Agencies have asked for our advice on contact standards for low risk offenders on supervision. How often should this population be seen? To what extent do face-to-face contacts matter? Are home visits important for this group?
Research suggests that the vast majority of low risk offenders are self-correcting, and experience suggests that most supervision agencies have high caseloads and therefore need to prioritize how they allocate their services. For these reasons, resources are better invested with moderate and high risk offenders, with a few possible exceptions.
After an initial appointment (to confirm an accurate assessment and the absence of “red flags”), low risk offenders might only be seen face-to-face when:
There is a court-related reason to do so, such as when a judge calls for an offender to immediately begin a restitution plan. In this instance, an appointment might be scheduled 30–60 days following the initial visit to make sure the offender has established and is following a payment plan.
There are stabilization issues, such as homelessness or mental health-related concerns.
A low risk offender commits a very serious offense that, despite their risk level, warrants more frequent reporting.
As for home visits, the field awaits research to help us understand the value they add to supervision compliance and/or risk reduction. Until such time as this information is available, given how resource-intensive home visits can be, it is recommended that home visits be conducted as strategically as possible.
Finally, in terms of what other jurisdictions are doing: Most jurisdictions we work with fall into one of two categories when working with low risk:
They don’t see low risk offenders at all.
They see low risk offenders for 30–90 days, at which point these offenders become part of a non-contact caseload (e.g., kiosk, phone, postcard, group reporting).
What is your agency’s policy around contact standards for low risk offenders? What factors influenced your policy?