How Case Management is designed

The project looked at case management in correctional systems in 4 domains. These were: pre-sentence, sub-divided into custodial and non-custodial provisions

  • non-custodial sentences
  • offenders serving sentences in prison
  • managing those released early from prison sentences

These domains were used as the basis for the System Maps and as a framework for case study questions in the Focus Groups. 

The project also examined the extent to which case management operating in any of these domains was designed and delivered so as to be seamless and integrated with that operating in other domains and thus to impact incrementally and consistently upon offenders.

Custodial

There is provision in every jurisdiction for accused persons to be held in prison detention before sentence.  The proportion of the prison population who are unsentenced ranges from under 10% to near 50%.  

There is little evidence of the active, assertive case management of unsentenced detainees.  The dominant model is that basic assessments are undertaken, to protect the health and welfare of those newly detained, and to satisfy security requirements.  These assessments are usually bespoke and not well synchronised with other case management assessments made before and after sentence.  

There are help and treatment facilities within most prisons to which those awaiting sentence have access should they choose.  This most likely means that those with the best skill at making use of resources in their environment gain best access to rehabilitative services, while those who are less resourceful (and who therefore have most need) are less likely to do so.

Cases are rarely assigned a case manager although many prisons have resident social workers to help with complex problems.  In some jurisdictions those in detention awaiting sentence are considered to be the responsibility of their home social and welfare services, with access accordingly. 

Non-custodial

The most prevalent forms of pre-sentence, non-custodial intervention are: 

  • pre-sentence supervision
  • victim-offender mediation/reparation
  • electronic monitoring
  • preparation of reports to support sentencing

None of these provisions is universal nor, where they exist, are they mutually exclusive; electronic monitoring for example, is often an aspect of pre-sentence supervision, and either or both may be combined with the preparation of reports.

All of them involve degrees of assessment; most involve the formation of some kind of working relationship between someone to whom the case is allocated and the accused. As such, they all involve elements of case management.  

DOMICE was interested to understand how these services are configured, and to what extent the case management elements are integrated with other correctional case management activity with the same individual.

Sentences

There is some form of supervised non-custodial measure available at the point of sentence in every jurisdiction in the DOMICE study, although the development of the range is at very different stages.  There are mature jurisdictions with a complex, flexible range of options; others have a narrower range, based upon sentences composed of a single intervention, such as supervision or unpaid work.  The legislation which provides for a limited range of sentences composed of conditions and requirements drawn from a "menu" of possibilities appears to be spreading (e.g. Lithuania, Bulgaria).  

Many non-custodial options are framed by reference to custody.  That is, they are either "measured" as an  alternative to what would otherwise be a custodial period, or they are couched as conditions to be met while a period of custody is suspended.  This expresses the centrality of custody to the penal philosophy of many jurisdictions.

In some jurisdictions the emphasis in non-custodial 'sentences' is upon rehabilitation through personal growth and development; in others there is a more pragmatic approach focussed upon low-cost, high-volume measures like unpaid work, electronic monitoring and basic forms of supervision.  The balance in each jurisdiction reflects much about its culture, stage of development and resource levels.

In most jurisdictions, supervised non-custodial measures are managed by a specialist statutory sector organisation - a probation service or its equivalent. In Austria and Baden-Württemburg, Germany, this work is contracted by the justice ministry to a not-for-profit organisation - Neustart. Similar arrangements apply in Catalonia.  Conversely, in Scotland and Slovenia, the work is integrated into mainstream local social and welfare services.  In the Netherlands there are 3 providers who assign cases on the basis of offender needs.

Custody

The dominant model of case management for those serving sentences of imprisonment is a team-based one. Follow the link here for more details of its features. 

The most frequent observations of these models is that they are "strong on making plans; less reliable on implementing them".

Implementation can be improved by: 

  • frequent and robust review (e.g. DENMARK)
  • appointing one person from within the case management team to drive forward the whole plan (rather than just tasks assigned to them as an individual) between reviews

LUXEMBOURG and ENGLAND and WALES are examples of jurisdictions where attempts have been made to assign the responsibility for making and overseeing the implementation of plans in prison to a case manager in the offender's home locality.  This reflects two important principles:

  • imprisonment is almost always a temporary state of affairs (albeit long-term temporary for the minority) from which most people will be released
  • the focus of work should be upon what happens after release rather than what happens in prison (i.e. "making good citizens not making good prisoners")

Supervised early release

Every jurisdiction in the DOMICE study has some form of conditional early release.  Sometimes, usually for shorter sentence prisoners, this is automatic; often it is at the discretion of some kind of decision-making body.  This varies from an executive board (a Parole Board or Commission) to a single Judge.  In some places prison governors have the discretion to release certain prisoners early.  

In most places, for some prisoners, a case manager is appointed to oversee the period and co-operation with supervision is one of the conditions.  This supervision may be standard or mandatory for particular groups or applied at the discretion of whoever makes the release decision.  In most places, but not all, the agency which manages non-custodial sentences also manages supervised early release.  The extent to which the supervising agency is involved in the release decision is indicative of whether early release is viewed primarily as a resettlement measure, or a reward for good prison behaviour.

Although the legal parameters to supervised early release are different to those applying to non-custodial sentences, and, in some places, the risk profile of cases is quite different, the process of case management and the issues involved are very similar.