Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Levin: On the virtues of individualized assessment

Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation had an exceptionally good column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram adumbrating the growing role of individualized assessment in Texas corrections, which he argues should be reinforced in 2013 during the Sunset process. Here's a notable excerpt:
Policymakers should go even further than the sunset report in bringing to the corrections system the principles of individualized intervention, accountability and performance-based funding that have guided successful education reforms. 
The corrections system has too often eschewed individualized intervention in favor of cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all models such as mandatory minimum sentencing and large lockups where inmates are treated the same regardless of their treatment needs, behavior and other factors.
Meanwhile, education systems are moving toward individually tailored approaches such as digital learning and one-on-one tutoring.
Fortunately, the sunset report envisions a more individualized corrections system, calling for personalized re-entry plans for all offenders released from state prisons and the systemwide use of an individualized risk and needs assessment to guide supervision and treatment.

Individualized re-entry plans for the 70,000 Texas inmates released annually would identify what resources, such as family members and churches, are available to assist them in successfully re-entering society.

Also, the sunset report wisely recommends these personalized re-entry plans begin behind bars, before being handed off to parole officers and service providers. This coordinated and customized inside-out approach makes sense because an inmate's decisions during incarceration, such as whether he learns a trade and maintains family contacts, significantly impact success upon re-entry.

The report also recommends a systemwide individualized risk and needs assessment, which is analogous to assessments of academic proficiency that school systems have long used to determine which students to place in gifted and remediation programs.

Such assessments help allocate resources and ensure the program being offered addresses people's risks and needs. Correctional assessment instruments contain an inventory of questions covering factors such as attitudes, peers, substance abuse and mental health issues, employment and living status that have been retroactively verified to accurately predict the risk of re-offending and identify which needs must be met by a supervision or treatment program to reduce that risk.

This information enables probation and parole departments to ensure those most at risk of re-offending are on smaller caseloads and under closer supervision, while low-risk offenders are not pulled away from their jobs for unnecessary appointments.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/07/10/4091198/levin-education-reform-as-a-model.html#storylink=cpy


Prison Doc said...

This is indeed a great adumbration [Grits you love those $50 words] and Levin's thoughts have much to commend them. A couple of nits to pick are (1) comparison to the educational system--a major locus of "epic fail"--is unfortunate, and (2) the individualized approach, while needed, will require a lot of up-front dollars.

I am assuming the Windham school district does an adequate job...but I have not even SEEN a decent trade-training program anywhere; I hope they are just out of my view.

My other big concern is on the parole and probation end. There is a hard line to walk between what constitutes adequate community supervision, and what inhibits employment, normalized home life, and herely satisfies the P.O.'s desire to "bust" those they are supervising.

But Huzzah for the TPPF and Levin's ideas--I wish them a large measure of success.

Now, if we could just get some medical care funding too....

Unknown said...

What a wonderful program. It would benefit the offender and the public. However, in reality where is the $$$ going to come from for all this individual attention. Perry won't even properly fund security or medical care now for the prison system. He wants another 10% reduction in spending - remember. Dream on!

Anonymous said...

Levin is right.

However regarding probation, so long as decisions about supervision are made by two attorneys standing before the bench with a negotiated plea agreement with not a one of those three persons being able to recognize an individualized treatment plan if it bit them on the butt; or not knowing what exactly is a risk/needs assessment, much less a universal one, the system will continue to grind as it has, with attorneys deciding the fate of the defendant and the case managers such as probation officers being treated as grunts.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:40pm

You are absolutely correct.

AND Levin is Dreaming. There is no way a significant number of prosecutors will abandon the "dumb-ass on crime" tunnelvision to effectuate individualized assessment.
If statutes were passed creating mandatory sentencing guidelines similar to the Federal System, Maybe. But you can bet your last dollar that Texas District and County Attorneys Association will lobby like hell to block it.

Great idea but an expensive exercise in futility unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

If Whitmire wants to be smart on crime as he says he does, then it's time to pony up to the bar (sorry Senator) and get these people before the senate criminal justice committee to testify.


RSO wife said...

What all of you who commented are missing here is the fact that a lot of the people who could make a difference in the programs available for prisoners are ELECTED. If they were voted in, then they can be voted out. Why do we keep electing these jerks who have their head in the sand about what's really needed and what could work to make a change?

Texas has one of the poorest turnouts on election day of any state around. Why is that? Because most of you would rather sit at your computers expounding on what is wrong and what should be done about it than get your big fat butts out and work to make a change.

At least the reporters like Marc Levin and Jordan Smith and all the people who sent information to the Sunset Commission are acting, not talking. And don't forget all the people who really do get out and vote.

It's time to put your money where your mouth is. It all starts with YOU and yes, me. But I've been working in my community to make changes for years. Have you?

DEWEY said...

To:RSO Wife:
" But I've been working in my community to make changes for years. Have you?"
Yes, I have. Ever since I got my voting rights back, I have not missed voting. And I have been a volunteer for THE PRISON SHOW on radio station KPFT for over 23 years, working to change what I can.

Stephanie said...

I think we're going to see some legislative action in the restorative justice arena in the upcoming legislative session. It's relative to this discussion in the sense that RJ focuses on repairing harm versus correct application of the rules that govern the CJ process. Repairing harm includes meaningful accountability which is far more likely to result in personalized planning versus the two lawyers previously described dickering about a plea.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie is correct about the potential of Restorative Justice to provide meaningful and effective responses (at almost any stage in the criminal justice process). The mounting research evidence suggests that it works more than it doesn't (which cannot be said of the current system) -- and it is most effective when used in an individualized manner.

Get Real said...

To RSO Wife:

There are many who "soft sell" in the community. But too often there is no ear in the community because fricking prosecutors have spun up so much bullshit that it is a pretty steep pile of fiction to debunk.

If you are in the system you are courting career death if you go up against bad correctional policy, especially if that money is source of revenue for the elected.