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Innovations in Supervision Initiative

Building Capacity to Create Safer Communities


The Innovations in Supervision Initiative (ISI) provides grants and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to develop, implement, and test strategies to increase probation and parole agencies’ abilities to reduce crimes committed by those supervised in the community.

More About the ISI Program

ISI is part of BJA's Innovations in Public Safety portfolio, also known as the "Smart Suite." BJA's Smart Suite of programs invests in the development of practitioner-researcher partnerships that use data, evidence, and innovation to create strategies and interventions that are effective and economical.

The goal of ISI is to improve the capacity and effectiveness of probation and parole agencies to increase probation and parole success rates and reduce the number of crimes committed by those under probation and parole supervision. Such efforts would reduce crime and admissions to prisons and jails, and save taxpayer dollars.

At yearend 2016, an estimated 4.5 million adults were under community supervision (probation or parole), the equivalent of about 1 out of every 55 adults in the United States. Many people do not successfully complete their supervision because they either fail to comply with their conditions of supervision or they commit a new crime. Comprehensive crime prevention and public safety strategies must attend to members of this population whose contact with the justice system, while on supervision, is an opportunity to decrease the likelihood they will commit future crimes. This includes partnering with other justice agencies in order to further their mutual public safety goals.

The justice system and its component agencies must continuously improve their methods to prevent crime, apprehend perpetrators and reform their anti-social behaviors, and preserve community members’ sense of security. This is a tremendous undertaking and requires a wide range of resources, skills, and authority to intervene. Additionally, research shows most violent crime is the result of a handful of bad actors; a minority proportion of the individuals who commit crime is responsible for the majority of violent crime in most jurisdictions (Wolfgang, 1973; Farrington, et al., 2006). Further, the individuals responsible are often known to one criminal justice agency and may even be under supervision by another. Although there are no national estimates about the extent to which people under parole and probation contribute to the overall crime rate, available state and local statistics suggest about 20 percent of arrests involve someone under correctional supervision.

Agencies can have a greater impact when they collaborate to address specific crime problems. Further, this collaborative approach can reduce individual agency costs through sharing responsibilities, using pooled resources, increasing coordination, and reducing duplication of efforts.

To that end, ISI helps state, local, and tribal jurisdictions reduce recidivism and violent crime, in particular, through the following strategies, based on the supervising agencies’ needs:

  • Align agency practices with best and evidence-based practices to:
    • Focus resources on individuals at high risk of recidivating and at higher risk of committing violence, including using normed and validated risk assessments to inform case management decisions.
    • Establish quality programs to address criminogenic needs and implement them with fidelity, and consider responsivity factors when placing people in programs.
    • Implement effective probation and parole supervision practices, including incorporating incentives and sanctions into the supervision process to encourage positive behavior changes.
    • Position supervision officers to be agents of behavior change, including training in communication techniques that promote intrinsic motivation for positive change (i.e., enhance responsivity) and training to understand and respond effectively to the special needs of individuals with mental illnesses and other behavioral health disorders.
    • Implement continuous quality improvement plans that measure outcomes and promote accountability such as collecting data on short-term outcomes to indicate progress toward recidivism-reduction objectives (e.g., changes in individual attitudes, behaviors, or responsiveness to services) and holding performance management meetings between supervisors or managers and staff to discuss data findings, identify areas that need improvement, and reward staff for progress.
  • Assess and document the process and outcomes of implementing recidivism and violent crime reduction strategies to serve as models for other agencies throughout the nation.
  • Promote and increase collaboration among agencies and officials who work in probation, parole, pretrial, law enforcement, treatment, reentry, and related fields.

Funds can be used to support capacity-building activities, including staff training, to meet the rehabilitative and supervision needs of the supervision population; assess and address gaps and/or quality of service provision; standardize new or existing strategies to promote replication and scaling; and develop and implement performance metrics.

Date Created: January 29, 2016