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Practice Models

Trends in Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs) within Community Corrections are moving towards the implementation of ‘Practice Models’, deliberately integrating sets of EBP skills within typical 20-30 minute supervision sessions. J-SAT specializes in developing and implementing customized practice models for Community Corrections Organizations. Our approach to Practice Models in corrections involves comprehensive organizational change, in which we draw on all our expertise with implementation science and workforce alignment.

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Definition of a Practice Model

A practice model is an integrated set of evidence-based practices and principles (EBP) that an agency believes will result in desirable public safety outcomes if they are supported by the agency and followed with fidelity by its officers. A practice model describes in detail the practices that line staff should follow to prevent more crime and promote the social and human capital (rehabilitation) of people under supervision.

Practice Models haven’t been around the fields of community supervision or corrections very long. They first PMs started emerging in the US and other countries a little less than ten years ago. Now they are at least a handful of off-the-shelf models. A couple of the more popular models that you may have heard of are the Strategic Training Initiative for Community Supervision (STICS) and Effective Practices In Community Supervision (EPICS). Other models: IBIS, ESP, STARR, Vogelvang, and COMBINES have also been researched or written about and are available to interested agencies. However, all the latter models, with two possible exceptions (ESP, the Ramsey County Community Corrections model and Vogelvang) represent models primarily developed and designed by researchers; classic research-to-practice.

The image below is a symbolic representation of the ESP Practice Model, and is just one of the many example listed above.

The Benefit of Practice-to-Research Models

Research-to-practice has probably been the primary thrust for introducing scientifically vetted programs into the field. While the research supporting some of the above programs is in places quite significant and promising there still exist many inherent problems when moving something designed afar afield, in academia so to speak, to the field. Not the least of which is the resistance that can arise when line officers believe their skills and expertise are being ignored. Just as the quality of offender assessments depends on the skills of the officer conducting it, practice models, at the end of the day, depend on the quality of the skills of the officer using the model; bringing to mind the expression “It’s the hand that turns the screw.” The implication here is that officers might be engaged to co-create their own practice models, thus avoiding any undermining of motivation and pride on the line. And, there is a name for this strategy: practice-to-research.

It turns out that when experienced officers are invited to reverse engineer some of the above practice models, they do a pretty darn good job of identifying the glitches and gaps in these models. Moreover, officers will also readily identify some of the tricks and practices that are supportive or in cases perhaps key causal ingredients of offender change but have yet to make their way into the research. What seems most instrumental in this process is: a) officers trust management will honor their decision-making and design input and the results will be utilized; and, b) some form of overarching framework or organizing principle or mechanism is articulated to guide the development and use of the resulting model. The first issue is arguably an adaptive (gnarly, alive and capable of fighting back) change issue, and the latter is technical. Both are worth exploring.

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