Proactive Community Supervision: The Importance of Establishing a Relationship between the Probation Officer and the Offender

Community supervision, in the form of parole or probation, generally involves a reactive form of supervision, with probation officers setting the ground rules and offenders either complying or not complying with those rules. Although this form of supervision may work the majority of the time with offenders, many times supervision requires a different approach.

Many policy makers and probation directors across the country, in response to declines in success rates of their probation and parole programs, have begun questioning whether the reactive form of supervision is becoming an antiquated approach. In particular, if the traditional approach to community supervision is no longer working, what can we do to motivate offenders to comply with the terms of their probation and work toward a successful reintegration into society?

Proactive Community Supervision: What is It?

Proactive community supervision, unlike reactive supervision, works to address the offenders’ behavior. In other words, in a proactive community supervision situation, probation officers often develop strategies to address the behavioral problems of the offenders as to empower the offenders to change the behavior.

This type of supervision tends to build a professional relationship between the probation officer and offender, which studies have shown is a very successful strategy for long-term success.

Implementing Proactive Community Supervision

Proactive community supervision uses a set of interview techniques that are designed to motivate the offender to make positive decisions about changing past behavior, including drug and alcohol abuse and aggressive or violent behavior. Called “motivational interviewing,” this technique encourages the probation officer to encourage the offender to understand his motivation for his past decisions and the reasons for his resistance to change. The resulting dialogue is designed to support the development of the offender’s pro-social values and norms.

In essence, the probation officer becomes a positive role model to counteract the many negative role models the offender may encounter once reintegrated back into his surroundings.

The basic steps of proactive community supervision are:

  1. Identify the behavior
  2. Evaluate the current situation
  3. Identify possible solutions
  4. Select a strategy
  5. Develop an action plan
  6. Implement the strategy
  7. Refine the strategy