Contributing to best practice for Community Probation and Psychological Services

Criminal justice responses to reducing crime are always challenging issues to get right. In the 2008-2009 financial year Corrections managed 66,635 new community-based sentences and orders. During the same year probation officers and psychologists completed 44,596 pre-sentence and oral reports and 108 psychological reports for courts. These included 5595 parole assessment reports, 1095 psychological reports for the Parole Board, 356 home leave reports, 486 progress reports to the Parole Board and 191 Judicial Monitoring Reports.

New Zealanders demand that this work is done well and to a high standard. HMA has been one of the organisations that has supported CPPS to enhance the skills of staff so that they can deliver best practice.

Late last year a consortium of HMA, Flexible Learning, and Able Training secured the contract to redevelop the New Zealand Probation Officer Curriculum into a blended learning solution.  This initiative was both timely and built upon previous work we have been involved in that works towards ensuring consistency of practice across the organisation, ensures standards of practice are maintained, and ensuring that effective work is carried out to minimise future risk, thereby reducing re-offending.

Structure of the training design

The Probation Officer Curriculum (POC) has been specially designed to offer a mixture of on-job structured coaching and training in practical ‘real world’ situations, and specific skills development during five training courses which bring together groups of trainee probation officers.

 

 

Workplace 1 (10 days)

Learning is conducted in a guided supportive environment. The probation officer learns about their role and working environment, and the systems and resources they will use on a daily basis. They will get to know the roles their colleagues play.

By the end of Workplace 1 the probation officer will be able to:

  • demonstrate the ability to access information through various Departmental systems
  • demonstrate the understanding of the Department’s business and policies
  • demonstrate the understanding of the offender population, and offender management and assessment processes
  • explain and use office systems
  • explain the full scope of the probation officer role, and relationship with other key roles
  • identify the models and legislation applying to probation work
  • explain the need to plan, organise, prioritise and manage workloads.

Course 1 (5 days) Processes & Rationale of Probation Officer Work

This course consolidates and extends the knowledge and skills of the new probation officer and builds upon the work they have been undertaking during your first weeks on the job. The individual Workplace 1 activities and the work they have been doing with the service manager provides an inductive foundation to the probation officer role. Course 1 presents an opportunity for group learning and interaction with colleagues who, like themselves, are new probation officers. The course is designed to further develop knowledge and understanding of the Probation officers role and responsibilities.

What will it achieve (Learning Outcomes):

At the end of the course they will be able to:

  • Identify ethical issues, appropriate boundaries, nature of relationship with offenders and how to use supervision
  • Apply offender management processes in a simulated environment
  • Explain why ‘we do what we do’ & identify strategies for dealing with difficult people
  • Apply the hierarchy of sentences in simulated environment
  • Access an offender file & relevant documents in a simulated environment
  • Identify assessment processes and the nature of risk
  • Explain the context & purpose of short & full reports including appendices
  • Explain principles of  Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Workplace 2 (approximately 15 days)

The probation officer will have increasing opportunity to use and try out what they have learned in Workplace 1 and Course 1. The learning activities are aimed at familiarising the probation officer  with offender management processes, offender information induction of offenders, assessing risk, how to engage the offender in an assessment situation, and writing reports.

They will start to gather information about local support agencies, and on cultural and behavioural models to support their work. Finally, they will start to become familiar with legislative impacts on your work with offenders.

By the end of Workplace 2 the probation officer will be able to:

  • assist an experienced probation officer in the sentence management process and in working with offenders
  • enter case notes and identify manual requirements
  • assist the duty officer
  • explain documentation and tasks involved when inducting an offender into a sentence of supervision and one other sentence type and/or combination
  • identify issues of risk and ways of responding appropriately
  • demonstrate understanding of Provision of Information (POI) requirements and processes including assessment skills
  • develop an understanding of associated roles, support agencies, working with offender skills and requirements
  • identify roles and establish contact with local support agencies
  • identify how psychology of criminal conduct and cognitive behavioural therapy applies to your work
  • identify examples of how the Sentencing and Parole Acts apply to probation work.

Course 2: Report Writing and Induction

During Workplace 2 the focus is upon increased knowledge of the key legislation that underpins the work of probation officers, gaining an understanding of the reports that CPPS provides to the courts, researching the support agencies that work with offenders, and shadowing an experienced colleague during the full assessment of an offender in order to write the full report.

During Course 2, the probation officer will apply all of this knowledge and make use of the full assessment material they bring by interviewing offenders and writing short and full reports.

The other major strand of activities they completed in Workplace 2 was working with offenders: interviewing skills, developing your views on risk and risk management, observations of a case load and its management, the duty officer’s role, and observing initial and sentence-specific inductions.

During Course 2, the probation officer will have the opportunity to practise these interview skills and the initial and sentence-specific inductions, and consolidate the observations you made on case load management.

The course focuses on :

  • working with offenders in the pre-sentence stage – interviewing them, informing them and writing pre-sentence reports to support the judicial process of sentencing
  • the immediate post-sentence stage of initial and sentence-specific induction.

Both these aspects of the course critically contribute to setting up the sentences that CPPS staff manage. Course 2 therefore provides a basis for developing an integrated approach to offender management by giving you the opportunity to see and make the links between the work you completed on the provision of information to the courts, the subsequent reception and induction of the offender, and the administration of the offender’s sentence as part of a case load.

By the end of the course the probation officer will be able to:

  • identify provision of information requirements
  • apply assessment skills in a simulated environment
  • write a full and short report, including home detention and community detention appendices and the offender information report for full reports
  • recommend appropriate rehabilitative interventions
  • perform screening assessments, assess safety questions and respond appropriately to risk in a simulated environment
  • identify phase requirements for each sentence type
  • perform full induction in a simulated environment.

Workplace 3 (approximately 15 days)

Workplace 3 provides the probation officer with opportunities to use and try out what they have learned in Workplace 1 and 2 and Course 1 and 2, by means of observed practice. They will manage a caseload appropriate to their level of experience, and assist and observe experienced probation officers working with offenders. They will continue to consolidate report writing skills and take the lead role as duty officer and learn about offender planning. There are three assignments to complete, which are preparatory for other courses.

By the end of Workplace 3 the probation officer will be able to:

  • manage a caseload appropriate to their level
  • apply skills in offender management including full inductions
  • write short and full pre-sentence and on-strength reports for a judge
  • perform duty officer responsibilities with support
  • explain the offender planning processes
  • perform screening assessments, assess safety questions and respond appropriately to risk
  • identify actual examples of how motivational interviewing, cycle of change, relapse prevention and bicultural practice apply to the work of a probation officer
  • identify examples of how the Privacy and Official Information Acts apply to the work of a probation officer
  • display an understanding of associated roles, support agencies, working with offender skills and requirements
  • identify roles and establish contact with local support agencies
  • identify how psychology of criminal conduct and cognitive behavioural therapy applies to their work
  • identify examples of how the Corrections, Sentencing and Parole Acts apply to their work.

Course 3: Risk/Sentence Management

This course follows Workplace 3: Observed Practice.  To date You will have been have been writing your first reports and consolidating your report writing skills by writing short and full reports; managing a small caseload for the past 3 weeks and have inducted offenders into their sentences; taken the lead role as duty officer; and learned about offender planning.

A critical and central aspect of offender management is planning – the development of an offender plan to assist offenders to complete the requirements of their sentence/s or orders. Course 3 will assist you to move beyond the inductive processes into the planned management of offenders and their sentences/orders.

Managing offenders’ risk and compliance and taking appropriate/timely enforcement action for instances of non-compliance are also critical to the sentence management process.  Course 3 will assist you to develop skills and strategies to manage risk and non-compliance and take appropriate legal enforcement action.

By the end of the course you will be able to:

  • Apply offender planning processes
  • Apply offender management skills to manage risk in a simulated environment.
  • Develop strategies for non-compliant offenders & incidents
  • Apply enforcement requirements in the case of non-compliance
  • Explain the Department’s management of risk and ‘escalating risk’ & incident reports

Workplace 4 (approximately 20 days)

During Workplace 4 the probation officer will be managing a medium/mixed risk caseload, and applying the knowledge and skills acquired to date to the offender management of a number of offenders with a range of sentence types. Initially this will not include high-risk offenders, but later on during the Workplace 4 development period they will be observing and discussing high-risk case studies in the process of understanding relapse prevention. They will also assist with the preparation and processing of breaches and applications.

The probation officer will additionally apply appropriate rehabilitation and reintegration strategies, and demonstrate how to write two full reports with appendices for more complex offending needs than in previous workplace or course activities.

By the end of Workplace 4 the probation officer will be able to:

  • manage a medium/mixed risk caseload
  • apply skills in offender management
  • assist in the preparation and processing of breaches and applications
  • apply appropriate strategies to manage rehabilitation and re-integrative needs
  • write at least two full reports including appendices for more complex offending needs
  • demonstrate understanding of relapse prevention.

Course 4: Offender Management Tools

This course follows Workplace 4: Consolidate POI/SM.  New probation officers will have been managing a medium/mixed risk caseload of up to 15 offenders across a range of activities from induction through to termination and will now be at the point when they are required to engage in on-going work with offenders.

During Workplace 4 (Consolidate POI/SM) the probation officer will have observed and discussed HRX case studies in the process of understanding relapse prevention. They will also have applied appropriate rehabilitation and reintegration strategies and demonstrated how to write two full reports with appendices for more complex offending needs than in previous workplace or course activities.

This course is designed to provide them with a framework for using a range of offender management tools within the CPPS environment (this will differ from casework in other contexts). These tools include motivating for compliance with sentence conditions, problem solving, managing escalating risk, and developing partnerships with external agencies and whânau/family to increase pro-social behaviour.

 

What will it achieve (Learning Outcomes):

By the end of the course the probation officer will be able to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to achieve change in offender behaviour through the use of a number of offender management tools
  • Apply a range of offender management tools to influence change in a simulated environment

Workplace 5 (approximately 20 days)

The probation officer will be applying the knowledge and skills acquired to date to the management of a number of offenders with a range of sentence types with more complex needs. This will not include high-risk offenders, but may include a maximum of 10 community work sentences. Additionally, they will be applying models learned in previous workplace activities and courses, including problem solving, cycle of change and cost–benefit analysis. They will also produce more complex reports. Finally, they will conduct a thorough reflective exercise, using suggested models for analysis of further professional development needs. This work will also be used in Course 5.

By the end of Workplace 5 the probation officer will be able to:

  • apply advanced practice skills to your caseload
  • apply strategies to meet offender management needs
  • apply advanced practice skills to a complex needs caseload
  • identify their own personal development needs.

Course 5: Parole, Consolidation and Future Planning

This last course of the POC is intended to provide an opportunity to reflect on practice and help prepare for the full caseload the probation officer will be managing during Workplace 6 and on completion of your POC learning.

The course introduces the processes and procedures for the preparation for release of offenders on parole (the pre-release assessment process); and the management of parole including applications to the New Zealand Parole Board for variations to and discharge of conditions for instances of offender non-compliance or changes in offender circumstances.

Prior to attending Course 5 the probation officer will produce a DVD of their practice for analysis, practice development and coaching during the course. The focus of the practice DVD is demonstrating how they use the report in time effectively given the APT allowances for report-ins.

Prior to attending the course they will also complete a reflective exercise using models to analyse your further professional development needs. During the course they will use this work to consider ongoing learning and development needs.

At the end of the course the probation officer will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of Parole Board processes & requirements
  • Develop strategies to address professional development needs
  • Complete special board applications in a simulated environment
  • Produce all Parole Board & Prison release reports
  • Use outcomes of reflective practice

Workplace 6 lasts for approximately 20 days.

During Workplace 6 the probation officer will make the transition to a full caseload. They will be monitored during a period of 20 days to fulfil the processes of offender management to Manual requirements and also to complete provision of information reports according to requirements. This final period is a period of consolidation and final assessment by their service manager to agree that they have fully met the assessment criteria. A final period of reflection and review of assessments is suggested to ensure future development paths are being planned.

By the end of Workplace 6 the probation officer will be able to:

  • perform all provision of information/offender management roles
  • apply offender management strategies to meet a full caseload
  • write specialist provision of information reports.
Published on Friday, September 25th, 2009, under Learning & development

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