"What keeps me going is goals." –Muhammad Ali
You have your focal point of your Client, the Community. Now what? What does the Community want? While value for their tax dollars matters, their request of you is simple: Enhance public safety. That is it. Make the Community more safe. The Community is realistic. They fully understand that you are not going to reach every client and change their trajectory. They also want you to be realistic. Idealism is admirable until it leads to poor decisions about public safety.
Before we define public safety, let’s look at what our goal is not. Increased self-esteem is not our goal. More relaxed clients is not our goal. Greater insight is nice, but not the goal. Increased remorse is not the goal. Each of these may be nice side effects of our interventions, but unless we are producing behavior change that leads to greater public safety, we are failing.
What is public safety? In short, there is short-term public safety (i.e., risk containment) and long-term public safety (i.e, risk reduction). Short term public safety usually trumps long-term attempts to reduce recidivism. Obviously, it is a balancing act. Can you focus on both at the same time? You not only can, you must. Attempting to provide effective treatment (i.e., EBP interventions) without behavioral monitoring (e.g., drug testing), is like trying to sharpen an ax without holding it against a turning stone. While you can choose to focus on only short-term public safety, monitoring alone has not proven to result in longer term behavioral change. The Goal is to improve the world, but that must start with a non-negotiable of “no new victims.”
We will not always be successful. We will make mistakes. Our clients make poor choices, even with the best of programming and treatment. However, if we get the goal wrong, the entire enterprise is missing the mark.