CJ Psychology Research Rundown

Noteworthy research in the field

Catch up with the latest developments in recidivism and correctional treatment research.
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By Olivia K. Miller, BS, and Rheanna L. Standridge

Anderson, J. R., Walsh, Z., & Kosson, D. S. (2018). Psychopathy, self-identified race/ethnicity, and nonviolent recidivism: A longitudinal study. Law and Human Behavior, 42(6), 531– 544. doi:10.1037/lhb0000302

Psychopathy is predictive of violent recidivism among offender populations; however, less is known about psychopathy being predictive of nonviolent recidivism. A previous meta-analysis found that total scores and factors of the Psychopathy Check List-Revised (PCL-R) were predictive of nonviolent recidivism, yet that study did not examine the specific relationships. To investigate this question, authors chose the two-factor model of the PCL-R : (1) interpersonal and affective features and (2) chronic antisocial behavior and lifestyle features. Data was collected on 422 men over five years. Findings showed that psychopathy was a valid predictor of nonviolent criminal recidivism; specifically, both factors were independently and interactively significant predictors, contrary to previous research. In other studies, Factor 1 ratings were not any more predicative than Factor 2 ratings. No significant findings were observed for race and ethnicity when analyzed independently. Looking forward, researchers should consider this study with both female and male participants and with different severities of crimes.

Barrett, C. J. (2017). Mindfulness and rehabilitation: Teaching yoga and meditation to young men in an Alternative to Incarceration program. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 61(15), 1719–1738. doi:10.1177/0306624X16633667

This study explored the effects of mindfulness training as an Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) program in a group of young male volunteers (age 18-24). Using open-ended interviews and participant/observation to gauge interest and usefulness, the author found that many mindfulness practices, including yoga and meditation, yielded positive benefits in the sample, including improved emotion regulation, stress reduction and lower levels of anger and frustration. Many of the participants mentioned in their narratives that mindfulness training had also helped significantly in providing a framework to control impulses. This study serves as an example of how alternative methods, such as mindfulness training, can be used as a supplementary tool in assisting young offenders to control emotions, stress levels, and assist in developing more effective self-control habits while also fostering desistance. The positive rehabilitative outcomes of mindfulness training may prove beneficial for pre-existing programs as well as new ones.

Dyck, H. L., Campbell, M. A., & Wershler, J. L. (2018). Real-world use of the Risk–Need–Responsivity model and the Level of Service/Case Management Inventory with community-supervised offenders. Law and Human Behavior, 42(3), 258–268. doi:10.1037/lhb0000279

Dyck and colleagues (2018) examined the predictive validity of the Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI) for recidivism with a sample of mixed gender Canadian inmates on community supervision (N = 136). The researchers then used the results from the LS/CMI to create case management plans. Adherence to the risk-need-responsivity (RNR) model was measured utilizing prior researchers’ coding systems, including assessing the risk principle by assigning a 1 to high risk individuals who received more serious/involved interventions, while low risk individuals were assigned a 0 to indicate that clients received no/less involved intervention. Those individuals, whose main treatment goals aligned with the LS/CMI-recognized criminogenic needs, were coded as adhering to the need principle, while responsivity principle adherence was coded as present when the case plans were catered to the individual’s strengths/weaknesses and employment of evidence-based interventions. The LS/CMI had strong predictive validity for recidivism in both males and females. The researchers notably found that strongest RNR adherence was found in client cases that were low risk. Additionally, high-risk participants were more likely to reoffend in a shorter period of time than lower-risk individuals. These findings suggest that probation officers should utilize tools, such as the LS/CMI and RNR model, more often to assist in case management plans.

Matejkowski, J., Conrad, A., & Ostermann, M. (2017). Does early onset of criminal behavior differentiate for whom serious mental illness has a direct or indirect effect on recidivism? Law and Human Behavior, 41(1), 68–79. doi:10.1037/lhb0000231

Within the justice system, persons who have serious mental illness (SMI) may have a direct or indirect relation to criminal behavior. This study aimed to investigate if early onset of criminal behavior versus later onset plays a role in the direct or indirect effect on recidivism. Direct effects include dangerous and troublesome showings of psychiatric disorder. Indirect effects include if the inmate had a juvenile criminal history. Data was collected on 379 inmates (190 with SMI; 189 without SMI) from previous clinical records. The presence of juvenile offending was positively related to criminal recidivism in adulthood, and criminogenic needs were more present for these early onset offenders versus late onset offenders. Future research is needed to examine how the severity of the juvenile offense moderates the effect of adult criminality.

Morash, M., Kashy, D. A., Smith, S. W., & Cobbina, J. E. (2018). Is the nature of communication relevant to the supportiveness of women’s relationships with probation and parole agents? International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 62(6), 1629–1647. doi:10.1177/0306624X16689832

Morash and colleagues studied how communication patterns between probation/parole agents and female clients affects the offenders’ perceptions of the officers’ supportiveness, looking specifically at authoritarian versus conversational communication styles. Agents who took a conversational approach and focused on client-identified problems resulted in more positive, supportive relationships with their low-risk clients. Both low-risk and high-risk clients perceived authoritarian communication styles to be negatively related to supportive relationships. However, agents who were working with high-risk clients viewed themselves as less supportive when highlighting on offender-related needs. These results emphasize the importance of training parole and probation agents to adjust their conversational style and emphasis to align with the offenders’ risk level and criminogenic needs. It is also pertinent that future researchers should investigate the agent’s relationship and conversational style with high-risk offenders more fully.

Warner, C., Conley, T., & Murphy, R. (2018). Criminal thinking shifts among male prisoners participating in a cognitive-based education programme. Criminal Behaviour & Mental   Health, 28(2), 152–157. doi:10.1002/cbm.2053

This article aimed to measure the extent to which a cognitive-based educational curriculum can affect recidivism. A cognitive-based program, Steps to Economic and Personal Success (STEPS), was administered to 128 voluntary inmates. The authors measured criminal attitudes using the Texas Christian University Thinking Scales (CTS). The CTS is a self-report survey looking at six different domains (e.g., entitlement, power orientation, etc.,). Overall, researchers found a decrease in criminal thinking and found STEPS to be effective in reducing recidivism, but it is difficult to know if such effects exceed that seen in other treatment programs given there was no control group. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that this program was voluntary. In future work, investigating the effectiveness of STEPS on court-mandated populations would be an important addition to existing literature.