Community Corrections


What Works?

Since the early 1990’s, research has emerged from Canada, and replicated and validated in many other parts of the world, which demonstrates that employing certain interventions , following now well-developed principles with offenders can reduce (dramatically in some cases) the recurrence of reoffending.  This model is based on the General Personality and Cognitive Social Learning theoretical perspective, which addresses how learning and risk/need factors affect criminal behavior. The theory suggests that criminal behavior is learned, that this learning occurs within a particular environment, and that some risk/need factors are more important in predicting criminal behavior than others. This theory then implies that offender behavior can change (as opposed, for instance, to a medical model that sees an offender as “sick”) (Bourgon et al. 2010).

The Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model was first proposed by Andrews, Bonta, and Hoge in 1990, and has three core principles:

  • Risk Principle: The level of services should be matched to the risk level of offender. High-risk offenders should receive more intensive services; low-risk offenders should receive minimal services.
  • Need Principle: Target criminogenic needs with services—that is, target those factors that are associated with criminal behavior. Such factors might include substance abuse, procriminal attitudes, criminal associates, and the like. Do not target other, non-criminogenic factors (such as emotional distress, self-esteem issues) unless they act as a barrier to changing criminogenic factors.
  • Responsivity Principle: The ability and learning style of the offender should determine the style and mode of intervention. Research has shown the general effectiveness of using social learning and cognitive–behavioral style interventions. *

The RNR model has now been well established as the gold standard in offender treatment interventions, certainly throughout the English-speaking world.  But the model requires that some authority (Judge, Parole Board, etc.) order that an intervention take place while under community supervision.  In many jurisdictions however, the likelihood of such interventions, following the RNR protocol, be ordered as a condition of diversion, probation, or parole is small. But what if those same RNR principles can be applied in the normal course of community supervision, and without a specific treatment intervention?

The Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision (STICS) was just such an attempt.  The results were released in the Spring of 2010 and were so encouraging that the study is being replicated and greatly expanded.  For the details click here.

*Much of the above was taken from but for the theory in its entirety see The Psychology of Criminal Conduct, D.A. Andrews and James Bonta.