Section 5: Supervision
2 Hours


Part I: A Success–Oriented Supervision Philosophy

Use SlideUse Slides #3–4: A Success-Oriented Philosophy and Approach
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Surveillance– and Punishment–Focused Approaches

You’ll recall that earlier we discussed historical responses to youth within the juvenile justice system and how the proverbial pendulum has swung in recent years away from the traditional rehabilitative focus and toward a more punitive model that tends to treat youth like adults. And this movement applies to youth who have committed sex offenses. Indeed, many of the management strategies commonly used for adult sex offenders began to be used with juvenile sex offenders, often without consideration of the differences between adult and juvenile sex offenders and without recognition of important developmental issues.

From a supervision perspective specifically, this swing of the pendulum has meant that juvenile supervision strategies have focused primarily on close surveillance, monitoring compliance, and sanctioning youth when violations occur. In many ways, these supervision strategies are based on an expectation or assumption that “nothing works” with delinquent youth, and that they will continue getting in trouble regardless of the interventions provided to them. As such, the role of supervision officers was simply to watch youth closely, wait for them to fail, and then punish them again. Some in the field call this the “trail ‘em, nail ‘em, and jail ‘em” approach to supervision.

How well do you think these more surveillance–oriented, sanctions–driven, or punishment–focused kinds of supervision approaches work?

Use SlideUse Slides #5: Effectiveness of “Get Tough” Strategies

Let’s look at what researchers have discovered in recent years when they examined this question.

As you can see, these types of strategies—including intensive probation and parole supervision with reduced caseloads to enhance surveillance and monitoring efforts, deterrence programs, the use of shock incarceration, boot camps, and scared straight interventions—are all associated with poorer outcomes and increases in juvenile recidivism.1 This data teaches us a very important lesson about what happens when we focus primarily on surveillance, sanctioning, and the threat of punishment as the sole means of managing youthful offenders. By themselves, these methods do not produce the desired results.

Even though this data is not specific to juvenile sex offenders, it is very compelling nonetheless, given our discussions about how youth who commit sex offenses are—in many ways—similar to other juveniles involved in the justice system.

Use SlideUse Slide #6: A Balanced Supervision Approach

Expanding the Focus of Supervision: Rehabilitation and Success

Within the juvenile justice field, therefore, there has been a renewed expansion of supervision and management strategies to include a focus on treatment and rehabilitative services—much like the original philosophies within the juvenile courts. This more balanced approach is built upon the philosophy that a critical part of working with youth is to assist them with becoming productive, contributing individuals. So, our work as probation and parole officers is not simply about making sure that they don’t get into any more trouble—and sanctioning or punishing them if they do—but it is also about promoting their ultimate success.2 After all, if they become successful and productive individuals, they are no longer harming others, right? Put simply, successful youth translates into safer communities.

Intuitively, a balanced approach that values success makes sense. Many of these juveniles have significant needs and difficulties that interfere with their ability to maintain healthy, pro–social lives in the community. For example, we commonly see substance abuse, family dysfunction, physical and sexual abuse, mental health problems, negative peer association, and school difficulties among them. Supervision officers will have to think about how they can ensure that these and other challenges and barriers are addressed. If officers focus on connecting youth and their families to resources that are designed to address these types of needs, in addition to ensuring that the youth are complying with expectations and are accountable for their behaviors, the chances of things working out well are probably going to be much greater.

So a more success–oriented approach to supervision and management makes good sense, but does the research actually support it?

Use SlideUse Slide #7: Effectiveness of Rehabilitation and Success–Focuses Stategies
Use SlideUse Slide #8: What Does it Mean to “Focus on Success?”

The answer is a resounding yes. As you can see, probation and parole supervision that is combined with treatment and other rehabilitative services—such as individual counseling, behavioral interventions, multiple services, advocacy and casework, and coordinated case management—is associated with positive outcomes and significant reductions in recidivism.3 Fortunately, with the recent trends toward evidence–based practices in the corrections and juvenile justice fields, we’re seeing a return to a more balanced approach to community supervision, because that’s what the evidence shows “works” with youthful offenders.

As you can probably imagine, a success–oriented philosophy requires supervision officers to think about their work in somewhat different ways. It doesn’t mean that they don’t continue to enforce rules and expectations and hold youth accountable. And it doesn’t mean that supervision officers are becoming “soft on crime” either, or that they are “coddling” youth. What it means is that they must also recognize the importance of specialized treatment needs, school–related issues, peer relations, family issues, and other challenges that may impact their overall stability and success, and work to ensure that these needs are addressed in a comprehensive and timely manner.4

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