Monday, 13 June 2005

Turning bad boys good

Contributed by Michael Pink at Totton College

Less is more was the message reported by Guy Bourgon & Barbara Armstrong who wanted to change the way criminals behaved and tested the effects that the length of treatment had on whether criminals were likely to re-offend.

Male offenders were assessed for the likeliness to re-offend before undergoing a treatment programme using the Level of Service Inventory. From this they were recommended for a 5, 10 or 15 week programme. However, to assess the usefulness of this system some inmates, for instance, were recommended for 5 but completed a 10 or a 15 week programme. All groups had an untreated comparison.

During the programme criminals were taught to change their negative attitudes and accept personal responsibility for their behaviour using a range of techniques (e.g. anger management and problem solving).

Those who were recommended and completed a 5 week programme had the lowest recidivism rate (12%). A similar pattern emerged for those recommended and completing the 10 week and week programmes. Those ‘mismatched’ (e.g. recommended 5 but had 10 weeks) had higher recidivism rates.

This shows that it is important for criminals to receive their recommended length of treatment to achieve the most effective reduction for recidivism. “In summary this study…provided evidence that ‘dosage’ or length of treatment, plays a significant role in reducing recidivism” stated Bourgon and Armstrong.

Bourgon, G. & Armstrong, B. (2005). Transferring the principles of effective treatment into a ‘real world’ prison setting. Criminal Justice and Behaviour, 32, 3-25.

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