SUSTAIN is an e-learning model designed for front-line staff who work with individuals involved in the criminal justice system. This can include pretrial services, institutions, and community corrections. The model includes eLearning modules, training for coaches, and observation of officers using the skills.
The model includes training on five areas of evidence-based practices: risk, needs, responsivity; engagement and motivation; case planning; problem solving; and desistance. Each module contains three levels of content – basic, intermediate, and advanced – to accommodate learners with varied levels of starting competency. Basic modules provide an introduction to concepts and definitions of key terms. Intermediate modules focus on integrating concepts into practice through a number of examples and case vignettes. These modules operationalize concepts into tangible skills for officers to adopt into practice. In the advanced modules, officers have the opportunity to practice using skills in case vignettes.
A core feature of the SUSTAIN model is the development of internal coaches to build officers’ use of skills in practice post training. Research indicates that post-training refreshers and/or coaching is an effective means of sustaining use of skills over time and preventing decay of training concepts (Miller & Mount, 2001; Miller et al., 2004; Sholomskas et al., 2005). In the SUSTAIN model, supervisors within the organization are trained to observe, assess, and engage officers in the experiential learning cycle to improve officers’ use of skills.
Risk, Need, Responsivity Research has demonstrated that correctional programming with a rehabilitative focus is more effective than supervision only in reducing the risk of recidivism. Programming that adheres to the principles of Risk, Need, and Responsivity will result in larger recidivism reductions than general rehabilitative programs. The focus of the Risk, Need, Responsivity module of SUSTAIN is to teach officers the RNR principles and help them to use information regarding individuals under supervision risk, needs, stabilizers, and destabilizers to inform treatment placement and referrals.
Motivation and Engagement
There are a number of techniques that can be used to increase an individual’s motivation to change and treatment engagement. Building engagement and motivation to change helps individuals take ownership of their own supervision process and fosters cooperation versus compliance. The Motivation and Engagement module teaches officers techniques for increasing motivation to change among individuals on their caseloads, and for recognizing and increasing individuals’ level of engagement in treatment and programming. Skills learned in this module include using a non-confrontational approach when working with individuals under supervision, identifying and responding to ambivalence, and techniques for rolling with resistance.
Case planning is an integral part of the supervision process. Case plans drive treatment placement and referrals for services. Creating a case plan to address individuals’ criminogenic needs is critical to improving supervision outcomes. In the Case Planning module, officers learn how to use information from risk and need assessments, as well as an individual’s interests and strengths, to create comprehensive case plans that serve as a map to identify and address needs and build on existing stabilizing factors. The module places emphasis on the importance of including graduated sanctions and incentives in the case plan and addressing responsivity issues, particularly regarding gender or culture.
Problem solving is a complex skill often taken for granted. It includes identifying a problem, identifying possible options and solutions, analyzing solutions, selecting a strategy for resolving the problem, creating an action plan to implement the strategy, and assessing success of the action plan. The Problem Solving module teaches officers how to help individuals under supervision identify and solve their own problems relating to their criminal involvement. The focus is on defining realistic and manageable solutions that individuals under supervision can achieve within the context of “real world” challenges and triggers.
Desistance is the process by which an individual under supervision stops engaging in criminal behavior for an extended period of time. This involves a simultaneous identification of factors that contribute to offending behavior and factors that reduce offending behavior. The Desistance module teaches officers how to help individuals under supervision identify and avoid factors that contribute to crime through the use of internal and external controls while replacing those factors with positive influences to promote continued avoidance of crime. The ultimate goal is for individuals under supervision to learn how to break from their offending past and remain on a path of positive change and crime-free behavior.
When working with individuals under supervision, identifying whether they have a lifestyle that is conducive to continued criminal justice involvement is helpful in determining the best approach to supervision and intervention. The Criminal Lifestyle module discusses the components of a criminal lifestyle, as well as how criminal thinking and offender schemas play a role in criminal lifestyles. In this module officers learn to identify appropriate responses based on identification of Criminal Lifestyle components with a focus on using the Behavioral Offense Chain to help facilitate movement away from a criminal lifestyle.
EPICS-II: The Bridging Skills
While the EPICS-II Bridging Skills are introduced throughout the first 6 modules, the Bridging Skills module focuses more deeply on the Effective Use of Disapproval, Effective Use of Reinforcement, and Effective Use of Authority. The basic, intermediate, and advanced lessons walk the user through increasingly complicated challenges with using the skills in practice.
EPICS-II: The Intervention Skills
While the EPICS-II Intervention Skills are introduced throughout the first 6 modules, the Intervention Skills module focuses more deeply on the Cognitive Model, Problem-Solving, and R.A.C.E. Planning. The basic, intermediate, and advanced lessons walk the user through increasingly complicated challenges with using the skills in practice.