Author: Tammy Meredith, Ph.D.
Parole officer fieldwork is integral to community supervision. Parole officers are charged with the dual role of assuring felony offender compliance with sentence and prison release conditions while assisting with community reentry. Home visits, in particular, provide an opportunity for purposeful face-to-face encounters between officer and offender and are a key locale for promoting and monitoring behavior change.
The goal of this study was to determine the influence that home visits, as a component of parole supervision, have on parole outcomes. The researchers sought to answer two questions:
1. What are the key descriptive attributes of a home visit (content and purpose)?
2. What is the effect of home visits (number, content, purpose, and timing) on multiple supervision outcomes: positive drug tests, violation of parole conditions, arrests for technical violations, arrests for felonies, and revocation of parole?
The study found that the predominant subject of home-visit conversations was whether or not the parolee had contact with a law enforcement officer or the criminal justice system since the last visit. Over half of documented comments involved no more than a statement indicating that the parolee reported no arrests. This suggests that officers’ documentation of home visits is no more than a surveillance method rather than a technique for achieving behavioral change.
Housing and employment constituted the second and third most common home-visit themes. Only a small portion of home-visit conversations included individuals other than the parolee.
The study also found that higher numbers of home visits were associated with better supervision outcomes. In addition, measures of parolee characteristics, history, prison sentence, and supervision activities were significant predictors of supervision outcomes.
These results suggest the impacts of supervision intensity are complex and unlikely to be captured with only measures of supervision level assignments. Exploration of how home visits improve outcomes (what happens in a home visits) is necessary to further grasp why home visits are significant.