Parole Violation

Decision Making Instrument

Parole Agents at a meeting

Q & A

Q: How does the PVDMI work?

A: The Parole Violation Decision Making Instrument (PVDMI) brings evidence based risk assessment, research and best practices into the parole revocation decision making process. Prior to the implementation of the PVDMI, the parole violation decision making process was based entirely on the experience and/or subjective opinion of the parole agent. This process dictated program placement or responses to violations that often varied by agent to agent, parole unit, or parole region.

The PVDMI assesses the parolee’s risk for recidivism using the California Static Risk Assessment (CSRA) in conjunction with the severity of the parole violation (based on a severity index) to determine an appropriate and proportionate response to the violation. The parolee’s risk score and the severity of the violation determine the recommended response to the violation. As the offender’s risk level or the severity of the violation escalates, the recommended response escalates as well.

Additionally, the PVDMI gives the agent a recommendation of specific programs that fall within a range of responses that are consistent with the risk and severity of the violation. This process not only reduces subjective responses, it keeps a consistent approach to program placement and violation of parole responses by parole agents regardless of where they are working within the state.

The programs that are available will the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) expands the capacity of existing programs or establishes new programming alternatives in the community.

Q: What range of sanctions and programs will be used with the PVDMI?

A:  There are many alternative sanctions that are available utilizing the PVDMI. Examples of sanctions include a referral to the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) recommending revocation, placement in a community based program, electronic in–home detention (EID), placement in a residential program and a referral to closely supervised in-custody programs such as In Custody Drug Treatment Program (ICDTP). 

Through continued use of the PVDMI, the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) will be able to effectively evaluate program utilization and make adjustments accordingly.  As additional data related to program placement and utilization is received, DAPO will be able to effectively identify the need for specific programs.  The information collected through the PVDMI process will enable CDCR/DAPO to more effectively expand programs based on the specific needs of the returning parolee population within each community.  

Q: Is the new PVDMI taking discretion away from CDCR agents and negatively impacting their ability to manage parolees in any way?

A:  No. The PVDMI has been designed to standardize the decision making process within DAPO. Utilizing the PVDMI as the structured guideline, parole agents will continue to consider every appropriate case factor variable (i.e. program availability, parolee amenability, etc.) prior to reaching a recommended response to each violation. 

Additionally, the PVDMI process provides the agent with the ability to override the outcome of the instrument so that parole performance issues such as prior parole violations, or mitigating factors that necessitate a more, or less, intensive response be considered.  Through the use of the override process, DAPO and BPH staff can consider aggravating or mitigating factors to reach their final violation response decision.

Q: Will parolees continue to be sent back to prison for certain violations? 

A: Yes.  A revocation of parole that results in a return to state prison is vested in the authority of the BPH.  PVDMI procedures ensure that DAPO will remain compliant with all existing laws and regulations governing DAPO’s response to parole violations: Specifically, DAPO will continue to adhere to the mandatory referral requirements outlined in the California Code of Regulations, Title 15, Division 2, BPH (former Board of Prison Terms) Chapter 6, Article 2, Section 2616 and current policy.  Parolees will be referred to the BPH for consideration of a return to prison for any serious or violent behavior that poses a threat to the community. The PVDMI is structured to take into consideration previous convictions, including sex offender’s risk to recidivate, and the severity of the current behavior.

Q: How is PVDMI good for public safety?

A: The PVDMI is part of an overall strategy designed to reduce risk of recidivism, enhance success on parole, and utilize resources in the most effective manner. It relies on the principles of evidence-based and effective interventions, ensures consistency and standard responses to violations, and identifies the appropriate response to each violation based on the offender’s risk level and the severity of the violation. Numerous reports and studies have recommended CDCR implement a structured decision making process including the California Independent Review Panel (2004), the Little Hoover Commission (2003), the California Expert Panel on Adult Offenders and Recidivism Reduction Programming (2007), and the Governor’s Rehabilitation Strike Team (2007).

Q: Is the PVDMI going to result in leniency toward parolees committing crimes?

A: No. The PVDMI will assist CDCR in making consistent, evidence based decisions when adjudicating parolee misconduct.  The PVDMI was developed with the full participation and support of BPH and it promotes transparency by enabling CDCR parole agents, BPH deputy commissioners, CDCR executive management, offenders, and the public the opportunity to understand the rationale for violation responses and see them as part of CDCR’s public safety strategy.

Q: How does PVDMI account for/treat repeat offenders?

A: The PVDMI considers the parolee’s criminal history at the time of his/her release from the institution through the embedded CSRA.  When responding to a parole violation the agent will consider the PDVMI outcome, the parolee’s history of adjustment since release and the parole violation to determine the appropriate disposition. Parole agents may recommend overriding the PDVMI outcome based on the stabilizing or destabilizing factors that influence the ability of the parolee to successfully reintegrate into the community.  In this process, previous violations of parole or the commission of new crimes while under parole supervision will be considered.

Q: What evidence is there that the PVDMI will be effective/useful?

A: The instrument is being piloted in four parole units in order to determine its effectiveness within the CDCR population.  During the pilot phase the procedures will be closely monitored to determine the instrument’s usefulness and effectiveness. Similar instruments have been developed and are currently utilized in numerous other states. According to a 2001 National Institute of Corrections (NIC) study, of 29 jurisdictions involved in the research, none reported an increase in new crimes among parolees and many actually experienced a reduction in parole revocations. The CDCR Office of Research is working with the University of California, Irvine Center for Evidence-Based Corrections to determine whether this instrument delivers similar positive results in California.

Q: What other states are using this type of instrument?

A: Many other states are far ahead of California in the use of a structured decision making process for parole revocation. Since 1988, the Center for Evidence Based Public Policy (CEPP), who is assisting CDCR in the design and implementation of the PVDMI, has worked with many state and local jurisdictions across the country to develop policy driven responses to parole violations.

Q: How does this instrument work in conjunction with the California Static Risk Assessment (CSRA) tool?

A: The CSRA was developed by the CDCR Office of Research in collaboration with the Center for Evidence Based Corrections (Center) at the University of California, Irvine and was validated on a sample of more than 100,000 California parolees who were discharged from parole in 2002 and 2003.

The CSRA uses the offender’s past criminal history and characteristics such as age and gender to predict the likelihood they will re-offend.

The CSRA, combined with the severity ranking of all parole violations, has been incorporated into the PVDMI which results in a score that designates the appropriate violation response level. The response levels range from least intensive (i.e. community programs etc.) to most intensive responses (in-custody drug treatment or return to custody recommendations).

Q: What are the costs associated with implementing the PVDMI?

A: The PVDMI is largely automated and replaces a manual process currently performed by parole staff.  It is not known at this time if use of the PVDMI will increase the time parole staff spend adjudicating adverse parolee behavior.  There will be initial increased costs to train BPH and DAPO staff on the correct usage of the PVDMI. 

Q: How will the use of the PVDMI be implemented?

A:   The PVDMI will be rolled out as a pilot beginning in November 2008. The instrument will be utilized in four parole units (Stockton, Santa Maria, San Fernando Valley, and Chula Vista).  Following the implementation of the pilot, preliminary results will be evaluated.  Any necessary adjustments to the instrument, procedures or process will be incorporated prior to a phased statewide implementation of the instrument.