Transforming Community Corrections

Erika Pruett

I remember the hiring interview I endured for Probation/Parole Officer very vividly. I was energetic and motivated to make a difference in my community, but not quite familiar with the role of a PPO. There were so many terms that I was unfamiliar with and there were many questions asked of me that day. One that stood out was, “how will you change behavior?” That was 25 years ago. The tools given to me then, compared to the tools that are available now, are very different and this question still resonates today.

Change is the foundation of the work that we do in community corrections. When a justice-involved individual learns to think pro-socially and is given the appropriate resources to heal and grow, they have the potential to help build communities they have historically victimized and disrupted. This brings long term sustained community safety. I lead an organization that is rooted in risk/need and responsivity and implementing evidence-based practices. This has been a long journey that continues to be refined as we evaluate our practices, effectiveness, training, coaching,and fidelity to the models and tools we have adopted.

In the beginning of my career, probation and parole was at the advent of evidence-based practices (EBP). I am so relieved the days when community corrections professionals were handed a box of files and left to create their own style of compliance monitoring are gone. Today, juvenile justice, pretrial, and probation and parole organizations are engaging their staff in high levels of training to ensure they have a strong knowledge of the evidence-based practices that drive their organizational vision. Community corrections agencies are investing in tools, coaching, and feedback to ensure fidelity to case management steeped in core correctional practices. I want to emphasize the importance of the entire agency participating in this vision, from direct service to administrative staff. All staff contribute to the success of their agency in this work.

The American Probation and Parole Association is focused on transforming the community corrections field to be aligned with what we know works to change behavior, to truly be “Force for Positive Change.” It is our purpose to inform, provide training, and advocate for evidence-based practices and policy to drive our profession toward a positive future. This issue of Perspectives explores behavior management through the use of incentives and sanctions. It is my hope these articles motivate and inspire you to examine your jurisdictions’ practices and align them with the experience of other jurisdictions and current research. When we engage in proven practices, collaborate, and learn from each other’s experiences, we effectively help people to change, we help restore their families and build stronger communities, and we strengthen our profession. The time is now for us to come together around implementation and fidelity as decision makers continue to acknowledge and invest in the powerful impact community corrections has within the justice system.

Erika Preuitt, APPA Past President, President's Message, Perspectives, Fall 2018, p. 4-5.