A reasonable risk assessment of sex offenders, when combined with good parole supervision and a community-based treatment program aimed at relapse prevention, effectively reduces recidivism. This was the finding of a study conducted by Wilson, Stewart, Stirpe, Barrett, and Cripps in Canada. Published in 2000, the study covered 107 sex offenders who were released to the custody of the Central Ontario District during a period of eight years starting in 1990.
According to the authors, their study outlined the general principles laid down by Motiuk, Belcourt, and Bonta in 1995, namely: careful and continuous evaluation of offender risk which ensures that highly dangerous offenders were not allowed to return to the community by sentencing them to life in prison; focusing on criminal behavior when conducting intervention programs with the help of qualified psychologists; effective monitoring of the returning offenders’ activities in the community by employing only competent parole personnel trained in the principles of relapse prevention; and an honest exchange of information among the relatives of sex offenders, the parole personnel, and the treatment staff in order to achieve the right mix of treatment intervention and parole supervision.
Wilson et al (2000) found that the strategy resulted to a low 3.
7% recidivism compared to the 5. 4% cited by the study of Motiuk and Brown, and the 6.3% recidivism rate which came out of the study conducted by Barbaree, Seto, and Maric. Both studies were completed in 1996 (Wilson, Stewart, Stirpe, Barrett, and Cripps, 2000). In West Virginia, Gordon and Weldon (2003).
Examined the effect of educational programs on recidivism. Studying the records of inmates who attended the General Educational Development (GED) and the Vocational training programs conducted from 1999-2000 at Huttonsville Correctional Center, they found that a recidivism rate of 8. 75% was recorded for those who completed the vocational training program. Inmates who went through both the vocational training program and the GED, on the other hand, reported a lower 6. 71% recidivism rate.
Both figures were way below the recidivism rate of 26% which was observed on inmates who did not participate in either educational program. These results were comparative to the findings of a study made by Mace in 1978 of 320 inmates who were discharged from correctional institutions in West Virginia in 1973. Out of the 320, 76 were rearrested after four years, 21 (or 6. 56%) of whom were products of educational programs behind bars while 55 (or 17. 19%) did not attend any educational program while being incarcerated (Gordon and Weldon, 2003). Meanwhile, two cost-effective programs were the subject of an article authored by Harvey Shrum in 2004.
Published in the Journal of Correctional Education, the article discussed two additional practices called logotherapy and intensive journal which, according to him, were better at reducing “future criminality” of both offenders and potential offenders than punishment and surveillance-based programs. Logotherapy, which means “health through meaning,” was developed by Dr. Viktor Frankl as an effective substitute to the 12-step program of rehabilitation for drug and alcohol abusers generally accepted by most parole boards. The program aims to provide inmates with a “purpose and direction in life. ” Introduced forty years ago to inmates of a California Rehabilitation Center, program participants reported a recidivism rate of 5. 5%. When it was re-introduced to nineteen inmates of Folsom State Prison in 1998, the three participants who were released on parole reported a zero percent recidivism by year 2004.
Intensive journal, on the other hand, was first introduced at Folsom State Prison in 1992. Created by Dr. Ira Progoff, it is a “method of self-development” that makes use of writing exercises. Inmates were made to write about their experiences, relationships with their families, their jobs and health, and the meaning that they give to their lives in a journal. These journals were reviewed and feedbacks were provided. By 2002, ten years after the program was introduced, no participant was ever rearrested (Shrum, 2004). The debate on the value of using recidivism to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of correctional programs continues and, in fact, polarized justice scholars.
A dissenting opinion was voiced by Thomas in 2005 when he said that prison facilities and programs have no influence over the behavior of inmates once they return to their communities. He argued that communities are influenced by certain social, cultural, and economic factors which are beyond the control of prison facilities. Policymakers and academics, however, refuse to budge. They insist that there is no other, better measure than the rate of recidivism. According to these academics and policymakers, effective rehabilitation measures should be able to provide inmates with coping mechanisms necessary for them to deal with the “economic, social, and cultural stresses of post-release life.
” In the same vein, they argue that effective deterrence programs should produce inmates who should have learned enough lessons during incarceration to dissuade them from returning to a life of crime. In both cases, they maintain that low recidivism should be the direct result. Although inclined towards the use of recidivism, Maxwell, in an article entitled: “Rethinking the Broad Sweep of Recidivism:
A Task for Evaluators,” suggested that academics should not stop looking for less familiar methods of approaching the problem while policymakers should maintain an open mind so that like policy questions could be considered more objectively (Maxwell, 2005).
References Gordon, H. R. D., and Weldon, B. (2003). The Impact of Career and Technical Education Programs on Adult Offenders: Learning Behind Bars. Journal of Correctional Education, 54, 4, 200-209. Maxwell, S. R. (2005).
RETHINKING THE BROAD SWEEP OF RECIDIVISM: A TASK FOR EVALUATORS. Criminology & Public Policy, 4, 3, 519-526. Shrum, H. (2004).
No Longer Theory: Correctional Practices That Work. Journal of Correctional Education, 55, 3, 225-235. Wilson, R. J. , Stewart, L. , Stirpe, T. , Barrett, M. , and Cripps, J. E. (2000). Community-based sex offender management: Combining parole supervision and treatment to reduce recidivism. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 42, 2, 177-188.