Collaborating Across Local Government to Enhance Community and Human Services for the Supervised Offender Population

In January 2016, I began to explore where the Chesterfield County, Virginia, and Colonial Heights, Virginia, supervised offender population was living to determine if there were common areas where this group resided. As Director of the Chesterfield County/City of Colonial Heights, Virginia Community Corrections Services (CCS), I had three primary goals: to see if clients were clustered in specific areas of the county, determine what type of services were available to clients in those areas, and deliver services more effectively to meet this population’s needs. I decided to investigate this through a mapping process, something I had experienced in my time working at the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) from 2005 to 2010. And, based on my past work experience with BJA, I decided to reach out to the BJA National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) regarding the mapping project, knowing that BJA NTTAC would be a good source for technical assistance (TA).

Prior to reaching out to BJA NTTAC, I conducted initial analyses for the mapping project, focusing primarily on Chesterfield County’s supervised offender population, as the city of Colonial Heights is a much smaller land mass and population base. In contrast, Chesterfield County is a large suburban county just south of the city of Richmond, Virginia, with more than 340,000 residents and encompassing more than 440 square miles. After gathering point-in-time data on our client population, I made a request to the Chesterfield County, Virginia Police Department’s (PD) Information and Crime Analysis Section to determine where these clients were clustered. Chesterfield PD’s crime analysis section used the addresses to provide three cluster maps: probation only, pretrial only, and a combination of both. As a result, I found that CCS’s client base was concentrated in areas normally associated with socioeconomic factors that may influence criminal activity, such as substandard housing and lack of employment opportunities. Next, I looked at services around positive leisure activities, such as parks, recreation centers, and libraries, as well as possible satellite offices for human services such as mental health, health, substance abuse, housing, education, and employment. If there were not leisure and human services available in those areas, I wanted to know if there were opportunities to collaborate with other county agencies and non-profit organizations to develop satellite offices or community centers.

After sharing this information with Sarah Snead, Deputy County Administrator for Human Services, I presented the preliminary maps to the human services directors from the CCS Drug Court; Chesterfield Health Department; Chesterfield County Juvenile Detention Home; Chesterfield County Office of the Senior Advocate; and Chesterfield County Departments of Mental Health Support Services (MHSS), Social Services, Parks and Recreation, and Youth Planning and Development. I worked to build support within these various county agencies for the mapping effort, sharing my motivation to better assist our client population by bringing services to them, instead of having them travel great distances – with limited public transportation options – to participate in supervision and services at CCS and the courthouse-area human services agencies. Following that meeting in August 2016, I was tasked with leading a group of human services agencies and other county agencies in a mapping initiative to determine the following:

  • Where the various agencies have overlapping clients receiving services,
  • Where other agencies may have clustering occurring for their specific populations (in comparison to the CCS population),
  • Where leisure activities (e.g., libraries, parks, recreation sites) may be located relative to the clustering, and
  • Where services might be best co-located to meet the needs of the various client populations.

It also was determined that future meetings would involve representatives from the Virginia Department of Corrections, Probation and Parole Services; Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice; Chesterfield County Department of Planning; and Chesterfield County Department of Information Systems Technology (IST).

After my presentation to the human services directors, I made the TA request to BJA NTTAC, seeking recommendations on how to progress the initial data-sharing and fully implement the community mapping project through our multiagency county team. In September 2016, BJA NTTAC connected CCS with TA provider Stewart Bruce, Information Systems Officer at the Department of Planning, the Government of Bermuda. Working with BJA NTTAC and Mr. Bruce, we determined that he would conduct a two-day site visit with the various agencies involved in the project. The purpose of the onsite visit would be to determine the level of geo-mapping capabilities within the county, identify how some of the county’s mapping projects (e.g., poverty, revitalization, housing needs) could fit in with this initiative, and learn more about the daily work of involved agencies.

In November 2016, Mr. Bruce spent two days in the county, meeting first with our multiagency county group. Then, to learn directly from our partners about their available personnel, data resources, and capabilities, he met individually with the agencies: State Probation and Parole; State Juvenile Probation; CCS and CCS Drug Court; Chesterfield Health Department; MHSS; IST; Chesterfield PD; Chesterfield Juvenile Detention Home; and Chesterfield Departments of Social Services; Planning; and Parks and Recreation. He also spoke with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) regarding their data system for local community corrections. After his meetings, Mr. Bruce prepared a comprehensive report regarding the mapping project, which included sections on each of his agency meetings; several graphs, maps, and figures regarding his analysis; and 10 recommendations for our multiagency county team to consider for our project. His work was well received by the county team members and very beneficial, providing a framework to guide the mapping project forward. To date, the county team has worked to implement a number of Mr. Bruce’s recommendations:

  1. Work with DCJS to create a new monthly data export of all CCS clients from the Pretrial and Community Corrections Case Management System (PTCC). To date, DCJS is exploring changes to the PTCC system and will be working closely with local community corrections programs to consider what changes should be made.
  2. Work with MHSS and the Chesterfield Health Department to aggregate their client data into census block polygons for analysis in order to understand the spatial distribution of their clients while protecting individual client confidentiality. To date, IST has been developing some new processes that could assist with this task.
  3. Perform rigorous data quality assessments of all offender database sources to ensure issues with data entry on the street address is corrected at the source (the data input by probation officers). To date, the county team has been working to address this with IST.
  4. With the assistance of IST, develop a feasibility study and business case to create a new GIS web application within GeoSpace. This application would permit sharing of offender data among community stakeholders, while following data security regulations by determining data access levels using “need to know” restrictions. To date, IST has been developing some new GIS applications, which will be discussed at an upcoming county team meeting.
  5. Investigate the feasibility of using community centers at Ettrick Park and Bensley Park to provide local wrap-around services to the offender population, since both community buildings are in high-density offender areas. To date, the county team is discussing this recommendation further as it begins to consider collaborative endeavors to address the needs of mutual clients.
  6. Coordinate the activities of this project with other community improvement projects currently being conducted in the region. Through the nature of this mapping project, this recommendation is already being addressed through the work of the multiagency county team.

As we work to implement the above, the county team is also considering the remaining recommendations, which include:

  • Working with the Virginia State Probation and Parole District 27 to get a monthly Excel export of their offender population and developing a programming script to automate the conversion of this spreadsheet into a format easily absorbed by GIS;
  • Working with the Virginia State Police to get a database feed of registered sex offenders to incorporate into the community mapping project;
  • Working with the Chesterfield County PD and Colonial Heights, Virginia PD to get a regular data feed of crime incidents and open arrest warrants; and
  • Engaging the full participation of the city of Colonial Heights in the community mapping project.

The county team continues to meet, and IST is working on a new project that will, in the long term, assist the project and the agencies involved in developing their mapping capabilities. It is anticipated that an upcoming meeting will provide the team an opportunity to hear from IST on that work, develop guidance regarding next steps, and foster discussion on how to further implement the recommendations made by Mr. Bruce.

If your jurisdiction is in need of training or technical assistance related to corrections or community mapping services, or if you know of a community that would benefit from this type of assistance, please contact BJA NTTAC at nttac@bjatraining.org.

If you are interested in submitting the work of your organization or jurisdiction for consideration in a future TTA Today blog post or in obtaining information related to a particular topic area, please e-mail us at nttac@bjatraining.org.

Points of view or opinions on BJA NTTAC’s TTA Today blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice, BJA, or BJA NTTAC.