The Impact of a Community Supervision Officer Training Program on Client Outcomes: A Propensity Score Modeling Analysis by Officer Training Dosage

Date01 March 2021
Published date01 March 2021
Subject MatterArticles
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, 2021, Vol. 48, No. 3, March 2021, 315 –331.
Article reuse guidelines:
© 2020 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
A Propensity Score Modeling Analysis by Officer
Training Dosage
University of Central Florida
A growing body of research indicates officer training in correctional supervision programs is associated with improved use
of evidence-based practices and lower rates of client recidivism. This scholarship also suggests larger reductions in recidi-
vism can be achieved when officers implement program skills with higher quality. Despite their potential, research has shown
standard training regiments alone are not sufficient in making all participants proficient users of skills. There is a need to
determine what intensity of training produces the best results. In response, this study assessed the impact of federal probation
officer training dosage in the Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Re-arrest (STARR) program on the outcomes of their clients.
The results indicated clients of STARR-trained officers had fewer probation revocations and new arrests but more technical
violations and positive drug tests. We also found clients supervised by officers with more versus less exposure to the STARR
model had better outcomes.
Keywords: community supervision; correctional training programs; officer training; probation; STARR
On any given day, there are approximately 4.4 million adults supervised on probation or
parole in the United States (Kaeble & Alper, 2020). This equates to roughly one in
every 58 adults or about 1.7% of the total U.S. adult population. Despite this high number,
research finds traditional community supervision practices are ineffective at reducing recid-
ivism (Bonta et al., 2008; Paparozzi & Gendreau, 2005; Solomon, 2006). At the same time,
there is mounting evidence to suggest that correctional services in alignment with the
AUTHORS’ NOTE: This study was funded by the United States Probation Office Middle District of Florida.
We would like to thank the many dedicated staff at the Middle District of Florida who provided assistance in
making this research possible. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Ryan M.
Labrecque, University of Central Florida, 12805 Pegasus Drive, Orlando, FL 32816-1600; e-mail: ryan.
980788CJBXXX10.1177/0093854820980788Criminal Justice and BehaviorLabrecque, Viglione / Impact of Officer Training on Client Outcomes 1
principles of effective intervention are the most effective strategies for improving client
behavior (Andrews et al., 1990; Bonta & Andrews, 2017; Cullen & Gendreau, 2000;
Gendreau, 1996; Smith et al., 2009). It is only in the last decade, however, that formalized
efforts have been undertaken to incorporate these principles into the everyday supervision
practices of probation and probation officers (Bourgon et al., 2012; Clodfelter et al., 2016;
Gleicher et al., 2013; Lowenkamp, Alexander et al., 2014; Rugge & Bonta, 2014; Toronjo
& Taxman, 2018). While the empirical evidence indicates that officer training in these prin-
ciples is associated with lower rates of client recidivism (Chadwick et al., 2015), the spe-
cific intensity of training necessary to produce the best outcomes remains unknown.
This study sought to address this gap in knowledge by examining the impact of officer
training dosage in the principles of effective intervention on the supervision outcomes of
their clients. Drawing on the prior literature, we hypothesized that clients supervised by
officers trained in the Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Re-arrest (STARR) program would
have lower rates of recidivism compared to those monitored by staff not trained in the
model. We further anticipated that the magnitude of this effect would be more pronounced
among the clients of the officers who received more versus less-intense training exposure to
the STARR model. To test these hypotheses, we collected and analyzed officer and client
data from a federal probation district in Florida. We begin with a review of the theory and
prior research that guided the formulation of our hypotheses. We then describe our data and
analytical plan, present the study’s findings, and discuss the policy and research implica-
tions of this work.
Based on the General Personality and Cognitive Social Learning (GPCSL) perspective
of criminal conduct, the principles of effective intervention have become the dominant
model of correctional rehabilitation (Bonta & Andrews, 2017). There are 15 general, clini-
cal, and organizational principles that describe best practices in correctional assessment and
intervention. At its core, the GPCSL involves the three treatment principles of risk, need,
and responsivity. The risk principle asserts that criminal behavior is predictable and further
suggests that more-intensive services should be reserved for higher risk individuals. The
need principle emphasizes that dynamic crime-producing risk factors, or criminogenic
needs, should be the primary focus of all correctional interventions (e.g., antisocial person-
ality pattern, procriminal attitudes, and procriminal associates). The responsivity principle
indicates that treatment services should be cognitive-behavioral in nature and further deliv-
ered in a manner that is tailored to meet the specific learning style, motivation, abilities, and
strengths of each client (Bonta & Andrews, 2017).
There has been strong empirical evidence reported in the literature to support the prin-
ciples of effective intervention. In 1990, Andrews and colleagues meta-analyzed 154 cor-
rectional treatment comparisons and found support for the principles of risk, need, and
responsivity. This database has since been expanded to include 374 comparisons and the
findings indicated that adherence to all three principles reduces recidivism by 26%,
whereas failure to adhere to any of the treatment principles increases recidivism by 2%
(Bonta & Andrews, 2017). Collectively, there have now been more than 100 meta-analy-
ses conducted on the correctional treatment literature, and these results have been repli-
cated with remarkable consistency (Lipsey & Cullen, 2007; MacKenzie, 2006; McGuire,
2013; Smith et al., 2009).

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