The Summit County Adult Probation Department is becoming fully immersed in evidence based practices (EBP). Evidence Based Practices, or EBP, is a body of research which suggests that recidivism in offender populations can be reduced by focusing on the needs of the offender. Over the last four years, the Adult Probation Department has begun several initiatives which address offender needs.
Since January 2010, the Department has been administering the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS). ORAS is a state based assessment tool that was developed by the University of Cincinnati. Our Department is probably one of the first Probation Departments to employ full time assessors. The Probation officers use the results of the ORAS assessment to generate case plans which address offender needs.
We are very fortunate that the staff has fully embraced the department’s philosophy of an evidence based approach to offender case management. In fact, several staff members took the philosophy to another level by researching and implementing an Employment Readiness Program. The officers, Cynthia Schwarz, Rebecca Shepard and Michelle Fought, piloted the Program to nine probationers with six ultimately graduating from the Program. The Program, named in honor of the late Honorable Brenda Burnham Unruh, addresses topics such as resume writing, personal appearance, job seeking tools and general skills development. The success of the pilot has led to further in-house programming for the department’s offender population such as “Thinking For A Change” classes.
The Saturday reporting initiative, which began in 2009, was designed to provide a reporting opportunity for offenders that are challenged due to employment. Offenders can report to the department one Saturday per month to meet with a probation officer. Saturdays are staffed on a voluntary basis. An average of 25-30 offenders report monthly between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and Noon.
The Kiosk Initiative, led by Supervisor Terry Strubbe, is the result of the State of Ohio Department of Correction’s Probation Improvement Grant. Through this grant, the department was able to purchase four Kiosk machines that will be strategically placed at various locations around Summit County. The purpose of this project is to divert low-risk offenders to the Kiosk to report. Diverting the low-risk population to the Kiosk will allow probation officers an opportunity to focus their efforts on the moderate and high-risk offenders. The desired effect is that this initiative will lead to successful outcomes.
Looking toward the future, the Departmental goal is to enter into collaborations and develop partnerships that will enhance our services to the Court and to the populations that we serve.