Wednesday, July 13, 2016

CMIT Launches Decision Points Training for Probation Officers

Participants in the Decision Points program practice their interviewing skills.

The Correctional Management Institute of Texas (CMIT) is offering adult and juvenile institutional and probation officers a new approach to help offenders stay out of trouble.

Called Decision Points, the program features intensive training for correctional staff to implement a cognitive-behavioral intervention to break the cycle of trouble. It teaches offenders to examine their thoughts and feelings, to think about who cares what they do, to identify choices, and to pinpoint a motivating thought to do their best to succeed.

“This can help lead them out of the trouble cycle,” said Steve Swisher, who led the training session. “This can apply to every situation in life, so it can apply to all.”

The program is especially useful for probationers because it has open entry and exit, instead of set dates or timetables to fulfill. Offered in small group sessions, it gives offenders the opportunity to work through the steps to develop a positive outcome. The group is led by two facilitators and typically is held twice a week. The group goes through structured learning processes using common scenarios, role playing, feedback, and homework to help them transfer decision points into their own lives.

The trouble cycle includes a risk situation, thoughts and feeling, actions, and others’ responses. To break that cycle, Decision Points offers four steps:

  • Identify my thoughts and feelings, such as what am I thinking and feeling. What are these thoughts and feelings leading me to do?
  • Think about others who care what I do. Who else cares about what I may do? What would they want me to do?
  • Think about choices. What are my brainstormed choices? What choices will lead me away from trouble? What choices do I feel OK about doing?
  • Identify a motivating thought. What is a thought that can motivate me to do my best?

Among the agencies that participated in inaugural program were Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and Brazoria County Community Supervision and Corrections Department and Juvenile Justice; Coryell County CSCD, Dallas CSCD, Hidalgo County CSCD; Lubbock County Sheriff Detention; Lubbock-Crosby CSCD, Matagorda County CSCD, Nueces County CSCD, Titus County Juvenile Probation, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Rehabilitation Programs. In addition to the training, Sam Houston State University plans to do an evaluation of the programs to determine their effectiveness.

“CMIT is very excited about this partnership with the authors of Decision Points to provide a significant cognitive based program to correctional professionals in Texas to continue to help improve correctional outcomes to make our communities safer,” said Doug Dretke, Executive Director of the Correctional Management Institute of Texas. Jarvis Anderson, Director of the Bexar County CSCD, has been searching for a new cognitive program to work with his offenders. He is anxious to give Decision Points a try.

“I like how they take thinking errors and break them down so they can identify the problem and develop individualized solutions,” said Anderson.

The next session of Decision Points will be held in November and a Train-the-Trainer program is in development. For more information on the program, contact Michaelanne Teeters at or call (936) 294-1705.

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