Surveying community corrections

The Challenge 

Every year, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) conducts the Annual Surveys of Probation and Parole (ASPP), collecting data from more than 500 federal, state, and local agencies across the country about the size and characteristics of the population under probation and parole. About 1 in 50 adults in the U.S. were on probation or parole following a prison term in 2012—3.9 million men and women were on probation and more than 850,000 were on parole.

In the past decade, probation and parole agencies often have faced budget cuts and resource constraints, resulting in an even greater challenge to devote the time needed to participate in the surveys.

BJS and its stakeholders in the community corrections field have identified several emerging issues thought to affect the efficacy and effectiveness of probation and parole (e.g., institution of evidence-based practices, including the use of risk/needs assessment tools, the provision of treatment programs and services, the use of incentives and sanctions, and aspects of officer training, risk of officer assault/death while performing supervision activities). Such issues are not currently addressed in the ASPP.

Our Solutions 

  • Westat has been the data collection agent for BJS for the ASPP since 2011. We are managing the online surveys used by federal, state, and local agencies to track the number of adults entering and exiting probation and parole.
  • We have developed and instituted procedures to facilitate response, and implemented improved imputation methods to address nonresponse.
  • We provide BJS with analytic files and statistical tables for its annual report on probation and parole.
  • Working with BJS, we are developing additional survey modules to address emerging topics of importance to the community corrections field. Our efforts include conducting discussions with community corrections experts and practitioners to identify and define issues, conducting cognitive interviews with ASPP respondents using draft survey questions and instructions, and pretesting the questions as part of the annual web-based surveys.

The Results 

  • We will provide BJS and the broader community corrections field with statistics on the number of adults on probation or parole at the agency, state, and national levels.
  • We will also contribute to the annual report published by BJS.
  • We will provide BJS with new supplemental survey questions to gather additional information about the agencies and the populations it supervises.

Our Client 

Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)