In 2015, Coconino County Adult Probation started a special unit called Advanced Supervision Strategies and EPICS II Team (ASSET) designed for difficult probationers.
The ASSET program incorporates cutting-edge evidence-based practices to supervise high-risk and medium-high risk clients including swift and certain consequences, treatment dosage and cognitive programming.
Initial results are in, and they are promising!
- How to develop honest relationships with clients,
- Supervision strategies appropriate for use with high-risk clients,
- How to include judges and attorneys in process discussions and practices,
- Client interactions (field, office, and arrests), consequences, treatment, and cognitive work,
- how the probation officers “managed” all their assets: judges, attorneys, and clients.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Your webinar is specifically titled “Managing Assets: Humans, not $$$.” What prompted you to take this philosophical approach when so many agencies are focusing on managing budgets?
Chris Greenway: While managing budgets may be necessary, our approach goes back to the bottom line goal of probation, which is to create positive change in individuals, ultimately positively affecting our community. By implementing a program like this, we hope to reduce future costs to our community by reducing recidivism rates.
JCH: Without giving the whole webinar away, it sounds like you’ve been implementing some cutting edge, evidence-based practices with very promising results. Can you give us a sneak preview of what results you’ll be sharing?
Tiffany Marsitto: When using swift and certain sanctions for all violations, followed by cognitive interventions, we have seen substantial success rates with completing probation. You will see video testimony from a client about how these measures have helped him make better decisions.
It’s part of our role as a probation officer to use the most effective practices to drive positive change.
If we ignore effective practices, then we are not doing our jobs.
JCH: What prompted this innovative step? How has this evolution been accepted by the staff/team?
Chris Greenway: Tiffany probably has a better answer for this one. But there was a general thought of, “can we improve our practices to be even more effective probation officers?” This extends to a more effective department. But if there’s research and statistics coming out from different practices from different departments that we can use to reduce probation violations and revocations, why should we not attempt to implement those? I personally believe that it’s part of our role as a probation officer to use the most effective practices to drive positive change. If we ignore effective practices, then we are not doing our jobs.
Many in our department joke about our ASSET team, and that we arrest people for minor probation violations all the time. However, I’ve been asked by other officers about switching caseloads. Initially, there was more uncertainty about our new team and practices, but it didn’t take long to become more accepted and valued by the rest of our officers.
Tiffany Marsitto: Asset is one of the tougher caseloads to manage. The clientele consists of medium-high and high-risk offenders in the community. These clients need consistent interventions and cognitive work; therefore, makes for a very high-demand workload. When this program first started, it wasn’t favorable to most officers. Once they started seeing the change in people when they are held accountable for every violation, they started to become interested.
I know that the cutting-edge evidence-based supervision techniques work. …
[W]hen you see the change in someone, you get excited and just want to help them more.
JCH: You're both involved with Coconino County’s Probation Program. The work that you do is important, but must be challenging at times. What drew you to this specific area of justice and protecting the public? What keeps you motivated or inspired to keep going in light of some of the things you must encounter as part of your jobs?
Chris Greenway: I studied social work in school, and started working with our probation department as an intern in this ASSET program. I didn’t know much about probation and was told I would be working in a high-risk unit, which initially frightened me a little. I had no prior experience in the criminal justice field. However, working with these clients and seeing them change drew me to continue working in the field.
Being a probation officer can be stressful; we have an obligation to our clients and the community, which is often hard to balance. While it’s stressful, if we do not put effort in to effectively supervise our clients, how can we expect them to also put in effort to do what we ask of them? At the end of the day, what keeps me going is the clients and hearing how much of a difference probation has had on their lives.
Tiffany Marsitto: I love this question! The challenge of our work is what keeps me going. I know that the cutting-edge evidence-based supervision techniques work. I would get excited to apply those to our clients and see the change. That’s exactly it, when you see the change in someone, you get excited and just want to help them more. When they get excited that their lives are getting better, you want to help them more.
The other thing that keeps me going is my coworkers. I have the privilege of working with an outstanding number of superheroes daily. I get empowered by my coworkers and see first-hand the good that we are doing.
JCH: A large number of our readers and subscribers are in law enforcement, but we have representation from all parts of the justice arena. Can you share some specifics of what different types of justice professionals or first responders will gain by attending your webinar? What skills or new knowledge will they gain that they can immediately use the next day on the job?
Chris Greenway: By attending the webinar, hopefully, people in the criminal justice field will learn that there are new emerging practices with validity and that the solution to problems can’t always be traditional.
Tiffany Marsitto: Participants can gain an understanding of what cutting-edge techniques probation departments are doing to communities across the nation.