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Major Initiatives
COMPAS, Motivational Interviewing, Trauma Informed Care

8 Principles of Motivational Interviewing COMPAS (Correctional Offender Management & Profiling for Alternative Sanctions) is a computerized tool designed to assess offenders’ needs and risk of recidivism used to inform decisions regarding the placement, supervision and case management of offenders. Developed and focused on predictors known to affect recidivism, this tool includes dynamic risk factors in its prediction of recidivism and provides information on a variety of well-validated risks and need factors designed to aid in correctional treatment to decrease the likelihood that offenders will re-offend.

COMPAS is designed to take advantage of recent research on the predictors and needs factors most strongly linked to juvenile delinquent behavior. It incorporates a theory-based approach to assessment designed to incorporate key scales from several of the most important theoretical explanations of crime and delinquency. Extensive measurements assess the key areas of family, school and peer contexts, in addition to individual personality and cognitive characteristics of youth. It also incorporates the "strengths perspective" and contains many critical factors that may protect the high-risk youth from serious delinquency.

Motivational Interviewing is a way of talking to youth about behavior change to elicit and strengthen their motivation for change. It uses positive talk with youth not at youth.

MI is an evidence-based practice. Research shows that it is more effective in changing behaviors than a logic-based approach, or persuasion, or confrontation. Staff strive to identify the youth’s values and if current behaviors conflict with those values. The conflict or gap between what someone wants and how someone is acting is called discrepancy. Most of us can identify with both the feelings of "I should change" and "I really don't want to change." Having these conflicting feelings, or feeling two different ways about a problem, is called ambivalence. Someone practicing Motivational Interviewing sees ambivalence as a good thing in that it makes change possible. Ambivalence is considered the precursor to positive behavior change.

Using strategic MI techniques, staff focus on getting the youth to speak more, think more and then examine their discrepancies between current behaviors/situations and their values and goals. Staff can and will supervise for compliance while at the same time working respectfully and collaboratively with youth to strengthen their motivation and commitment to change.

Motivational Interviewing is based upon four general principles:
  • Express empathy. Empathy involves seeing the world through the youth’s eyes. An understanding of the youth’s experiences helps us to facilitate change.
  • Develop Discrepancy. This helps us guide the youth to appreciate the value of change, what they want their lives to be vs. what their lives are now.
  • Roll with resistance. We do not fight the resistance to change, we roll with it. We encourage the youth to determine their own solutions to their problems.
  • Support self-efficacy. There is no "right way to change." If one idea doesn't work, try another. Youth are only limited by their own creativity.
Trauma Informed Care
The DOC in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services launched a major initiative in May 2012, within the state juvenile correctional system to improve treatment for youth who have experienced traumatic life events. The stress of trauma or life altering events such as abandonment or abuse have adverse effects on the development of youth and their relationships with others, but a recently awarded federal grant will allow the DOC to improve and strengthen the treatment of these youth.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded DHS a $221,000 Transformation Transfer Initiative grant. The vast majority of the grant, $140,685, will be used by the DOC Division of Juvenile Corrections to implement Trauma Informed Care (TIC) practices, trauma-specific interventions and peer-to-peer family support and involvement.

The DOC partners with Wisconsin Family Ties, a nonprofit agency that supports and works with youth who have emotional, behavioral and/or mental disorders and their families. The overall goal of the youth trauma initiative is to increase awareness of the serious affects of childhood trauma and improve how the state juvenile correctional system interacts with affected youth and provides treatment.

Many of the youth who are under the custody or supervision of the state juvenile correctional system have experienced neglect, abandonment, physical abuse, sexual abuse and varying degrees of family involvement in their lives. As a result, they enter the juvenile correctional system with mental health issues and unresolved trauma which can cause emotional, social and other developmental difficulties which prevent them from succeeding in life. To address these issues, DJC staff will be trained on principles of TIC and how to implement them in their interactions with youth. The grant will also allow for the implementation of a trauma-informed Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse treatment (AODA curriculum called Seeking Safety) and a Parent Peer Specialist pilot program.