Understanding what can influence change in offenders is critical for engaging with an individual and helping them gain the most out of their period on Probation. Furthermore, there seems to be a bigger push today for ‘offender engagement’ in the United Kingdom’s Probation Services or Trusts as many are now called.
There is a lot of research out there looking at offender engagement, outcomes and relationships. However for me, the most relevant and easy to understand is the research undertaken by McKeown (2000). This research suggests that four factors influence outcomes in offender treatment. These are: user characteristics, the working relationship, the method of intervention and the degree of hope expressed by the offender. I shall now explore each of these points by asking the reader to consider a number of questions which I hope will influence practice for the better – should you be working with offenders that is.
To influence treatment outcomes, you need to know what factors relate to the offender’s behaviour. Why did they do it? The best way you can do this is by undertaking as accurate as possible a risk assessment. Get this correct, and you are said to have got the most important element right when it comes to outcomes. It is said to equate to a 40% influence of the desired outcome. Consider here interviewing the offender and exploring the What, Why, When, and How questions.
The Working Relationship:
Building up an effective working relationship with the offender is said to account for 30% of the impact on the desired outcome. Consider here what is meant by effective working relationships. Do we mean friendship? Or do we mean building a trusting relationship where both parties understand respective boundaries. What will these boundaries be?
Method of Intervention:
Get this right and it accounts for 15 % of the desired outcome. Here, it is always worth thinking about learning styles. In the book, Reoffending: A practitioners guide to working with offending behaviour in the criminal justice system, we look at VAKs learning styles and when working with an offender it is worth considering, is the participant a Visual learner, Auditory Learner or Kinaesthetic Learner? How will you adapt to each of these once you know how the participant learns best? Try discussions, diagrams, and moving exercises. I, for one, draw hundreds of diagrams.
Degree of Hope Expressed:
‘Where’ is an offender, in relation to making changes, in their life and behaviour? Do they think they have a problem at all? Do they think they have a problem but don’t know how to make the change? Learning to recognise where that person is in the change process and equipping them with the required skills to move forward is said to increase the chances of facilitating desired outcome changes by 15%.
The author, Jonathan Hussey, has worked extensively in the Criminal Justice System, and has specialised in leading roles within the Probation Service and Youth Offending Services. He is the author of the book: Reoffending: A practitioner’s guide to working with offenders and offending behaviour in the Criminal Justice System.
The book is targeted at new Probation Officers and aims to offer them real world practical advice on working in the challenging, but ultimately rewarding, sphere of addressing offending behaviour.