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PSYC39H3 (177)


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David Nussbaum

Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice CHAPTER 4: Linking Theories to Practice LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1. Understand the role and importance of theory to inform how correctional practice works. 2. Understand the contribution of Canadian researchers to evidence-based correctional practice. 3. Review selected approaches in the areas of assessment and treatment to better understand why such approaches are popular in Canadian corrections and elsewhere. 4. Review contemporary challenges in order to understand future directions for corrections research. CHAPTER SUMMARY Theory continues to inform practice and that challenges from practice continue to advance theory in a kind of symbiotic relationship. This notion of using research to inform practice underpins the scientist–practitioner model (Douglas, Cox, and Webster 1999). Specifically, it asserts that practice must be informed by the empirical literature and that clinicians must that practice must be informed by the empirical literature and that clinicians must constantly strive to inform and improve practice. Delivery of effective practice is an ethical requirement of professional psychology (Canadian Psychological Association 2009). Increasingly, correctional practitioners are encouraged and required to ground their work in evidence, hence the phrase evidence-based practice. Despite slight variations across the provincial and federal systems, correctional agencies must account for their methods in terms of efficacy and best-practice models. Partly this is driven by cost issues. Wasting tax dollars on inefficient or ineffective services is problematic. However, it is also driven by a long tradition of Canadian social scientists being world leaders in corrections theory and practice. Canadian researchers in academia and government continue to make important contributions to correctional issues with a commitment to balancing rehabilitation with public safety. Specifically: 1. Effective correctional practice must be informed by theory and evidence. 2. Punishment and deterrence leads to increases in crime and incarceration, not decreases. 3. Offender change and crime desistance is influenced by an increase in rewards for prosocial behaviour. 4. The factors that inform crime desistance may be different than those that inform crime acquisition. 5. For some offenders, restorative justice approaches are a viable alternative to getting tough on crime. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 65 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice 6. Using standardized classification measures yields lower levels of custody and lower rates of escape but the application of risk assessment must consider ethnicity and gender. 7. Provincial and federal corrections utilize standardized assessment approaches at intake and throughout an offender’s sentence and supervision to target criminogenic needs and develop a correctional plan. 8. Correctional programming that is cognitive-behavioural and skills-based is most likely to result in decreases in reoffending. 9. Effective correctional programming reflects the principles of risk, need, and responsivity. 10. Staff skills are fundamental to effective corrections. 11. Research regarding dynamic risk is increasingly utilized to inform risk management of offenders. LECTURE OUTLINE 1. Introduction:  we learned that criminal justice issues are of great concern to Canadians and public opinion regarding corrections and parole is modest at best.  it has been noted that sensational media coverage invokes strong opinions regarding crime and criminals.  ideology typically polarizes Canadians’ views regarding how to enhance public safety.  There are generally two sides in the debate over what is needed to reduce crime and make Canada safer: greater rehabilitation or greater punishment.  in psychology we emphasize the importance of evidence to guide our actions: a) what evidence is there that unbridled rehabilitation or punishment will yield better correctional outcomes (i.e., lower crime rates, lower recidivism)? b) Do all offenders respond positively to rehabilitative programs? c) Do all offenders require more severe punishment (i.e., longer sentences) in order to “get it”?  there is a variety of theories posited to explain criminal behaviour, noting that they have evolved over time, often integrating constructs from earlier viewpoints.  there is no single and agreed upon “winner,” social learning theories, especially those with a heavy cognitive component, were presented as the most clinically relevant.  The purpose of this chapter is to describe how this theoretical work is reflected in contemporary correctional practice: a) Essentially, why do we do the things we do, and in the manner we do them? b) Underscoring correctional practice is the interplay between theory and evidence. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 66 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice c) In order to more clearly illustrate the issues, challenges, and present- day approaches, we will describe contemporary practice across a range of correctional and criminal justice activities. d) Beginning with a review of the research on punishment models and deterrence, mainly in terms of sentencing, we will consider the evidence for its effectiveness. e) We will then contrast the increasing interest in utilizing restorative justice models with respect to philosophy and evidence, followed by a review of the history and evolution of correctional programming efforts in support of offender rehabilitation. f) With respect to programming, recent research regarding challenges to a risk-based model of understanding offender change will also be highlighted to reflect the current debate in this literature. g) specific applications such as custody classification will be reviewed in some detail, as this is an important correctional activity often overlooked in texts. h) while custody classification is the method by which incarcerated offenders are assigned to security level, Canadian assessment methods typically consider treatment issues and the development of a correctional plan throughout the offender’s sentence. i) theory is embedded within the information considered in custody classification and the process is more broadly referred to as offender classification. j) Offenders with different numbers and severities of criminal risk factors may warrant assignment to different security levels or custody placement and to different correctional programs in order to better manage their risk of escape, institutional adjustment problems, and reoffending. k) This chapter will more fully describe the central importance of initial offender assessment on numerous decisions made throughout offender sentences.  Our review of theory and practice then moves to risk assessment and risk management  The goal of this chapter is to highlight Canadian contributions to best practice and illustrate how theory is embedded within such practice, even if it is refined through empirical research.  Finally, we will review recent research regarding crime desistance and comment on how it might be incorporated into current practice. 2. Changing Criminal Behaviour:  over time there has been a shift away from individualized rehabilitation programs to a greater reliance on punishment to deal with crime.  A utilitarian model suggests that people engage in criminal behaviour because crime pays, and to reduce crime, its costs must increase.  Experts question if such a model applies equally to all offenders and refine the model to assert that criminality can be decreased when the rewards for Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 67 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice crime are reduced and the costs for crime are increased while the rewards for prosocial behaviour are increased and the costs for prosocial behaviour are decreased.  for several decades, the United States has focused mainly on increasing individual costs to crime as a deterrent.  More recently this emphasis has been on evidence-based practice, where empirical research is used to inform how to assess and intervene with offenders  Paradoxically, the rehabilitative approach that focuses on increasing rewards for prosocial behaviour of offenders, (championed in Canada and later exported to the United States), now appears to be losing ground in Canada despite empirical evidence that rehabilitation is more effective than punishment at reducing crime  Multiple efforts are required to change offender behaviour and to decrease crime.  different elements of the criminal justice system (courts, probation, prisons, and parole) may have different foci despite an agreed-upon goal of crime reduction.  the interplay between psychology and the courts is mainly academic,  psychology is much more influential in directly informing clinical practice in prisons and community corrections. 3. Purposes of Sentencing:  According to section 718 of the Canadian Criminal Code, the fundamental purposes of sentencing are to ensure respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful, and safe society.  The expectation is that this is achieved through the imposition of sanctions.  Other key purposes of sentencing are: 1. To denounce unlawful conduct 2. To remove offenders from society 3. To assist in rehabilitation of offenders 4. To provide reparation to victims 5. To promote a sense of responsibility in offenders  the most obvious goal of sentencing is to change the criminal behaviour of individuals who come into contact with the courts.  Through the means of specific deterrence and general deterrence, the expectation is that sanctions by the courts will reduce the criminal behaviour of both the specific individual and the general population, respectively. Deterrence  a central issue relates to distinguishing between the purpose and the impact of sentencing.  If punishment and deterrence are the sole issues, then a longer sentence would be preferred. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 68 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice  This might find favour with many Canadians, especially those intolerant of crime and criminals.  A longer sentence would have more merit if it could be demonstrated that it will reduce likelihood of future crime.  Consistent with the issue of ideology, it can be proposed that there are underlying assumptions with punishment and rehabilitation extremes.  The punishment extreme can be described as “hard,” although some may prefer the word realistic.  Underlying this approach are the views that: 1. those who commit crimes are bad; 2. criminals are unlikely to change unless compelled to do so; 3. criminals need to be dealt with more strictly (to get their attention); and 4. the costs and consequences of committing crimes need to be made as serious as possible.  In contrast, the rehabilitation extreme can be described as “soft,” although some may prefer the word liberal.  Underlying this approach are the views that: 1. those who commit crimes are no different than others; 2. criminals have the capacity to live decent lives and reform themselves; and 3. offenders have grown up in adverse surroundings and need to be presented better opportunities  While sentencing may not be specifically informed by these viewpoints, they nonetheless influence the public’s perception of the courts.  Sentencing and sanctions reflect the major themes of retribution, incapacitation, and deterrence.  Retribution asserts that society has the right, when harmed, to harm the offender.  This harm or punishment should correspond with the crime (an eye for an eye).  From an administration of justice perspective, retribution is not necessarily intended to address issues at the individual level.  Essentially, the commission of a crime warrants social retribution.  Incapacitation is the application of crime control by removing offenders’ ability to commit crimes by incarcerating them.  In terms of reducing future crimes, since the vast majority of offenders do not die in prison but return to their communities, this may have limited impact.  Incapacitation is an expensive method for reducing crime.  Deterrence is the application of punishment to influence behaviour.  Given the popularity of viewpoints emphasizing deterrence, researchers have investigated the effectiveness of its application  deterrence is measured across four dimensions: certainty (likelihood of legal punishment); celerity (the amount of time that elapses between an offence being committed and an official sanction being imposed); severity Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 69 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice (magnitude of the punishment); and scope (the relationship between types of crime in statutes and types of punishment).  for punishment to be maximally effective, it must be 1. first unavoidable. 2. its application should immediately follow the target behaviour. 3. it should be very severe.  Even when these conditions are met, it is necessary to ensure that individuals being punished cannot meet their goals through some alternative manner.  these dimensions are rarely applied in a systematic manner within the criminal justice system, potentially diminishing the effectiveness of punishment to change behaviour.  offenders often report committing crimes for which they were not caught, as confirmed by the discrepancy between police-reported crime and arrests  there are often long delays between arrest and conviction, resulting in the contentious two-for-one rule (one day on remand equals a day of a sentence, if found guilty), now under review in Canada.  the effectiveness of deterrence in criminal justice applications, which comes from six areas: 1. sentencing, in terms of crime statistics; 2. the relationship between imprisonment and crime rates; 3. the effects of enhanced punishers; 4. meta-analytic reviews of outcome studies; 5. self-report surveys; 6. research on the death penalty.  Research from the United Kingdom compares two-year reconviction data by type of sentence (imprisonment, community service orders, probation orders, and probation with additional requirements) while controlling for risk level of the offender: the conclusion was that there was no difference between immediate custody and community penalties on reconviction rates.  Similar findings were reported in meta-analyses  These findings suggest that general deterrence does not reduce crime in that longer sentences and incarceration are not highly related to recidivism.  if specific deterrence is effective, there should be some association between the activity of the courts for targeted crimes and the amount of that crime.  This does not appear to be the case: there was no effect on rates of drinking and driving; there was no difference in crime rates when considering white-collar crimes  In Canada there is considerable intolerance of these types of crimes  simply getting tougher on certain types of crime may not diminish the rates of these crimes. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 70 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice  more adult males are given Canadian federal sentences, but these sentences have generally decreased in length over the past two decades - the median provincial sentence has slightly increased  Another deterrence strategy has been described as punisher smarter.  In this approach, enhanced punishers such as boot camps, shock incarceration, electronic surveillance, curfews, and intensive supervision are applied.  Various studies have disputed the effectiveness: boot camps in the United States (no effect in reducing criminal behaviour); intensive supervision (does not reduce crime unless it includes rehabilitation programming).  self-report surveys of offenders: teenagers experiencing an arrest had little impact on their subsequent criminal behaviour; the majority of offenders, whatever their level of seriousness, were not arrested;.  Perhaps the most ultimate deterrence is the use of the death penalty: among the 71 countries that still retain its use, “the most common political justification is that it has a unique general deterrent capacity to save further innocent lives or significantly reduce other capital offences”  In a 40-year review for the United Nations, comparing countries that were abolitionist, retentionist, or users with moratorium, there was no difference in frequency of capital crimes.  in comparisons between neighbouring states, with and without capital punishment, there was no difference.  In Texas, arguably the state with the highest rate of capital punishment, there was no relationship between the execution rate and the murder rate;  higher execution rates did not yield a lower murder rate.  Thus commission of crimes, including capital offences, is not influenced by punishment and deterrence.  Explanations for why punishment is ineffective include perceived risk of (non)arrest and the fact that criminal behaviour is dominated by “here and now” thinking  Prior to committing an offence, most individuals are preoccupied with the implementation of the act, rather than deliberating on the consequences. 4. The Canadian Picture:  Since much of the data reviewed regarding the effect of punishment on crime rates is from other countries, it is worth providing a Canadian context for consideration.  the link between punishment and deterrence lacks empirical support.  overall decreases in crime rates might be misinterpreted as indicating the effectiveness of deterrence, but it is unclear that this is the preferred explanation.  Compared to other countries, Canada’s crime rate is relatively low, but there is still a push for tougher sentences. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 71 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice  the police-reported crime rate decreased from 1981 to 2007 (except for a blip in 1990–92).  Concurrently, the overall rate of juveniles and adults charged decreased, although there were slight variations for certain groups (juvenile girls are more involved in crime) and types of crime (property crime is on the rise).  Canada’s incarceration rate has decreased over the past two decades.  Not only are the rates higher, but when combining crime categories and tracking changes over time, there are noticeable differences  Canada’s situation is generally better than that in other countries in terms of rates for different types of crime.  recent years have seen a call in Canada for getting tougher on crime in order to enhance public safety  this call from politicians and victims groups comes despite evidence disputing the effectiveness of such policies in decreasing crime.  A question that arises is whether there are alternate sentencing approaches, less punitive that might be more effective in decreasing crime, at least for some offenders.  Restorative justice is a model that fits such a niche and although it has been utilized for more than two decades, it has increased in popularity in recent years.  Numerous countries have adopted restorative techniques, including Canada, England, Australia, Scotland, New Zealand, Norway, the United States, Japan, and several European countries 5. Restorative Justice:  Although a universally accepted definition has yet to be established, a major tenet of restorative justice (RJ) is that “crime is a wound, justice should be healing”  Restorative justice responds to a criminal act by putting the emphasis on the wrong done to a person as well as the wrong done to the community.  It recognizes that crime is both a violation of relationships between specific people and an offence against everyone—the state.  It is not simply that crime is a violation of law  RJ emphasizes healing the wounds of victims, offenders, and communities caused or revealed by criminal behaviour, and is seen as a viable third alternative to the traditional rehabilitation versus retribution debate  proponents of restorative justice, many with affiliations to such groups as the Mennonites, argue for a path of healing that attends to the needs of both victims and offenders.  RJ is not simply an approach to “be soft on crime”; it emphasizes accountability by the offender and recognition of the harm they have caused.  Other research highlights this transformation by the offender as a critical component in their eventual desistance of criminal behaviour.  Key elements of restorative justice include: Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 72 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice 1. Identifying and taking steps to repair harm 2. Involving all stakeholders 3. Transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime  Restorative justice programs involve the voluntary participation of the victim of a crime, the offender, and, ideally, members of the community in discussions.  The goal is to “restore” the relationship, fix the damage that has been done, and prevent further crimes from occurring.  Restorative justice requires wrongdoers to recognize the harm they have caused, to accept responsibility for their actions, and to be actively involved in improving the situation.  Wrongdoers must make reparation to victims, themselves, and the community.  RJ initiatives can occur at different entry points and by different agents: police at precharge; the Crown at postcharge; the courts at presentence; corrections at postsentence; and parole at prerevocation  Embedded within these elements are key values that underlie the various approaches of restorative justice: 1. Encounter: Create opportunities for victims, offenders, and community members who want to do so to meet and discuss the crime and its aftermath. 2. Amends: Expect offenders to take steps to repair the harm they have caused. 3. Reintegration: Seek to restore victims and offenders to whole, contributing members of society (the goal is not to return them to their pre-crime state). 4. Inclusion: Provide opportunities for parties with a stake in a specific crime to participate in its resolution.  Types of approaches include: 1. Victim offender mediation: Increasingly, this is described as conferencing because mediation implies parties who are on somewhat equal ground seeking a settlement. This is not the case with victims and offenders, where one party has usually wronged another. Conferencing has also been referred to as circles, consistent with Aboriginal culture, and has been used in sentencing and parole decision making. 2. Victim assistance: Various criminal justice departments provide victim services. A good source for information is the public safety portal, which provides sites for provincial and federal assistance ( 25). The courts, correctional agencies, and parole boards provide information and services to victims. Admittedly, much of this work involves assisting victims to be aware of their legal rights regarding representation and notification, and assisting them, should they choose, to provide information to decision makers regarding their experiences. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 73 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice 3. Ex-offender assistance: victim assistance has overshadowed a long tradition of the National Volunteers Association ( and its community agencies, such as the Elizabeth Fry Society, St. Leonard’s Society, and others providing support and assistance to offenders. This work often begins while the offender is incarcerated and continues, through an aftercare model, to include assistance with reintegration to the community. Similar to recent work in the Unites States called offender re-entry, this assistance involves rehabilitative programming (e.g., addictions), support in returning to a community that may have changed markedly during the time of the offender’s incarceration, and assistance with accommodation and employment. 4. Restitution: This involves financial compensation to the victim by the offender for loss related to their victimization. Typically, the courts assign this amount; however, in RJ models it involves discussion among all parties. The compensation can include direct or tangible (i.e., repairing a broken door) costs and indirect or intangible (i.e., suffering) costs. 5. Community service: Sometimes as an alternative to incarceration and perhaps as part of a probation order, the offender is required to complete some sort of community service (i.e., provide labour for community projects) to make amends.  Both federal and provincial corrections agencies provide services to victims, including notification, as does the National Parole Board. Moreover, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has a restorative justice portfolio ( and an annual award in recognition of individuals who contribute to restorative issues in Canada.  CSC’s description is that “Restorative justice is a non-adversarial, non- retributive approach to justice that emphasizes healing in victims, meaningful accountability of offenders, and the involvement of citizens in creating healthier, safer communities . . . It strives to provide support and opportunities for voluntary participation and communication between those affected—victims, offenders, and community—to encourage accountability, reparation, and movement towards understanding, feelings of satisfaction, healing and closure” Does Restorative Justice Work?  it is necessary to clarify what is meant by “work.”  the gold standard of effectiveness is the reduction of future crime, as evidenced by lowered recidivism rates for offenders who participate in RJ initiatives.  RJ is voluntary, so there may be a selection bias (i.e., only motivated or less serious offenders participate)  not all RJ approaches are comparable and most of the evaluation research has been restricted to victim offender mediation approaches. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 74 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice  how realistic it may be for a pre-trial intervention to reduce reoffending post-release if the RJ approach has not been reinforced over the time of the offender’s incarceration or period of community supervision.  RJ evaluation research typically incorporates multiple indices of success, including: Victim satisfaction, Offender satisfaction, Restitution compliance, and Recidivism  There are two predominant approaches to evaluating research in restorative justice. 1. involves assessing a specific program or a few distinct programs 2. Another preferred strategy is to aggregate across all identified studies using meta-analysis: a major finding in one study was that client satisfaction increased for those who had participated in the Collaborative Justice Project, and there was a small reduction in recidivism over a three-year follow-up; the meta-analysis completed by Latimer, Dowden, and Muise (2005) is the most comprehensive on the topic of the effectiveness of RJ models where restorative justice programs show positive effects across a range of dependent measures (the greatest effect relates to restitution compliance and the weakest effect relates to recidivism) and conclude that RJ programs may complement rehabilitation programs and when utilized in conjunction may further reduce reoffending. 6. Offender Rehabilitation:  The evolution of correctional programming has moved researchers from views of pessimism regarding the efficacy of direct intervention with offenders with the aim of reducing their future reoffending, to one of modest optimism.  Martinson’s (1974) pessimistic review of the extant outcome data noting the ineffectiveness of rehabilitation: as a “watershed event” - stated that results “give us very little reason to hope that we have in fact found a sure way of reducing recidivism through rehabilitation.”  a compilation of more favourable studies, was unsuccessful in stemming the anti-rehabilitation  Martinson (1979) later recanted, stating that some interventions were beneficial, others were not, and some were downright harmful.  an historical context in how offender programming has changed due to empirical evidence.  Three decades ago: counselling was mainly conducted by psychologists and some chaplains also offered counselling.  correctional  and forensic psychology was in its infancy, the treatment was related to attenuating psychological symptoms (e.g., anxiety, self-esteem, depression)  It was expected that improved psychological functioning would yield reduced reoffending. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 75 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice  Recently, counselling in the CSC utilizes para-professionals (parole and program staff with B.A. degrees and specialized training), and psychologists often provide oversight for certain types of criminals (e.g., sex offender, domestic violence) or higher intensity programs.  psychologists spend increasing amounts of time completing risk assessments  Provincial corrections and other countries are reviewing similar considerations to determine the preferred role for psychologists.  This comes at a time of increasing operational challenges and it is becoming increasing popular to utilize para-professionals to provide structured, skills-based correctional programming to offenders  in community corrections, with the exception of specialized counselling by psychologists, most rehabilitation programming and aftercare is provided by para-professionals.  a majority of these programs, whether prison-based or in the community, strive to deliver services consistent with an evidence- based model (address criminogenic needs).  There remains considerable variability regarding staff skills, program intensity, and degree of oversight.  these factors greatly influence the effectiveness of correctional programming.  Self-help groups and therapeutic communities are becoming less popular given the improved efficacy of skills-based programs that focus on risk factors for criminality  Off-the-shelf skills-based programs are increasingly becoming available for a variety of treatment targets (i.e., anger, problem solving, and substance abuse) and populations (i.e., juveniles, adults, women).  the current approach to correctional programming is to target and reduce criminogenic needs using a cognitive-behavioural model that assists offenders to understand high-risk situations and increases skills to become prosocial.  Substantial published research across multiple countries and correctional agencies has demonstrated that such correctional programming reduces reoffending  rehabilitation programs are a critical strategy utilized by correctional agencies to reduce recidivism, thereby enhancing public safety.  This is particularly important in federal corrections, where offenders are convicted for more serious crimes and receive longer sentences, thereby raising concern regarding their safe return to the community at the end of their sentence. What Does an Effective Program Look Like?  the preferred contemporary approach to correctional programming has the primary principles typically referred to as risk, need, andesponsivity Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 76 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 4: Linking Theories to Practice  Risk refers to the requirement to provide higher intensity programming to higher risk offenders.  The need to increase program dosage can be addressed by more frequent sessions (i.e., every day versus once weekly), a longer program (i.e., three months versus six weeks), or some com
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