According to the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines
The justice system in America is supposed to be comprised of the top officials this country has to offer. Skilled men and women from across America are supposed to put their talents to work when it comes to preventing crime, and rehabilitating criminals. Lately, we have been falling short on both fronts. In an effort to rehabilitate criminals, parole officers have implanted many different strategies. Two of these strategies are the casework supervision model and the brokerage supervision model. They are very different in type and use, designed to help previous offenders reshape their lives. However, between the two, which is more satisfying to the greater public? The answer is complicated. While the casework model suits individuals better overall, the brokerage model is more practical and proven to be more effective in the end. Therefore, the brokerage model is the more preferable of the two.
The casework supervision model and brokerage supervision model are completely opposite in design. Edward J. Latessa and Paula Smith compare them to Yin and Yang in their book, “Corrections in the Community (2011).” According to Latessa and Smith, the casework model is a more hands on approach to being a parole officer. The parole officer becomes involved in the offenders life, as described by their job, but also becomes involved in their mental and emotional dilemmas. They become a therapist, a friend, and a moral compass. The parole officer becomes somebody that provides treatment to the offender, instead of just supervision. However, the parole officer must also provide supervision along with this form of emotional support of the casework model is to work (2011). This can be a lot of work for one individual to take on. The brokerage model on the other hand, has the parole officer act only as a conduit for resources. The parole officer assesses the offender’s needs and ensures that they see the correct people to remedy those issues. For instance, the parole officer may assign a therapist if they see that the offender’s emotional state is askew, according to Susan Turner and her associates, author of a University of California Irvine report (. As you can see, one has the parole officer becoming a friend while the other only continues to act as a warden.
Studies have shown several interesting results concerning these two approaches to parole/offender relationships. Christopher T. Lowenkamp and his associates, authors of “Diminishing or Doubling Treatment Effects of STARR? A Research Note on 24-Month Re-Arrest Rates” found, inconclusively, that offenders personally preferred the casework supervision model. Participants in the study felt more comfortable opening up to parole officers they felt they could trust. When teams were appointed to them by parole officers it was difficult for offenders to establish connections or trust anybody trying to help them. In many areas of Southern California, where the experiment was held, the casework model was used. Parole officers were in charge of treating their patients, as well as supervising them. While offenders responded better psychologically to this form of help, criminal activity rose. Seventy-five percent of the participants were re-arrested within the 2 years that the study took place. It was hypothesized that while offenders found more comfort in building a relationship with only one person, supervising and treating several offenders at a time was too much for one parole officer. In 75% of the cases, supervision was sacrificed for treatment and the result was re-incarceration (2011). Despite results indicating offender’s response, it is clear that the casework model does not provide adequate support for the parole officers to do their job, unless individual counties are willing to hire more individuals to help.
While offenders responded better to treatment from somebody they could trust, many people in the justice and psychological communities began questioning how qualified probation officers were to give such treatment. Faye S. Taxman assessed in her article, “Parole: “What Works” Is Still Under Construction” just what services offenders need upon release. She found that they often require deep psychiatric evaluation and help. Medication is often essential. In some cases, psychological support is required through coping with traumatic events. These services are sometimes an imposition upon the best physician, let alone an overworked parole officer. While the offender may feel more comfortable opening up to one individual they feel that they can trust it is not beneficial long-term if that individual has no training (2011). Taxman also found in her research, published in “Rethinking Corrections: Rehabilitation, Reentry, and Reintegration,” that parole officers are not trained to treat the many issues that sometimes follow offenders out of prison. In fact, Taxman found that in some counties across the country, parole officers are barely trained to adequately supervise offenders, let alone treat them for any psychological or emotionally troubling issues (2011). Essentially, parole officers are eager to help in some cases but typically unfit to act as psychiatrists to their clients.
The brokerage supervision model was found to be cold and uninviting by many offenders, as found in studies performed by Danielle S. Rudes and her associates (2013). The brokerage model insists that the parole officer act as a conduit for resources; they assess the individual’s psychiatric or occupational needs and simply offer others who can meet those needs. The parole officer themselves does nothing else, other than supervise the offender. Rudes and her team found that in many circumstances, individuals did not warm up to entire rehabilitation teams quickly. They found it overwhelming and were not quick to trust groups of people. However, this method was found necessary and more beneficial over time for a few reasons. For example, the team assigned by the parole officer was qualified to help the offender in the appropriate ways that they required help. They received psychiatric evaluations and monitored medication dosages from professionals. They were also able to work with individuals who properly assess their skills, offering them jobs that fit nicely with their aptitudes (2013). Rudes also found that the brokerage model allowed parole officers to supervise offenders more effectively. The results were a higher rate of rehabilitation into the community with a lower rate of re-incarceration. Over an 18-month period, offenders began trusting their specific teams of specialists, accepting help from professionals who were qualified to care for their needs (2013).
In sum, the casework model and the brokerage model are two completely different approaches to rehabilitating offenders. The casework model is friendlier, allowing the parole officer and the offender to bond while the parole officer attempts to treat the offender. However, though this method was preferred, it was discovered that it stretched the time of the parole officer too thin. Many parole officers have too many clients to act as a caseworker and a supervisor; the results were poor. The brokerage model was not well received, initially, but the results were more positive. Parole officers were able to get offenders the professional help that they required, and they were able to have the time to supervise offenders. This ensured that the re-incarceration rate was lower than it was with the casework model. While offenders initially prefer the casework model, it is clear that it is in their best interest if offenders use the brokerage model. This will help save time, as well as get individuals the professional help they need.
Latessa, E. J., & Smith, P. (2011). Corrections in the Community. Boston: Elsevier.
Lowenkamp, C. T., Holsinger, A., Robinson, C. R., & Alexander, M. (2012). Diminishing or durable treatment effects of STARR? A research note on 24-month re-arrest rates. Journal of Crime and Justice, 14-38.
Rudes, D. S., Vidlione, J., & Taxman, F. (2013). Professional Ideologies in United States Probation and Parole. In L. Durnescu, & F. McNeil, Understanding Penal Practice (pp. 11-29). London: Routledge.
Taxman, F. S. (2011). Parole: “What Works” Is Still Under Construction. Handbook of Evidence-Based Substance Abuse Treatment in Criminal Justice Settings, 205-227.
Taxman, F. S. (2011). Parole: Moving the Field Through a New Model of Behavioral Management. In L. Gideon, & H.-E. Sung, Rethinking Corrections: Rehabilitation, Reentry, and Reintegration (pp. 307-328). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
Turner, S., Braithwaite, H., Tater, J., Omeri, M., & Kearney, L. (2011). The impact of the California Parole Supervision and Reintegration Model Pilot Implementation on Parole Agent Attitudes. Irvine: University of California, Irvine.