In Search of Effective Methods of Prison Rehabilitation – An Example of the United States
- objectives of a punishment,
- Risk-Need-Responsivity Model (RNR),
- relapse into crime
How to Cite
In its introduction, the article characterises - in a most comprehensible way - themain objectives of criminal sanctions and their role in preventing crime, according tothe most commonly expressed opinions on the subject from American scholars. It isfollowed by a brief history of assessing the risk of committing an offence in the UnitedStates in recent decades. The risk assessment process was developed before World WarII as a tool to predict possible recidivism in the case of inmates released on parole, butit has been in more common use since 1980s. While the “What works?” movementinitially emerged in the United States, one needs to remember the publication of Robert Martinso’s report that created the “Nothing works” (concerning prison rehabilitation)doctrine. It aided the justification of severe changes in punitive prison policies inthe 1970s that continued well into the 1990s, with the slogans “tough on crime, toughon the causes of crime” being more prominent. It took more than a decade to reestablishsome hope in prison rehabilitation programmes and allow the paradigm shiftsto happen – from the retribution “being tough on offenders” policy to more creativeapproaches towards offenders. By constructive approaches to working with offenders,one means the use of effective methods and techniques to alter criminal behaviourof inmates to prevent their possible relapse into crime (crime prevention).The main goal of the article is to present the most fundamental system in the UScriminal justice system that is most commonly applied nowadays: the Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model and its principles to offender assessment. The aforementionedprinciples were laid down by Canadian scholars, Donald Arthur Andrews andJames Bonta. In that model, “risk” means the identification of specific factors thatare associated with recidivism (in general, depending on a specific crime, e.g. sexualoffenders or offenders who committed violent crimes). Andrews and Bonta argue thata number of factors need to be considered in any comprehensive theory of criminalbehaviour, including biological or neurological issues, inheritance, temperamentand social and cultural factors, while also noting that criminal behaviour is a multifactorialissue. “Need” assesses criminogenic needs and targets them in prison treatmentprogrammes for elimination, while “responsivity” intends to maximise the offender’sability to learn how to combat possible recidivism through rehabilitative intervention,providing cognitive behavioural treatment – with the said intervention being tailoredto the learning style, motivation, abilities and strengths of the offender.Risk assessment is applied during different stages of the criminal procedure: beforesentencing and during the period of time when the criminal sanction is executed, i.e.while serving a custodial sentence. It must be noted that, in the US justice system, judgesare not the only people obliged to assess the potential risk of an offender relapsinginto crime in the future. Prison officers are also tasked with such assessment. Throughthe application of the RNR model, it is possible for the prison staff to divide inmatesinto specific groups, depending on security levels and adequate treatment programmes.In that case, the assessment tools based on the RNR model not only allow a predictionof a possible relapse into crime, but also a proper allocation of convicts to rehabilitationprogrammes provided within prisons. A convict undergoes an evaluation before andafter the treatment. Such evaluations are imposed on most prisoners, so performingthem does have an impact on the financial and human resources of a given penitentiaryunit.The most important question, “What works in prison?” is answered by the majorityof scholars through propositions of providing cognitive and behavioural skill programmesto the convicts. They have clear criteria to ensure that objectives, methods andapplication of rehabilitation programmes correspond with the needs of criminaloffenders. The conclusion of the research is meant to prove that providing offenders with such treatment (based upon the RNR model) may have a positive effect on re -ducing the risk of relapse into crime in the future. However, the appropriate methodsof treatment are based not only on psychotherapy (or, sometimes, on pharmacologicaltreatment), but also on education, vocational training, personal development, strengtheningself-control mechanisms and improving interpersonal skills.
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