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Following on from the very successful first World Congress on Probation in London in 2013, the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and the International Community Corrections Association (ICCA) hosted  the Second World Congress on Community Corrections between 14th-16th July 2015, in Los Angeles, USA.

The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) is an international association in the United States, Canada and other countries with membership  involved with pre-trial, probation, parole and community-based corrections. APPA conducts training institutes each year in which the training sessions are delivered by community corrections professionals and experts. Delegates at the World Congress were also invited to attend the 40th Annual Training Institute of the American Probation and Parole Association on 12th-15th July 2015 at the same venue.

The combination of events provided a week long packed programme of expert presentations and workshops presented as the Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week: A Worldwide Force for Change 12th-18th July 2015 by APPA and ICCA and funded by a host of corporate members and industry sponsors and registration fees.

In addition to the programme events the County of Los Angeles Probation Department, the largest in the world with over 6,500 staff, provided attendees with tours designed to provide a first-hand look at the work of Los Angeles Probation Department.  The tours visited the Long Beach Field Supervision and Programmes Operation and the Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall (remand, assessment and detention centre) where they learned about the recent realignment of services and met with staff to hear about supervision, intervention practice and programmes.

The APPA Training Institute was attended by almost 1200 participants. The APPA programme included motivational speakers, the APPA awards 2015 and more than 30 workshops each day on topics as varied as communities of practice, quality assurance, evidence based practice, coaching, strategies in behavior change, collaboration in justice, prisoner re-entry, leadership, sex offender management, new technologies, autism, working with reluctant clients, trauma and substance use and many, many more.

The purpose of the World Congress was to bring together community corrections leadership professionals from all corners of the world to share effective practices, promising initiatives and challenges faced in providing services to those being supervised by justice systems.

The World Congress  opened with a series of brief addresses by the hosts welcoming delegates. Willem van der Brugge, representing CEP, provided a link to the ambition and achievement of the First World Congress  and partners in London in 2015 in establishing  a worldwide probation/community corrections network and partnership.

The World Congress Programme comprised three plenary sessions and twelve workshops.

The opening plenary presentation was  by Dr. Laurence Steinberg, Temple University, Philadelphia and titled Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence. Dr. Steinberg reviewed the literature on development and maturing processes, questioned the perception of adolescence as relating to teenage years and made a strong and  informed case for treatment of all young adults under the age of twenty-five years as in a stage of extended adolescence, development and learning. Treating adolescents as adults is, in his view and according to the evidence, inappropriate, largely ineffective and inevitably self-defeating.

On day two Jennifer L. Skeem, Professor and Associate Dean of Research at the School of Social Welfare,University of California, Berkeley presented a plenary paper titled What Works for Justice-Involved People with Mental Illness. Dr. Skeem questioned many of current practices in working with people with mental illness on supervision. In her research symptoms rarely cause arrest; less than 10% of arrests of persons with mental illness are linked to serious mental disorder. Research suggests that engagement with mental health services rarely reduces crime and programmes such as ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) prioritising treatment in the community make no discernible impact in contact with police. Reduction of re-arrests could  not be attributed to symptom reduction. She has found that persons with a diagnosis of mental disorder are twice as likely to fail on community supervision. Is there a problem with how compliance enforcement is managed? Could supervision take mental health and capacity into account better in supervision?

There is a need to refine the model  of understanding the relationship between persons with mental disorders and offending because the research- identified driving issue in offending and arrest of persons with mental illness is poverty rather than the illness. Persons with mental illness in the US are at greater risk of poverty, isolation and homelessness and through that to offending. Dr. Skeem highlighted the need to address wider social issues and supports and  potential benefits in using CBT interventions adapted for implementation with mental illness sufferers.

Fergus McNeill provided a  tour-de-force closing plenary address titled Desistance and International Offender Case Management and the Impact on Supervision Strategies. In it, he drew on the work of the COST Action using examples and illustrations  from COST work project to illustrate it. The address combined philosophical, sociological and criminological thought to explore the purposes, scale and shape of community corrections.  He highlighted current work on mass supervision by Michelle Phelps and the need to dispel  2½ myths; that probation ‘shrinks’ prison, that tougher probation increases political legitimacy and that being supervised in the community is easier than prison time. In concluding, Fergus McNeill concluded with a brief summary of the desistance  model and an evidence-based pointer to the way forward in community corrections.  Throughout Fergus McNeill enthralled and informed the very large and appreciative audience with his wit, charm and well-constructed argument and provided a coherent and invaluable closing challenge and focus to the World Congress.

An audio file of Fergus McNeill’s plenary address can be accessed in Fergus’ 23rd July blog post at

The workshop programme at the World Congress was based on three themes:

  1. Advancing Practices: Workshops explored the latest evidence-based practices, best practices and emerging practices and also addressed how to implement these innovations on a wider scale.
  2. Administrative/Policy Innovations: What are the innovations in administrative and policy area in community corrections programmes and agencies? What is working and what is not? What is on the horizon?
  3. Juvenile & Family Justice Innovations: Increasingly, practitioners are realising that more holistic, evidence-based approaches are needed, incorporating strengths-based models, developmentally appropriate services, family involvement and educational services. Workshops described innovations in working with juveniles and their families.

Gerry McNally presented a popular and well received workshop on the innovative Community Return Programme in Ireland which combines post-custody supervision, community service work and resettlement support and has produced very positive results since its introduction.  Other European workshop presentations included post-prison  desistance in the Netherlands, innovative programmes with juvenile offenders, re-entry challenges for Roma, re-entry initiatives in Scotland, mental health services in reducing re-offending and transforming probation in England and Wales. In addition, there were workshops on juvenile and family justice in Japan, mass probation and mass incarceration in the US, using GPS tracking in Korea and Taiwan, desistance and strengths based work, training and transforming practice, gender-responsive research into practice, analysis probation practice across jurisdictions and  trauma informed practice.

The Second World Congress on Community Corrections hosted in Los Angeles by the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and the International Community Corrections Association (ICCA) was a major success and an important achievement in  bringing together community corrections and probation leaders and  professionals from across the world to share effective practices, explore universal challenges and find common interests. There was a clear message from all the assembled delegates that much more can be achieved together than separately.

The Second World Congress on Community Corrections concluded with a warm, welcoming and  very impressive invitation to the Third World Congress on Probation in Japan in 2017 and message from the Japanese Minister for Justice which can be viewed by following this link . You can also use your preferred search engine to search for Japan to Host the Third World Congress on Probation. The Third World Congress on Probation in 2017 will be hosted by the Rehabilitation Services of Japan.

The  World Congress on Probation is now  firmly established as important platform and key meeting place for leaders, managers, policy makers, practitioners and researchers  in the continued development,  improvement and sharing of knowledge in community sanctions worldwide. We will look forward to developing new friends and partnerships, sharing  developing knowledge and practice and progressing best use of community sanctions as we work towards the Third World Congress on Probation   in Japan in 2017.

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