A conceptual replication of the Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision (STICS)
This study was an attempt to replicate the findings from an earlier experimental evaluation of a probation officer training program by Bonta et al. (Criminal Justice and Behavior, 38: 1127–1148, 2011). An experimental design was used with an improvement in the random assignment of clients and was tested with a sample of probation officers from a new jurisdiction.
Probation officers from the Canadian province of Alberta were randomly assigned to training or probation-as-usual. Officer behavior was measured by audio recordings of supervision sessions and recidivism was defined as a new conviction within 2 years of the initial recording. Attrition resulted in 27 probation officers submitting audio recordings of supervision sessions over a 6-month period (15 in the experimental group and 12 in the control). There were 160 recordings of 81 probationers submitted.
The audio recordings showed inconsistent changes in officer behavior and no differences in recidivism between the clients of the experimental and control probation officers. However, the use of cognitive techniques by the probation officers was associated with a longer time to recidivism. In addition, by 10 months, more than half of the trained officers stopped their involvement in ongoing professional development activities.
Although the study failed to replicate the major findings reported by Bonta et al., it did highlight the importance of cognitive techniques in officer training. The results are interpreted with respect to the replication literature and the difficulties inherent in direct and conceptual replications especially in real-world settings.
KeywordsCognitive-behavioral Community supervision Offender rehabilitation Replication STICS
We would like to thank Leticia Gutierrez for training and overseeing the team that coded the audio recordings (Stephanie Desson, Greg Moreau, Nick Chadwick, Arshina Kassam, Jordan Monnink, and Benjamin Gallant). Thanks to Richelle Budd, Kelsey Burrow, Rebecca Grace, and Julia Voju for their work in various aspects of data collection and organization, and to Liz Bourguignon and Colleen Hamilton who assisted with the probation officers’ ongoing clinical support activities. Our gratitude is extended to senior managers James Donaghue and Kim Sanderson, Jim Cook, and the probation officers along with their managers who made this study possible.
Compliance with ethical standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was conducted under the auspices of the Government of Canada and the Department of Public Safety (Canada) does not have a formal Research Ethics Review Board. However, researchers are obligated to follow the ethical guide for research with human subjects as outlined in the Tri-Council Policy Statement and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service (Government of Canada).
Informed written consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Conflict of interest
James Bonta receives royalties on sales of the Level of Service Inventory-Revised cited in this article.
The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Public Safety Canada. The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available on reasonable request from Jim.Bonta@gmail.com
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