disproportionate number released to their areas, and Parolee-at-Large Apprehension Teams.

Within the California Department of Corrections, the teams - created with grant support from the state - hunt fugitives in certain designated areas of the state, such as San Francisco, San Diego and San Bernardino. 

'We took parole agencies assigned in other parts of the state and concentrated them where large numbers of parolees [were located]. The parole agents are non case-carrying. Their whole mission is to liaise with law enforcement and find fugitives,' said Richard Rimmer, Parole Administrator for the California DOC.

According to Rimmer, parole agents routinely work with law enforcement agencies to find parolees at large who have committed other crimes. In one case, Rimmer said, a parole agent and his team located two homicide suspects. In cases where the parole agents don't have enough personnel to handle an arrest, they will also work with law enforcement.

The PAL teams have some additional equipment and are armed and trained similar to law enforcement. This training was built into the program since the agents would be placed in situations that could be considered high-risk arrest. The training is around 200 hours per year. 'Our focus is on taking out those who pose the greatest risk to the community,' said Rimmer. 

Recently, the program moved from the parole division to the law enforcement and investigations unit was funded for 26 additional positions. Currently, there are 60 agents dedicated statewide to PAL operations. Over the four-plus years of PALS the agents have made about 15,000 arrests. 

Rimmer said a few factors have helped the program remain successful. The creation of the consortium or a group with input from agencies in criminal justice, the district attorney's office and the governor was helpful. 'The consortium was very good for the DOC in terms of problem solving in a variety of situations. If [agencies] don't have something like that in place, they should consider,' Rimmer said.

Community Teams

In Washington State, the 1999 Community Offender Accountability Act effectively changed the way the Department of Corrections looked at offenders and their release into the community. Community Offender Accountability Teams were created (including corrections officials, law enforcement personnel, victim advocates, community representatives, and service providers) to work with offenders starting 180 days before release to develop an offender accountability plan.

Along with the plan, according to Cheryl Steele, Mobilization Manager for the Washington DOC, risk levels are determined and supervision levels are assigned to each offender. Some of the restrictions that might be placed on an offender include, places of residence and contact with certain person. 

Because the teams include so many representatives from the community, including mental health and other services agencies, Alcoholics Anonymous, guardians who have been trained by DOC to perform functions such as help secure housing and household items, and natural guardians, such as spouses, preachers, and teachers who by relationship influence the offender, the community becomes a part of the offender's supervision. 
'It is designed for those with high risk profiles and we build in as many safety components as we can,' said Steele. 'What we have found is that because of the number of resources attached, it enhances the offender's ability to be successful.'

Although the program is relatively new to the DOC, signs of success have been seen. According to Steele, recently a sex offender in the program was concerned about the community notification process where the neighbors are given a paper with the offender's picture and the notificaiton law printed on the back.
'The offender was very nervous about that process. Three weeks after he moved in, he asked 'When are you going to do the notification because the neighbors hadn't said anything.' But he hadn't done anything yet,' she said. 'It is about embarrassment, shaming and accountability.'

Steele said the creation of the Offender Accountability Act changes the business of corrections to be community safety focused. 'Just like in community policing, all the elements are true,' she said. 'Given the right to participate, the average citizen will. What they bring to the table is beyond our expectations and [sometimes] our capacity. Social capital and building that up is going to be the success of reducing crime.'

Specialized Enforcement Partnerships 

The Vallejo Police Department has broadened its community partnerships to focus not only on the offenders but on the neighborhoods they live in. Under a grant, the department is involved in a community partnership called Fighting Back, that involves fire officials, code enforcement and even the garbage collection company to clean up neighborhoods of crime, delinquent probationers and of blight.

The group meets weekly, according to Lt. Larry Giles, to identify areas that receive a high volume of police services such as drug and alcohol use and have deterioration.
'Coupled with that usually you have probationers or parolees who may still be using drugs. It is a six month process to [clean up].'

The process includes several steps: targeting the location, formulate a timeline of when the team will contact residents, encourage or gain their support and input for the effort,
explain the team's goals, point out the areas that are outside code restrictions, give residents the opportunity to clean up their yards, point out vehicles that are deteriorated,
set a target date for clean up and set an enforcement date where the vehicles on private property and those on the street will be abated and the area is prepared for clean up.

After the cleanup, the team will host a barbeque on the clean up day with the residents and people involved. 'We have other programs for individuals who need help, we will paint houses, cut trees, paint fences, work with street department on lighting, and repair potholes,' said Giles. 

After the clean up date, the partnership will stimulate interest for a neighborhood watch program as well as teach residents how to report crime and undesirable activity. 'It is something that takes six months to monitor the location, the properties, and teach safety techniques.
'We have been able to measure calls for service and have seen a serious reduction in calls,' said Giles.
Giles said, the department is also not surprised when calls for service increase because many residents have just learned for the first time how to identify a potential problem. 

'A lot of it is changing the philosophy. Some people get complacent with the conditions in which they live. Also as a police officer, I have come to realize that until you go to their homes and get into their minds, you don't realize I the impact you have. We have come a long way, it was learning how to interact with one another,' Giles said.

Challenges

While many police and corrections partnerships begin as the agencies look for solutions to specific problems, there are a few challenges to creating these partnerships that should be considered first.

When planning partnerships, the partners need to define their goals, specify how the goals are to be achieved and identify the resources for achieving these goals. In addition tasks need to be assigned and the partnership should be viewed as a work requiring constant review

Building support for these partnerships is also critical. Support from all stakeholders help hold the partnership together.

Limited resources can be a challenge for these agencies from the start, never mind when building a partnership. One strategy may be to reallocate current resources among partnering agencies. In some cases, partnering agencies have leveraged the partnership to secure new funding. Instead of corrections alone seeking funding for parole officers, the proposal might also be supported by partnering police. 

Other challenges to police/corrections partnerships may also include overcoming mistrust and stereotypes, removing barriers to information sharing and solving operational problems that may arise as partnerships are developed. 
 

Resources:

For more information contact: 

Project One Voice - Assistant Chief Douglas MacDonald at 203-946-6266

Richard Rimmer Parole Administrator, California DOC at 916-327-3268  

Cheryl Steele Mobilization Manager for the Washington DOC at 509-326-5070

Fighting Back Partnership, Mike Sparks at 707-648-5230

For more information about these and other police/corrections partnerships, see Police- Corrections Partnerships, NCJ 175047 available on the web at www.ncjrs.org
 



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