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Section 3: Lecture Content and Teaching Notes
Components of Supervision: Specialized Approaches to Managing Sex Offenders

6 hours, 50 minutes

TOPIC: MAINTAINING THE CASE FILE
(15 minutes)

New Topic IconIMPORTANCE OF DOCUMENTATION IN SEX OFFENDER MANAGEMENT

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #46: Maintaining the Case File
[Click to Enlarge]

The hallmarks of sex offending include offender secrecy, lies, manipulation, and deception, so the case file is an extremely important vehicle in which to document exactly what the supervision plan is, what expectations the offender has been given and has agreed to, and how well the offender is performing. It's also important to track red flags because single incidents may not be particularly notable, but patterns can tell you a lot. Because sex offenders may be under supervision for some time by a succession of probation/parole officers, the case file also provides a tool to ensure continuity in supervision. It will also support petitions for revocation if they become necessary and/or document appropriate intermediate responses.

A complete case file provides easy access to important information and establishes a paper trail should a revocation become necessary. The case file provides documentation of the case management activities to date and highlights significant incidents and progress on the case. Whenever necessary, another officer should be able to pick up and act on the case in the supervising officer's absence.

Documents that will be important to add to the permanent record after community supervision has been initiated include polygraph examination reports and the treatment provider's and supervision agent's responses to the results of the polygraph exams (if applicable); treatment progress reports (from both sex offender treatment and any other adjunctive treatment, such as substance abuse treatment); and periodic reports generated by the offender (such as a sexual history/autobiography and copies of homework assignments that were completed as a part of treatment). In addition, the case file may contain a revised treatment contract if there was a problem in treatment, a relapse prevention plan, and information regarding the offense cycle of the offender.

Reports from the social services administration regarding family members and/or the victim, and any other evaluations of the offender that were completed after sentencing (e.g., plethysmograph, treatment reports, Abel screen) should also be included in the case file. In addition, correspondence from family members, victims, the defense counsel, or the district attorney should be placed in the case file.

The file should also include-in an easily accessible order-information generated by the probation/parole officer regarding the case (e.g., case notes, a brief summary and the date of every germane phone call and other instances of communication with stakeholders regarding the case, important decisions made, a list of violations and red flags and how they were or were not addressed, and changes in the supervision plan/special conditions). In addition, urinalysis reports, status reports on the victim, status reports on family members, and significant changes in the offender's personal relationships (e.g., divorce) should also be included. Finally, a completed risk/needs assessment instrument should be a part of the case file to demonstrate why the probation/parole officer is supervising the offender in a particular manner or at a particular level.

New Topic IconPERSPECTIVES ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CASE FILE

Because the stakes of failure are so high with sex offenders, it is important for the case records to be as complete and unassailable as possible. Probation/parole agencies across the nation are concerned that they may be sued by sex offenders (and their victims), perhaps more than any other population of criminal offenders who are being supervised in the community. At the same time, these cases often result in violation/revocation actions.

It is highly advisable that all probation/parole officers make sure that they have a system to organize all the information within the file so that the officer and others can have easy and quick access to information when they need it. This assists officers to identify gaps in the file and the documentation system that need to be addressed.

In addition, probation/parole officers should know well and follow any policy regarding access to the material in the file or disclosure to any other party. In some jurisdictions, there are reports that can only be released by the court or by the parole board. Probation/parole officers must be in close communication with their colleagues and supervisors to avoid inadvertent disclosure of material to unauthorized parties.