CSG Justice CenterCSG Justice Center

A Ten-Step Guide to Transforming Probation Departments to Reduce Recidivism

This publication from The Council of State Governments Justice Center outlines four core practices probation leaders and policymakers should follow when working to reduce recidivism and improve public safety in their communities, which are: (1) effectively assessing peoples’ criminogenic risk and needs, (2) employing smart, tailored supervision strategies, (3) using incentives and graduated sanctions, and (4) implementing performance-driven personnel management practices that promote and reward recidivism reduction.

The guide also describes how officials can engage key stakeholders, evaluate agency policies, and develop a strategic plan for implementing reform; provides recommendations for redesigning departmental policies and practices; and includes steps for making a department transformation permanent. Included are numerous examples of how these steps were used in the Travis County, Texas, probation department, which saw felony probation revocations decline by 20 percent and one-year rearrest rates fall by 17 percent after implementing practices outlined in the guide.

UPDATE: In 2019, the American Probation and Parole Association has released an online course designed in partnership with the National Reentry Resource Center. Based on A Ten-Step Guide to Transforming Probation Departments to Reduce Recidivism, the course provides a ten-step action plan to help a probation department visualize transformation of its practices from beginning to end, and to align it with the four practices of recidivism reduction.

report cover