Monday 17 June, 2019

DCR aims to change

As part of the objective to reduce recidivism rates and advance rehabilitation efforts for its clients, the Department of Community Rehabilitation (DCR) is implementing a new community supervision technique, known as ChAnges.

With full support from the Ministry of Financial Services and Home Affairs, the DCR has made it a strategic priority to enhance the level of supervision offered to high-risk offenders placed on community-based orders by the Courts and the Conditional Release Board.  Through this initiative, the Cayman Islands will lead the way in the Caribbean by transforming the way in which community supervision is done. 

ChAnges, which stands for Change Agents in Community Supervision, is an adapted training program based on the existing Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision (STICS).

A group of 12 probation officers, as well as senior officers, recently completed a five-day training session on the new method (26-30 November). The training was facilitated by Dr. Stephen Haas, Dr. Guy Bourgon, and Tanya Rugge. 

Acting Director for DCR, Lisa Malice, said: “In line with the Government’s strategic priority to reduce crime, enhance public safety and improve the quality of family life, the ultimate aim of the training is to further develop the existing skills of probation officers, so that they can be more effective agents of change when working with offenders in the Cayman Islands.” 

As outlined by the trainers, ChAnges is based on decades of research on effective correctional treatment, the sciences of knowledge transfer and exchange and the implementation of evidence-based practices. The new method focuses on the development of interpersonal skills and therapeutic intervention techniques within the context of antisocial attitudes.

“In order to give clients an opportunity to change their antisocial behaviours, we have to understand the attitudes and thoughts that feed the behaviour, and help them develop prosocial attitudes and thoughts,” Ms. Malice explained. “With this training initiative, DCR’s probation officers will be equipped to model behaviour that supports prosocial attitudes, and to identify, evaluate and discourage thinking patterns and attitudes that promote pro-criminal behaviour. The officers will also learn how to change and reinforce prosocial thinking patterns and develop prosocial self-management skills within their clients.”

Applauding DCR’s continued commitment to break the cycle of incarceration, the Ministry’s Deputy Chief Officer, Kathryn Dinspel-Powell, said to the group at the opening of the training programme: “I have no doubt that these new skills will enable you to facilitate a level and type of change in your clients that you have not seen before – change that will ultimately result in a reduction in re-offending behaviour and in crime, particularly amongst those who pose a high level of risk to the community.”

            She added: “One of this Government’s broad outcomes is to reduce crime and the fear of crime, and you have the ability to contribute directly to achieving these goals, thereby enhancing the quality of life for your clients, their families and the wider community.”

Ms. Malice said transferring and evaluating what really works to the everyday community supervision practices of a probation officer is a tremendous challenge, yet critical in the department’s efforts to reduce risk and enhance public safety.

“The techniques used in ChAnges seek to achieve real results for the clients under our supervision, as well as real change for the staff of DCR, which ultimately creates positive change for our communities,” she concluded.

Probation Officer Keristin Scott, who is one of the two officers working in Cayman Brac to deliver services to our Sister Islands, said: “The ChAngeS training will definitely help guide me personally and professionally as I continue to use the techniques we’ve learned. The training will allow myself, as well as my colleagues, to apply the risk-need-responsivity models with probationers to reduce recidivism of our clients within the Cayman Island as it is a generalised programme that targets many diverse populations.”

Ms. Malice said that this is just the first of a number of rotations of the training programme, as the plan for all probation officers is to receive instruction on the new model by the end of 2019. 

The trainers will provide ongoing support to the probation officers through monthly meetings, individual feedback sessions, and refresher workshops in the months following their participation in the training, to ensure that they are effectively applying the newly learned strategies and techniques. 

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