Looking Back Leading Ahead: DCS Celebrates Five Years of Innovative, Progressive and Forward-thinking Community Supervision
ATLANTA - Commencing operations July 1, 2015, as a part of the executive branch of Georgia’s government, the Georgia Department of Community Supervision (DCS) is the agency responsible for the supervision of all adult felony offenders and Class A & B designated juvenile offenders. These individuals under supervision have either been granted parole or a reprieve by the State Board of Pardons and or they have received probated or split sentences through Georgia courts.
When former Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed HB 310 at a rather modest ceremony in 2015, the gathering of criminal justice leaders in attendance knew that the task ahead of merging two supervision systems would be no small feat. Establishing the proper supervision model, developing the proper training curriculum, and launching a new internal case management database were just a few of the initial challenges that had to be addressed with bold leadership and innovative thinking. Over the course of the first 5 years, DCS has achieved tremendous success. DCS Commissioner Michael Nail states: “Our goal since inception was lofty: we aimed to transform community supervision practices in Georgia through an evidence-based, community-centric, holistic approach. To accomplish this, we leveraged the exceptional skills and passion of our team, and the support structure of an agency developed from the ground up with the highest professional standards.”
Not only was the mission to create efficiencies within offender supervision; instead, DCS set out to make a difference for those reentering society. In a short span of time, the DCS Reentry Services Division has grown to become a nationally-recognized unit that has developed a robust network of faith leaders, non-profits, and supportive stakeholders who are ready to assist individuals under supervision with successful reintegration into society. This has been best evidenced by the Department’s two Reentry Summits which yielded an average of 700 conferees each. DCS Reentry Services Director Michelle Stanley puts it this way: “Our work over the years has shown a 14% reduction in recidivism. While we are proud of this progress, we must continue enhancing our reentry efforts so that every individual we serve has an opportunity for a successful outcome.”
If there has been one consistent value over the first five years, it has been selfless service. Each year the entire Department adopts a summer and winter community service project. From feeding the homeless to supplying backpacks for students, DCS has fully immersed our presence into the communities we serve. DCS Executive Operations Director Sandra Thomas surmises: “I am proud to be part of a team that has donated almost $59,000 to charitable causes in just five years. Serving our community has been critical to our mission.”
In just five quick years, DCS has solidified its role as a force for progressive community supervision in the criminal justice arena. “We were not afraid to try new ways to approach our business. We challenged the status quo and sought to advance not just what we know, but what we believe will work better” says DCS Assistant Commissioner Scott Maurer. Here are few notable highlights from across the Department:
- Every Community Supervision Officer has been outfitted with a body-worn camera device to maintain trust and transparency with the public and those we supervise.
- The Reentry Services Division has made 7,282 placements and direct housing and employment connections to offenders in need of essential services.
- Instituted a Behavioral Incentive Date provision which limits the length of probation terms for certain people who demonstrate successful compliance with supervision.
- DCS has graduated 5,767 Day Reporting Center participants. These graduates received intense programming to replace criminal behaviors and attitudes with pro-social alternatives.
- The Misdemeanor Probation Oversight Unit has convened numerous provider trainings with a total of 2,338 attendees and conducted 202 compliance audits to protect both the rights of minor offenders and the integrity of Georgia's court system.
- Launched a Blended Training Model whereby Basic Community Supervision Officer Cadets complete a combination of on-site, on-ground, or on-campus training and online academic courses. This was a first-time accomplishment for a state-level law enforcement agency.
- DCS implemented a Court Specialist position which led to a reduction in caseloads allowing officers to spend more time supervising high-risk offenders.
- 100% of Community Supervision Officers have been trained using the Enhanced Supervision Program which is a set of evidence-based supervision techniques.
- The American Probation and Parole Association selected DCS’ Day Reporting Centers program as the recipient of the 2017 Award for Excellence in Community Crime Prevention.
- In 2019, DCS received the “Excellence in Treatment Centers and Recovery Services Award” from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Certification Board of Georgia.
- DCS presented the “One Community philosophy “ to an international audience of supervision professionals at the 2017 International Community Corrections Association conference in Tokyo.
- At the 4th World Congress on Probation, DCS presented on “The use of emerging community supervision technology.”
Video supervision is receiving considerable attention from community supervision scholars and is just one area where DCS is positioned to lead into the future. In May of this year, DCS conducted its first Supervisee Pulse Survey to gauge how supervisees are perceiving the use of video interactions as a means to communicate with community supervision officers. The study found that 83% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they are able to have a meaningful interaction with their CSO during a video call and that the average time CSOs spend with supervisees during video interactions (23 minutes) is almost four times more than during home visits (6.5minutes). DCS Chief Operating Officer Bert Flewellen sums up these modifications this way: “The goal of these modifications is to maximize current DCS resources and focus them on the offender population that poses the greatest risk to public safety based on a validated risk assessment score and are the most likely to fail under supervision”.
2015-2020 marked a pivotal time of growth and opportunity for DCS. Fortunately, opportunities for change are at the core of the Department’s mission. Commissioner Michael Nail provides a charge that puts the Department’s future in proper perspective: ”The work we do changes the lives of offenders, their families, and neighborhoods across Georgia. It is because of the unwavering devotion of all members of the DCS family that I know our future is bright and that our best days are still yet to come.”
About the Georgia Department of Community Supervision:
The Department of Community Supervision is responsible for the community-based supervision of more than 200,000 adult felony offenders, and Class A and Class B designated juvenile offenders. DCS employs evidence-based practices to hold offenders accountable and reduce the state's recidivism rate.
It is the mission of the Georgia Department of Community Supervision to protect and serve all Georgia citizens through effective and efficient offender supervision in our communities while providing opportunities for successful outcomes. DCS employs evidence-based practices to hold offenders accountable and reduce the state’s recidivism rate. For more information, visit dcs.georgia.gov.
Brian Tukes, Director of External Affairs
Georgia Department of Community Supervision
Jamelle Washington, Public Information Officer
Georgia Department of Community Supervision