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Long Version
Section 5: Lecture Content and Teaching Notes
Practical Supervision Strategies

4 hours, 30 minutes

TOPIC: MAINTAINING CONTROL OF INTERACTIONS
(30 minutes, including Learning Activity)

New Topic IconTECHNIQUES AND STRATEGIES

Realizing that sex offenders are often experts in manipulation and deception, it is critically important for the probation/parole officer to develop strategies to maintain control of all interactions and to develop rapport with the offender. It is the responsibility of the probation/parole officer to elicit the information necessary to fulfill such responsibilities as the generation of a complete and thorough PSI and an ongoing evaluation of a sex offender's risk to the community and potential victims. To do so, the probation/parole officer should control all interactions in a firm but respectful manner to keep the conversation (and process of information collection and evaluation) on task. A number of strategies enhance an officer's ability to manage and control these interactions. They include—

  • Use Slide # SymbolUse Slides #5-6: Maintaining Control of Interactions
    [Click to Enlarge]

    Establishing your competence and knowledge. Be prepared for every interaction with the offender, especially your first interview. Demonstrate your knowledge of his offense and background. Refer to your experience, perhaps noting that you are aware of how difficult it may be for him to discuss his offense at first.

  • Establishing the purpose of the visit. Respect, fairness, and good professional practice dictate that the offender should be given a clear explanation of the purpose and nature of any contact or interview, and how the information that is garnered will be used. Do not allow the offender to move the discussion away from the point or to waste time on extraneous topics. If the purpose of the visit is to discuss the previous week's treatment session, state that up front. If the purpose is to discuss information regarding a violation, be clear about that as well.

  • Using a neutral tone of voice. Expressing confusion while using a neutral, nonjudgmental tone of voice may be a good means of eliciting information.

  • Establishing and holding the offender to standards of dress and/or behavior. Insist that the offender follow the standards established in his conditions of supervision (e.g., wearing undergarments, etc.) and insist on any other routine standards, such as removing hats and sunglasses during your meeting.

  • Establishing that you are in close communication with treatment providers, victim advocates, polygraph examiners (if applicable), and any other individuals who play active roles in monitoring his behavior and actions during his term of community supervision, such as partners, family members, or mentors. All team members should have access to the same information and the offender must learn immediately that he cannot manipulate the situation by providing different information to different members of the team.

  • Setting and maintaining boundaries. Sex offenders will often attempt to create inappropriate relationships with their supervising officers. They may proffer gifts, notes, or letters; ask about an officer's personal and family life; or try to establish themselves as "special." This could make it very difficult to exercise disciplinary control or revocation proceedings. Strategies to combat these attempts to manipulate one's personal and professional boundaries are fairly straightforward. Some probation/parole officers report that they do not have personal items (photographs, certificates, souvenirs) in their offices. They do not divulge information about themselves or their families in the context of a meeting with an offender. They decline gifts and correspondence, emphasizing that they are inappropriate. They do not let small behaviors go unaddressed and they respond to attempts at manipulation or deceit, no matter how small or insignificant, with such statements as, "this is what you are attempting to do and it is not appropriate because…" In addition, some officers arrange their offices in such a way as to create a neutral space between their desk and the chair in which offenders sit during office visits.

  • Remembering that you can be deceived. Many sex offenders are quite skilled at lying and manipulation. Be sure to verify through other sources (treatment providers, investigating officers, victims' statements, collateral interviews) all information provided to you by the offender.

Learning ActivityLEARNING ACTIVITY: TECHNIQUES AND STRATEGIES
(10-15 minutes)

Refer to Handout Symbol Refer to handout: Section 5, Exercise 1. As mentioned in previous sections, the trainer may want to facilitate the exercise for the entire training audience if there are fewer than 25 participants. If more participants are present, the trainer may want to break the group into smaller sections. If small groups are used, each one can designate a reporter to summarize their discussion for the larger group after it reconvenes.
Up to this point, we have discussed some techniques that probation/parole officers use to desensitize themselves in their work and some strategies they use to maintain control of interactions with sex offenders. Now you will have an opportunity to discuss some of these challenges in light of your own experiences. You will find an exercise in your participant materials to guide the next discussion.