CA Auditor Seeks Halt to Testing Inmates on Rehabilitation Needs


California’s state auditor is recommending that the state corrections system halt tests that determine what rehabilitation prisoners need, calling the tools unproved and little used, reports California Watch. Since 2006, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has developed and revised the assessments, called Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS). It is composed of two tests. The first is given to incoming inmates, gauging levels of criminal thinking, violence, substance abuse, and educational needs. The other, for prisoners about to go on parole, measures housing and employment prospects on the outside.

Auditors found many shortcomings in how prisons have used assessment scores. Rank-and-file officers within the corrections system show “a lack of buy-in on COMPAS” and doubt the tests are useful, the report says. The department often fails to use the scores when deciding where to place inmates, and few inmates even receive the exams. State prison officials acknowledge problems cited by the auditor, but strongly disagree with the conclusion. The department plans to continue, upgrade and expand the assessments. “We refuse to return to the method of simply placing an offender in the next slot available – regardless of their criminogenic needs,” said Corrections Undersecretary Scott Kernan. The tests represent a major culture shift for California's prison system, said Lee Seale, internal oversight and research director for the department.

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