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Practice Profile

Swift, Certain, and Fair Supervision Strategies for Drug-Involved Individuals

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Practice Description

Practice Goals/Target Population
Swift, certain, and fair (SCF) supervision strategies are used by community supervision officers to address violation behavior of individuals (who have histories of drug involvement) on probation and parole. To complete probation and parole, drug-involved individuals are required to follow rules and conditions (such as abstaining from substance use). The idea behind SCF strategies is for community supervision officers to 1) quickly address violations (swift), 2) address all violations (certain), and 3) follow specific sanctioning guidelines (fair). Overall, the goals are to generate greater compliance with supervision terms and, as a result, reduce recidivism (Hawken, Davenport, and Kleiman 2014; Drake 2012).

Practice Components
Participants are required to check in with their community supervision officers regularly and are drug-tested frequently (and often randomly). Program lengths generally range from 3 to 6 months but may vary depending on the underlying sentences of participants and the populations being served.

Programs that use SCF sanctions differ in the types of sanctions delivered when individuals violate the terms of their supervision and how many violations have occurred in the past. The sanctions are designed to be immediate and proportional to the violation. For example, in some programs the first sanction is noncustodial (e.g., if a participant fails a drug test, then there may be an increase in the number of random drug tests), whereas sanctions in other programs may be custodial (e.g., short stays in jail). In response to repeat violations, programs may use graduated sanctions, with each subsequent violation resulting in a more punitive sanction.

In addition, some programs that use SCF sanctions may also provide case management to individuals on probation and parole, especially to drug-involved individuals. Case management is a process to coordinate and monitor services; the goals are to improve collaboration between correctional staff and substance abuse treatment staff and increase participation in substance abuse treatment. There are a variety of strategies used by case managers or specially trained community supervision officers to assess participants’ treatment and programming needs. When those needs are assessed, case managers/supervision officers coordinate access to treatment (such as for substance abuse), monitor the individual’s progress, and advocate on the individual’s behalf, if needed.

Practice Theory
Programs that use SCF sanctions have strong theoretical ties to deterrence theory, which focuses on the swiftness, certainty, and severity of consequences to deter undesirable behavior (O’Connell et al. 2011). Within this model, certainty and immediacy of consequences are critical to desistance from further criminal behavior and substance abuse.

Moreover, programs using SCF sanctions are also based on procedural justice theory. Specifically, it is believed that individuals are most likely to obey the terms of their supervision when they know the terms; perceive these terms and those who enforce them, as fair; believe that violations will be detected; and believe that the consequences of violations will be unpleasant, yet fair (Hawken, Davenport, and Kleiman 2014)

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Aggregating the results from 9 studies on case management programs that use swift, certain, and fair (SCF) sanctions for drug-involved individuals on community supervision, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (2017) found that there was a significant impact on crime rates. Specifically, the overall mean effect size was -0.174, indicating that drug-involved individuals who were supervised with case management programs using SCF sanctions had a reduction in crime rates, compared with those who participated in programs that used general supervision case management, a statistically significant difference.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11994 - 201690

Meta-Analysis 1
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (2017) conducted a systematic review of evaluations of case management programs for drug-involved individuals that use swift, certain, and fair (SCF) sanctions to determine if these programs reduced crime. To locate studies, researchers consulted bibliographies of the literature on substance-use case management approaches, examined the citations in the studies obtained, conducted a literature search of various databases and search engines, and contacted authors to learn of any other research in the topic areas. Once a list of potential studies was obtained, the list was narrowed to include only outcome evaluations. To be eligible for inclusion, studies had to include an outcome measure of criminal recidivism, use random assignment or a quasi-experimental design, and include enough information to calculate an effect size. Furthermore, to be eligible for inclusion in the meta-analysis, studies did not have to be published; however, most were found in peer-reviewed journals or on agency websites. Finally, studies were excluded from the meta-analysis if the treatment group consisted solely of program completers, as such a treatment group would likely bias the results.

A total of nine studies met the eligibility criteria. Of the nine studies, five were randomized trials and four were quasi-experimental designs. These studies included a total of 4,570 individuals in the treatment group, with an average age of 31 (the number of individuals in the comparison groups and the average age of comparison group participants were not provided). Comparison group participants generally received treatment-as-usual or standard probation/parole services. The gender and race/ethnicity breakdown of study participants in the treatment and comparison groups were also not provided. The studies took place in jurisdictions across the United States, including Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington.

The nine studies each contributed an individual effect size, which were combined to produce a weighted average effect size for case management programs using SCF sanctions on crime. Random effects inverse variance weights were used to calculate the weighted average effect size.
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According to Washington State Institute of Public Policy (2017) the annual cost of a program, per person, that uses swift, certain, and fair (SCF) sanctions is approximately $3,972 (based on 2016 estimates within the State of Washington). To determine whether a state should invest in such a program, a cost benefit-analysis was also conducted by estimating the number of crimes avoided (and a monetary value associated with this crime reduction) as a result of programs that use SCF sanctions. The benefit-costs analysis indicated that programs that use SCF sanctions generate of total of $4,371 in benefits to taxpayers, due to their crime reduction benefits.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Washington State Institute for Public Policy. 2017. Case Management (“Swift, Certain, and Fair”) for Drug-Involved Persons. Olympia, Wash.: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Drake, Elizabeth. 2012. Chemical Dependency Treatment for Offenders: A Review of the Evidence and Benefit-Cost Findings. Olympia, Wash.: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

Hawken, Angela, S. Davenport, and Mark Kleiman. 2014. Managing Drug-Involved Offenders. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

Hawken, Angela, and Mark Kleiman. 2009. Managing Drug Involved Probationers with Swift and Certain Sanctions: Evaluating Hawaii’s HOPE. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

O’Connell, Daniel, Christy A. Visher, Steven Martin, Laurin Parker, and John Brent. 2011. “Decide Your Time: Testing Deterrence Theory’s Certainty and Celerity of Effects on Substance-Using Probationers.” Journal of Criminal Justice 39(3):261–67.

Stafford, Mark C., and Mark Warr. 1993. “A Reconceptualization of General and Specific Deterrence.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 30(2):123–35.
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Related Programs

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Following are programs that are related to this practice:

Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) Promising - One study
This is a community supervision strategy for substance-abusing probationers, particularly those who have long histories of drug use and involvement with the criminal justice system and are considered at high risk of failing probation or returning to prison. The program is rated Promising. Participants were less likely to miss appointments with probation officers, use drugs, and be arrested, compared with the control group. These differences were statistically significant.

Multimodal Community-Based Prisoner Reentry Program No Effects - One study
A community-based prisoner reentry program that provides substance abuse treatment to medium-to high-risk offenders placed on 24-month community correctional supervision. The program is rated No Effects. The preponderance of evidence suggests that the program had no significant effect on program participants on rearrest, reincarceration, and relapse.

Random Drug Testing with Immediate Results and Immediate Sanctions Promising - One study
The experiment was conducted to examine the efficacy of alternative methods of instant drug testing, and determine how the different methods affected rates of relapse and recidivism of parolees with substance abuse issues. The program is rated Promising. The experimental group (that had random drug testing with immediate results and immediate sanctions) had lower rates of relapse and recidivism; however, they were less likely to be admitted to treatment; and recidivism effects were short-lived.

Decide Your Time (Delaware) No Effects - One study
This was a program for chronic drug-using probationers that incorporated graduated sanctions with incentives to reduce recidivism and drug use among participants. The program is rated No Effects. Implemented in Delaware, the program was shown to have no impact on the successful completion of probation, on re-arrests, or on drug use.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Targeted Population: Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Offenders

Settings: Other Community Setting

Practice Type: Aftercare/Reentry, Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Probation/Parole Services, Specific deterrence, Wraparound/Case Management

Unit of Analysis: Persons