Rehabilitation does appear to “work” although the quality of the program being administered and the methods used within the program play a part in just how effective the program will be at reducing recidivism (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000). Additionally, rehabilitation has been shown to work with high-risk offenders. This finding is exciting because it means that the offenders who are most likely to commit multiple crimes upon release can be rehabilitated. There are a number of characteristics, known as the characteristics of effective intervention, that need to be present in order for a program to be most likely to show decreases in offender recidivism (Andrews, 1995; Gendreau, 1996).
In general, there are a number of interventions that need to be in place if any rehabilitation program hopes to reduce offender recidivism. Although the exact number of interventions differ by researcher they all agree on the main points a program should focus upon. Several of the most effective components of a program are that the program should be of sufficient length and intensity to be effective (Gendreau, 1996). Any type of program should occupy a large percentage of the offender’s time and should be several months in length, at the minimum, to provide ample time for the offender to benefit from the services offered.
Also, the personal characteristics of the offender should be matched with the type of program (Gendreau, 1996). The personality characteristics of offenders can have a large effect on their potential for success within a program and thus it is important that an offender be placed within a program where they are likely to succeed and with a therapist or therapeutic approach likely to help their particular personality characteristics.
The staff responsible for administering the program should be adequately trained and their training should be on going to ensure proper presentation of the treatment being provided. Likewise, the program should be properly structured and that structure should be maintained to ensure that offenders experience prosocial situations in which to practice the skills being taught within the program (Gendreau, 1996). Additionally, relapse prevention should be provided to the offenders upon successful completion of the program in an effort to prevent relapse through swift intervention.
Behavioral programs that are consistently presented which offer adequate opportunities to practice the skills learned from the program provide the best opportunity to lower recidivism levels (Gendreau, 1996). This type of program has several characteristics that make it the most effective treatment method for high risk offenders. The offender should be fully aware of their responsibilities within the program and should understand the benefits and consequences of not participating fully in the program. Rewards should be provided to the offender four times more often than punishments if the program is likely to be effective. The therapist in charge of the program, or overseeing the treatment of the offender, should maintain control of the program, offenders should not decide on their own treatment program.
Rehabilitation does work to reduce recidivism. However, rehabilitation is only as effective as the program being offered. By following the characteristics of effective intervention, like those proposed by Andrews (1995), Gendreau (1996) and other researchers, rehabilitation is most likely to produce decreases in recidivism. Additionally, programs based on behavioral treatments have been most likely to produce favorable outcomes with offenders when those offender’s needs are properly identified and an appropriate program is developed.
Andrews, D. A. (1995). “The Psychology of Criminal Conduct and Effective Treatment.” Pp. 35-62 in J. McGuire (ed.), What Works: Reducing Reoffending-Guidelines from Research and Practice. New York: John Wiley.
Cullen F. T. and P. Gendreau. (2000). “Assessing Correctional Rehabilitation: Policy, Practice, and Prospects.” Pp. 109-175 in J. Horney (ed.), Criminal Justice 2000, Volume 3: Policies, Processes, and Decisions of the Criminal Justice System. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.
Gendreau, P. (1996). “The Principles of Effective Intervention with Offenders.” Pp. 117-130 in A. T. Harland (ed.), Choosing Correctional Interventions That Work: Defining the Demand and Evaluating the Supply. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.