Studies Have Found There Are Innovative Practices and Skills That Can Help Reduce Reoffending Rate; Pamela Ugwudike Looks at What Criminal Justice Professionals Can Do to Reverse the Discouraging Trend in Reconviction Rates

Article excerpt

Byline: Pamela Ugwudike

CRIMINAL statistics consistently reveal that many people who have served court sentences - in prison or in the community - go on to re-offend within a few years of the end of their sentence.

Is there anything criminal justice professionals - like prison, probation and youth justice workers - can do to reverse this trend? In the light of recent criminal statistics on reconviction rates, at first glance it may appear that the answer is a resounding no. But before we reach this conclusion perhaps we should take a closer look at insights from recent studies which reveal that there are innovative skills and practices that can help reduce reoffending rates.

Such is the weight of concern about high reoffending rates that the current government has made "reducing reoffending" a central prong of its plans for a "rehabilitation revolution".

The prison and probation services will in future have to contend with a funding regime in which the funding they receive will be closely tied to their performance in rehabilitating offenders.

With the aim of reducing reoffending, the Government describes this as "payment by results".

In the light of historical and recent official reconviction statistics, we may be forgiven for thinking that both services will struggle to secure much-needed funding.

Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon. Studies are beginning to show that there are indeed things criminal justice professionals can do to help reduce reconviction. This is very welcome news in the current penal policy climate. North American researchers have identified certain skills that prison, probation and youth justice workers can use to help reduce reconviction. These skills include demonstrating acceptable behaviour and showing approval when offenders exhibit acceptable behaviour. The skills also include showing disapproval when offenders exhibit unacceptable behaviour and helping offenders learn how to solve the problems that contribute to their offending. …