Do you know the golden rules for working with offenders? Would you be fully equipped with the necessary information when walking into any one-to-one session? If you are to be working in this capacity, you should consider the following:
Check the previous contact record
Regardless of how it is recorded, which system it is recorded on and no matter how busy you are, do not overlook this, even if you ‘know’ the person you are meeting – Please! Firstly, by doing this it helps you understand the risks associated with that person. Secondly, it will remind you, and help you understand what has been said and any actions agreed in the previous session – thus promoting continuity of service. Lastly (but not exclusively) how do you know that this particular offender can be seen alone?
Take your panic alarm and be aware of the alarms in the interview room
Common sense right? When working with offenders, how many times have you said to yourself; “I don’t need my alarm with Mr/Mrs X? We are all guilty of becoming a little too familiar with our surroundings on occasion, but always remember, no one can predict human behaviour no matter how good at our jobs we think we are. Let me tell you from experience, it will be when you least expect it that you will wish you had the panic alarm that seemed an unnecessary commodity at the time.
Listen and clarify information
I cannot stress enough the importance of being able to listen. It is a skill in its own right. Part of this skill, however, is to reflect back via a short summary of what the offender has just said to clarify the information. When we hear information, we interpret it through “filters” or schemas in psychology. These filters are influenced themselves, in part, by our view of ourselves, others and how we see the world, so we must be able to ensure that as practitioners we can understand what the offender is trying to tell us, rather than what we think we understand they have said. For example:
Offender: “I hate everyone”
Offender: “well not everyone just police!”
Challenge behaviour but be a little be selective
Let’s be clear, challenging does not mean arguing. In my view, it is about highlighting discrepancies in actions and thoughts. Assuming you know how to challenge, this rule relates to being selective about challenging. Why do I say this? Well, I can almost guarantee that if you tried to challenge everything an offender said to you, the session would take all day and they would leave feeling very confused. In my opinion, prioritise the issues relating to risk, address those most significant first, and then progressively address the remaining items in later sessions.
Working relationships matter
The form of working relationship you form with an offender is important. With this said, making friends with an offender is not the right kind of relationship. But what do I mean? Here at Intervention Consultancy Ltd., we believe that the working relationship we should seek to achieve can be defined as follows:
“An effective working relationship is not about trying to befriend an offender. It is a relationship where we are able to create a sense of discontent about their current behaviour and yet support them to make better decisions and take a pro social path”.
Should you wish to see more articles relating to working with offenders then please explore our website and check regularly for updates.
Interested in related books? Please check out: Reoffending: A practitioner’s guide to working with offenders and offending behaviour in the Criminal Justice System
Are you interested in what Cognitive Behaviour Therapy exercises you can do with offenders: The Victim Awareness Workbook