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date: 24 March 2023

Organizational Factors Affecting Evidence-Based Practice Implementation in Community Supervisionlocked

Organizational Factors Affecting Evidence-Based Practice Implementation in Community Supervisionlocked

  • CJ AppletonCJ AppletonSchool of Policy and Government, George Mason University
  •  and Danielle S. RudesDanielle S. RudesDepartment of Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University


The evidence-based approach uses scientific evidence to influence decision-making. Evidence-based practices (EBPs) are practices, programs, or interventions found to be effective through scientific evaluation. Community supervision as a field is shifting toward an increased use of EBPs when working with clients. Implementing EBPs is no simple task, and supervision departments must navigate a host of potential barriers in order to be successful. Taking a macro-level approach, supervision organizations are open systems capable of self-maintenance through reaction to their environment. Considering the connection between society and criminal justice approaches, understanding the changes in supervision is best done through a sociohistorical approach. Throughout the history of the United States, there have been philosophic shifts between rehabilitative and punishment approaches to crime control. Community supervision was developed as a rehabilitative institution popular in part due to its alignment with the rehabilitative ideal. During the 1960s and 1970s, the rehabilitative ideal fell out of favor, being replaced with retributive, incapacitation, and deterrence models. Supervision, even with its rehabilitative origins, was able to withstand this shift by adjusting its purpose to surveillance, monitoring, and risk management.

During the past 30 years, supervision has been experiencing another shift in philosophy. With the empirical foundation being rebuilt through the development of EBPs and evidence-based supervision models (e.g., the risk–need–responsivity model), rehabilitation is being established as the most effective way to reduce recidivism. In order to properly implement these new rehabilitation-focused practices and models, supervision organizations must structure themselves in particular ways. Specifically, it is important that supervision organizations develop sound dissemination strategies to introduce and support their staff in order to transfer scientific technology into the field. Furthermore, organizations need to develop processes that effectively connect new practices to old processes in a way that displays the ease and utility of the new practices to ensure fidelity. When done correctly, these processes and support strategies can create an organizational climate that supports the change and makes it permanent.

On the other hand, when done incorrectly, the scientific technology will not be transferred correctly, which has been shown to increase the chances of recidivism for clients. Supervision officers are justice actors who have a great deal of discretion in their work and who need to navigate a host of institutional barriers to do their job as directed. These barriers come in the form of conflicting or ambiguous job duties and working in an environment lacking resources. In the event that officers do not believe they are being supported or their prescribed duties are unachievable, they will reject the formal prescription and create their own standard. This is evidenced through the variety of reasons officers reject use of EBPs. Considering specifically the use of risk assessments, officers are known to not trust the risk assessment, not use the assessment results in case planning, manipulate the results of the assessment to overclassify their client’s risk, and reject using the assessment due to conflict with their occupational philosophy.


  • Policing
  • Research Methods

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