Chapter 7

Staff Training


Two of the most essential components of community corrections-based victim service programs are staff training and development. Due to the traditional offender-directed nature of probation and parole, there has been limited emphasis on victim-related education as components of college/university education, orientation training, or continuing education. Opportunities for staff training on victim services and related issues prove beneficial to the staff, agency, and persons with whom the agency interacts.

When provided with practical victim services training, probation and parole staff are able to begin to understand a significant clientele of probation and parole agencies crime victims. Practical information on victim issues helps to improve staffs' work skills and contributes to their professional career development. Many of the skills and knowledge gained from victim-related training - including sensitivity typologies, policy analysis, and interpretation and enforcement of the law - are applicable to other job elements beyond victims' rights and services.

This chapter includes a description of various training formats that can be used to educate staff on victim services and related issues, a discussion of training priorities, and identification of topics to include on victims' services in a training curricula for probation and parole officers.

Key Elements for Developing Staff Training on Victim Services

For community corrections professionals to be able to provide effective services to victims of crime, it is critical that they have an understanding of the needs, rights, and legal interests of crime victims. The following are key elements that should be considered when developing a training curriculum for probation and parole staff:

n All staff should receive mandatory training on victim services and related issues as part of their preservice training. Inservice training opportunities also should be made available. When possible, agencies should incorporate innovative formats and methods (e.g., distance learning) for training delivery.

n Probation and parole agencies should have victim services training curricula that addresses topics such as victim sensitivity, major needs of crime victims, victims' rights legislation, services available for victims in the community, and services provided to victims within the agency.

n Victim and victim service providers should be used as facilitators and trainers.

Training Formats

Internal On-Site Training

Internal training on victim-related issues should be incorporated into annual agency planning for staff development. Training formats include the following:

n Orientation training for new staff.

n Continuing education for existing staff.

n Cross-training among community corrections, allied justice agencies, and victim service organizations.

Depending upon the amount of time the agency makes available for these types of training, training curricula should be geared to be adaptable for a 2-hour overview of agency policies, procedures, and services relevant to victims of crime. Also, 8-hour training that incorporates the above, along with a general overview of victims' rights and how to interact with victims (as described in the "Internal Needs Assessment" section of this chapter) should be included. The agency should also design specialized training to address a specific type of victim population (such as domestic violence or stalking victims); specific victim issues related to enforcement of laws (such as restitution or protection); and agency-sponsored victim-related programs (such as victim impact panels or mediation). Annual training conducted during National Crime Victims' Rights Week in April, often in conjunction with local and/or State victim service agencies also maintains victim awareness among staff.

Professional Association Training

Many community corrections professionals belong to local and State professional associations that conduct annual training conferences. With victim services gaining credibility as a core program in many probation and parole agencies, professional associations should consider sponsoring workshops or training tracks on victim-related issues.

In 1996, the Pennsylvania Association on Probation, Parole and Corrections (PAPPC) took this concept one step further and devoted its entire State-level training agenda to "Incorporating Victim Services into Probation, Parole, and Corrections" for its 75th Annual Training Institute. Over 400 community and institutional corrections professionals, crime victims, and service providers joined forces for 3 days to promote mutual understanding and address how to better serve victims of crime in Pennsylvania. Topics included the following:

n A victim impact panel to promote "understanding of the victim experience as the first step to developing policies and designing programs which are responsive to the needs of victims."

n An overview of rights and services for crime victims in Pennsylvania.

n Staff victimization: probation, parole, and corrections officers as victims.

n Restorative justice.

n Impact of crime classes for inmates and juvenile offenders.

n Technological services in probation and parole.

In addition, enforcement of new victim-related laws and the needs of specific types of crime victims were addressed.


The concept of "training-for-trainers" is designed to maximize limited human and programmatic resources to reach the widest audience possible. In developing a new program, training activity, or technical assistance, probation and parole agencies can, with substantial time and costs, duplicate training and program materials and conduct numerous conferences or other forums to disseminate important information. The most cost- and time-effective approach, however, is to develop "training-for-trainers" packages in which a core group of probation and parole professionals, including training personnel, receives intensive training on not only the subject materials, but also cutting-edge training techniques.

A "training-for-trainers" package would include the following:

n A comprehensive curriculum with annotations, references, and information accessing additional resources to augment the curriculum.

n Ideas for "icebreakers" to commence each training-for-trainers session.

n Suggested learning activities.

n Overhead transparencies that correspond with the curriculum and that are accompanied by specific page references and speakers' notes for the trainers.

n Detailed guidelines, experiential exercises on training techniques (i.e., how adults learn, group-work, use of audio/visual aids such as overhead transparencies, Power Point presentations, videotapes, flip charts, etc.), and how to make "dry" subject matters more interesting.

n Modular training segments the following:

. Section goals and learning objectives

. Section overviews.

. Self-tests (either pre-tests, post-tests, or a combination of both).

. Guidelines for trainees to "train back" in 10-15 minute segments to their peers.

n Guidelines for maximizing training outreach activities (i.e., conducting training programs or additional "trainings-for-trainers" via satellite at college campuses or correctional agencies, tying into existing training conferences with training sessions within, or adjoining to such conferences, etc.).

n Standardized national resources that are applicable to all four training-for-trainers sessions:

. National toll-free information and referral numbers for victim assistance and criminal justice.

. Information on the OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center.

. Information on the OVC Resource Center.

. NCJRS registration form and a list of relevant resources available free with NCJ order numbers.

. Resources available electronically from the U.S. Department of Justice (i.e., Web sites, search engines, gophers, etc.).

n A comprehensive evaluation format and strategy, including immediate on-site evaluations of the "training-for-trainers" program, as well as a 90-day or 180-day follow-up evaluation to determine if and how the program and resources were utilized.

Distance Learning

Technological advances have greatly increased opportunities to reach larger numbers of students without the usual expenses associated with travel and accommodations. Distance learning, which includes compressed video, video teleconferencing, and satellite hookups, accommodates students and lecturers at different geographical sites.

For example, the National Institute of Corrections sponsored a national teleconference on restorative justice in 1996 that linked over 100 sites nationwide together for 2 hours. A panel of expert practitioners discussed the principles of restorative justice with questions from remote sites made possible through satellite linkages. Similarly, in 1996, the National Victim Assistance Academy sponsored by the Victim Assistance Legal Organization (VALOR) and the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) linked 120 students, including probation and parole professionals, together at three university sites for 1 week, incorporating 16 hours of compressed video within the 48-hour training program. In 1997 and 1998, VALOR and OVC linked four university sites together for the Academy. As of 1998, approximately 700 participants have attended the Academy, including participants from all U.S. States, one American Territory, and three foreign countries.

In Georgia, the Department of Corrections (DOC) utilizes satellite training for continuing staff development. In 1997, in partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime and Office for Victims of Crime, the DOC conducted a satellite training-for-trainers on responding to staff victimization and critical incidents.

Many departments of corrections and universities possess distance learning technology that can be accessed cost effectively. Probation and parole agencies should determine existing technology in their regions, and utilize it for internal and cross-training purposes.

Getting Started: Determining Training Priorities

What do the agency and personnel hope to achieve through victim-oriented training for staff? The answer to this crucial question comprises a vision or mission statement for the training program. An example of a vision/mission statement may be found in Figure 7-1.

Figure 7-1: Sample Vision/Mission Statement

(Agency) will provide orientation and continuing education for our staff on victim-related issues including victim sensitivity, victims' rights and needs, and our roles and responsibilities in enforcing those rights. Our scope and quality of victim services will improve with an increased understanding of victims' rights and needs, as will our staff's professional development. Crime victims, offenders, our agency, and our community all benefit from victim-related training within our agency.

Establishing Training Goals

Every training program should establish goals that clarify the training vision. By addressing the following seven issues, agencies can develop goals to guide training program development and implementation:

n Time frame for training.

n Types of training (i.e., orientation, continuing education, cross-training, on-site, association training, distance learning, interactive computer training, etc.)

n Identification of those to be trained.

n Identification of those who will participate as trainers.

n The training topics to be addressed.

n As a result of the training, what improvements agencies and personnel expect to see or implement.

n How training will be evaluated.

Goals also should focus on how the training will translate to improved programs and services for victims of crime. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), which incorporates divisions responsible for community justice assistance, institutions, State jails, and parole, established 10 program goals that can be obtained through comprehensive training. These goals are as follows: 1. Ensure that victims are treated with respect and dignity by all TDJC personnel.

2. Ensure that victims are provided with accurate information in the most expedient manner possible.

3. Ensure victims are aware of their rights in the criminal justice process regarding notification and parole protest procedures.

4. Ensure that TDJC personnel are trained in victim sensitivity issues.

5. Develop and assist a statewide professional victim liaison network in each Community Supervision and Corrections Department, District Parole Offices, and Institutional Division prison units.

6. Create a Crime Stoppers program "behind the walls" of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division facilities.

7. Provide victims of violent crime the opportunity to have a structured, face-to-face meeting with their offender(s) in a secure, safe environment, in order to facilitate a healing recovery process.

8. Develop a staff victimization and crisis response program for the TDCJ.

9. Provide for the creation of a library for victims, victim advocates, and TDJC staff on a statewide-access basis.

10. Provide opportunities for the greatest possible access and use of volunteers within TDCJ Victim Services.

When a mission and goals have been established for a victim-related training program, the next step is to conduct a needs assessment. The determination of training needs can be accomplished with input from a variety of sources including management staff, line staff, allied victim service providers, and crime victims who have accessed services from the agency.

Internal Needs Assessment

An internal needs assessment can be conducted either in writing or by a focus group-type meeting of key personnel. In either case, a "menu" of possible training topics should be offered, with assessment participants ranking the importance of each topic and offering additional topics that they believe are important. For example, when the District of Columbia developed new policies for parole notification and input, the D.C. Parole Board sought training on victim issues for 150 parole and corrections staff. An initial meeting was held with eight agency managers, including the training director, who met with the victim advocate trainer. During these meetings, they accomplished the following:

n Reviewed new agency policies and procedures.

n Discussed the types of victims most frequently served by parole and corrections.

n Discussed how parole and corrections personnel most interacted with victims (i.e., over the telephone and at institutions and parole hearings).

n Agreed upon the importance of "training-for-trainers" so that victim-related training could be incorporated into ongoing staff development efforts.

A 6-hour basic training program was developed to meet the District's special needs and included review of agency policies relevant to victims and related staff responsibilities; an overview of the victims' rights discipline; agency response to staff victimization and critical incidents; overview of the rights and needs of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, gang-related crimes, and child abuse; the major needs of victims in the post-sentencing phases of their cases; effective communication skills, in writing, in person, and over the telephone; and victim information and referral. In addition, the Chief of the Victim/Witness Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C. concluded each training day with a 1-hour overview of local programs and services.

External Needs Assessment

Victims and service providers are very knowledgeable about the strengths and weaknesses of community corrections' services to victims. It is crucial to gain input from these agency stakeholders about what they perceive to be the most salient training needs. An additional benefit is that victims and advocates who participate in the needs assessment also may be willing to serve as trainers, and provide information and resources to augment training efforts.

Another excellent tool to guide the development of training topics is the ongoing implementation of victims' assessments of their interactions with the agency and of the services they receive. A one-page victim evaluation/assessment form, provided randomly on an ongoing basis, will help the agency identify areas of weakness in service delivery. It will also highlight agency strengths and identify victim-sensitive personnel who can be utilized as potential trainers.

Developing Training Resources

It is important for probation and parole agencies to be aware of the many existing resources that can augment their training efforts. Don't reinvent the wheel! There are myriad comprehensive training curricula on victim-related issues, many of which were written specifically for probation and parole. While these standardized curricula require agencies to "personalize" the content to be applicable to laws, agency policies, and victims' specific rights and needs in each jurisdiction, they provide an excellent foundation for any training program.

At the national level, promising practices in training for probation and parole are available from the following sources:

n American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) has developed curricula on enhancing victim services within probation and parole, and domestic violence geared specifically toward community corrections.

n Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) makes available a handbook and videotape on how to implement victim impact panels in court, probation, parole and/or diversion settings.

n National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), whose 800-page curriculum entitled Crime Victims and Corrections: Implementing the Agenda for the 1990s addresses topics such as corrections-based victims' rights and services, victim-offender programs, and staff victimization. The NVC also has curricula on workplace violence, victim impact statements, and other topics relevant to probation and parole.

n National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) has published Responding to Communities in Crisis and other curricula that address a wide variety of victim issues.

n Victim Assistance Legal Organization (VALOR) has published a 700-page training notebook that incorporates over 30 topics relevant to victims' rights and needs, and the criminal justice system's related responsibilities. The National Victim Assistance Academy Curriculum is designed for a comprehensive, intensive 48-hour training program.

Federal resources to help develop victim-related curricula include the following: n The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), within the U.S. Department of Justice, has a Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) that provides funding for trainers and training resources on victim-related issues for a variety of constituencies, including probation and parole. A TTAC application is included in Appendix G.

n The OVC Resource Center maintains databases and resources in both paper and electronic formats on hundreds of topics relevant to victims' rights and needs. A summary of OVCRC and other Justice Department reference service resources available by telephone, electronically, and in paper format is included in Appendix G.

n The National Institute of Corrections (NIC), within the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, provides training, technical assistance, informational services, and policy/program development assistance (which includes information related to restorative justice, community justice, and enhancement of victim services) to Federal, State, and local government agencies.

Examples of effective State and local training resources include the following: n The Violence Against Women Law Enforcement Training Program is in a training-for-trainers format developed by the Governor's Justice Commission in Rhode Island.

n The Impact of Crime on Victims: Teachers and Students Manuals were developed by the California Youth Authority to help youthful offenders understand the impact their crimes have on their victims, their families, communities, and themselves.

n The Tarrant County Community Supervision and Corrections Department's Crime Victims Handbook, which addresses a wide range of victims' rights, resources, and services, and is available in electronic format for easy adaptation from APPA.

These comprise just a few examples of existing resources available for probation and parole agencies. A roster of national victim service and allied justice organizations is included in Appendix G for additional information and resources.

Identifying Training Facilitators

Most communities have service providers who assist different types of victims and survivors, from property crimes to child abuse and domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse, DUI crimes and homicide. Some States and local jurisdictions have coalitions of victims, advocates, and allied professionals. The best approach to obtain knowledgeable trainers from the victims' field is to become involved in State- and community-based victim activities including the following methods:

n Serving as advisors to local victim service agencies and providing their representatives with the opportunity to participate in an advisory capacity to probation and parole agencies.

n Joining State and local victim service coalitions, for which training, including cross-disciplinary training is often a key activity.

n Sponsoring victim-offender programs, such as victim impact panels and "impact of crime on victims" classes, which provide an excellent source of victims and service providers who can augment staff training efforts.

Building a Resource Library

Staff training and development efforts can be enhanced by the creation of an internal agency library on victim-related issues, which should be made available to staff on an ongoing basis. Agencies such as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole maintain small libraries that include the following:

n Information on agency policies, protocols, programs, and services for victims.

n A wide variety of standardized victim-related curricula.

n The latest statistics and resources on crime and victimization in America.

n Contact information for national, State, and local victim services, and State and local victim services in probation and parole.

n Vitae and credentials of experts who can serve as trainers in victim-related issues.

The latest national resources on crime and victimization are available at no charge from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) within the U.S. Department of Justice. A roster of print publications and ordering information, along with an NCJRS registration form, are included in Appendix G. Information also is available on the World Wide Web.

Developing Training Curricula

The best approach to developing training outlines and curricula is to think, plan, and execute in "layers," which means create levels of training based upon time allotted, existing level of staff knowledge, and agency resources. The first level of training described below should be considered "basic training" applicable to all agencies and personnel. Additional levels can be added on when most appropriate, based upon the results of the agency's training needs assessment, resources, and other relevant factors. Once the parameters of staff training have been determined, the agency should develop training outlines that include topics, learning goals and objectives, time allotment, relevant resources and curricula, and potential trainers (e.g., internal staff and allied professionals, such as victims, service providers, judges).

Principles of Adult Learning

When developing training classes and materials, consideration should be given to basic principles of adult learning. (For an example, see National Victim Assistance Academy: Faculty Development Training Guide, Victim Assistance Legal Organization (n.d.), McLean, VA, p. 16.):

n Adults want to know how training will benefit them.

n Adults understand new concepts much faster if you can relate new information to their past experiences.

n Adults consistently rate training sessions much higher if there are opportunities for participation and interaction with other members of the audience.

n Adults want to be listened to and have their opinions respected.

n Adults should be encouraged to be resources to training faculty and each other.

n Adults want to be treated like adults.

Level One Training

There are seven core components that should comprise mandatory training for all agency staff. These topics can be taught in 2-6 hours, depending on the level of detail desired and the time allotted. Core components include the following:

n History of victims' rights and services in America.

n Overview of crime-related psychological trauma:

. Fear and anxiety.

. Depression.

. Difficulty dealing with important relationships.

. Shattering of precrime assumptions ("just world theory").

. Post-traumatic stress disorder.

n Victimization Theory

. Stress theory (developmental, chronic, and acute stressors).

. Classical conditioning.

. Second-order conditioning.

. The criminal justice system and victim stress (with an emphasis on stressors related to probation and parole).

n Responding to probation/parole staff victimization and critical incidents.

n The major needs of victims when dealing with probation and parole.

. Safety and security.

. Ventilation and validation.

. Prediction and preparation.

. Information and education.

n How to effectively communicate with victims.

n Local, State, and national resources for victim information and referral (a roster of national toll-free information and referral services for victims is included in Appendix G).

Victim-Specific Training Segments

There are many types of victims with whom probation/parole agencies and personnel interact. One- to sixteen-hour training modules can be developed that address specific victim populations, including victims and survivors of the following offenses:

n Property crimes (burglary, larceny, theft).

n Child abuse and neglect.

n Elder abuse and neglect.

n Domestic violence.

n Hate violence.

n Sexual assault and rape.

n Gang-related crimes.

n Juvenile offenders.

n Drunk and drugged driving.

n Homicide and manslaughter.

Topics that should be included in all of the aforementioned training modules include the following: n An overview of statistics relevant to the scope and nature of this type of crime and victimization.

n General victim typologies.

n Reactions and experiences that are specific to this type of victim.

n Offender typologies.

n Agency policies relevant to the implementation of these victims' rights.

n Any agency programs and/or services that assist these victims.

n How to implement a multidisciplinary approach among justice agencies, victim service organizations, and allied professional agencies to better serve these victims.

n Local, State, and national resources available to provide information and assistance.

Law and Policy-Related Training Segments

Today in America, there are almost 30,000 Federal and State statutes relevant to crime victims' rights and services. In addition, as of November 1998, 32 States had a State-level constitutional amendment providing for a range of participatory rights for victims in the criminal, and in some States, juvenile justice system(s). In both cases, many of the rights pertain directly to community corrections.

Training segments on victim-related law and policies should focus on what the law states; who is responsible for enforcement; any relevant remedies for noncompliance; interdisciplinary efforts to assure a "seamless" enforcement of victims' rights across law enforcement, courts, community corrections, and institutional corrections; and practical application of relevant laws and policies in the agency's jurisdiction.

Relevant topics include the following:

n Victim notification, including junctures in probation and parole at which victims have the right to notification (i.e., offender status, bail release, parole hearings, probation/parole revocation, etc.); responsibility for notification; sample notification processes, (i.e., letters, forms, voice response, etc.); community notification (i.e., "Megan's Law" and sex offender notification); and providing appropriate information relevant to notification (i.e., what the victim might expect to happen, the process of parole hearings, timelines for notification, etc.)

n Victim participation, including junctures in probation and parole at which victims have the right to participate (i.e., parole hearings, revocation hearings, etc.) and how to accommodate victim participation in a timely, sensitive manner.

n Victim impact statements (VIS), including assessing victim impact; VIS as part of presentence investigations; methods of securing VIS, including allocution, written, audio tape, videotape, teleconferencing, and satellite audio/video/telephone hookups; and sample victim impact statements (for property crimes, violent crimes, children, and neighborhoods).

n Restitution, including assessing victim restitution needs through victim impact statements and presentence investigations; ordering, monitoring, collecting, and disbursing restitution payments; developing interagency agreements to promote a seamless enforcement of restitution collection and disbursement; technology to automate and enhance restitution enforcement; and any relevant civil remedies available to victims.

n Protection, including policies and protocols for victims to report and receive protection from intimidation, harassment, and/or harm; civil protection and restraining orders; antistalking statutes and related remedies for victims; and technology to enhance victim protection, including electronic monitoring, automated voice response victim notification of offender status, and antistalking electronic units that warn victims, law enforcement agencies, and a central monitoring office when an offender under an order of protection comes within 500 feet of the victim's residence.

Training Program Evaluation

All training programs should be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of the trainer and resources, applicability to their personal and professional development, and value of training resources, including curricula and audio/visual tools. Participants also should be provided with the opportunity to recommend topics for future training.


For agencies as a whole, well-trained staff can increase the agency's and officials' compliance with victims' rights as afforded by Federal or State statutes, or constitutional amendments. Orientation and continuing education on victim-related issues also can help the agency fulfill its obligations to key stakeholders. In addition, increases in employee satisfaction due to systematic staff development and positive learning experiences go a long way toward improving agency morale, as well as overall operations.