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Importance of a Low Span of Control in Effective Implementation of Evidence Based Probation and Parole Practices

NCJ Number
Gaylene Armstrong Ph.D.; Doug Dretke; Cassandra Atkin
Date Published
February 2011
38 pages
This report discusses the effectiveness of using low span of control to implement evidence-based probation and parole practices.
The findings in this report are based on information obtained from a series of focus groups conducted with key stakeholders in two districts in the State of Iowa as well as a national representation of probation and parole administrators and supervisors. The focus groups used semi-structured interviews to obtain participants' views on the use of low span of control to effectively implement evidence-based probation and parole practices in the State's correctional system. Span of control is defined as "the number of individuals, or resources, that a person can effectively supervise within a structured organizational, business or military setting." The findings from the focus groups reveal that the implementation of evidence-based practices in probation and parole services, when coupled with the use of low span of control, significantly reduced the size of the prison population in the State of Iowa. The findings also show that effective probation and parole supervisors were one of the keys to the successful implementation of evidence-based practices by probation and parole officers, and that their effectiveness resulted from the use of the following skills: transformational leadership, strategic thinking, change management, communication, collaboration, coaching and mentoring, motivating staff, and relationship building. In addition, the effectiveness of probation and parole officers was increased when these officers engaged with clients in a manner that required a higher level of direct interaction that included the use of skills such as relationship building and motivational interviewing. Recommendations for improving the ability of probation and parole officers to effectively implement evidence-based probation and parole practices are discussed. 2 tables