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Is treatment non-completion associated with increased reconviction over no treatment?

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There is accruing evidence that offenders who do not complete treatment are at greater risk of recidivism than those who do complete treatment. Profiles of non-completers show them to be high risk of reoffending compared with completers, and differences in reconviction may be explained by these baseline levels. What is unclear is whether non-completion actually increases the risk of reoffending over no treatment at all. The purpose of this review was to examine the recidivism of non-completers compared with untreated offenders of comparable risk. A systematic search of the literature relating to cognitive-behavioural interventions revealed 16 relevant studies describing 17 samples. The mean effect size (d=-0.16) of differences in reoffending between untreated offenders and treatment non-completers suggests that failing to complete treatment is associated with elevated levels of reoffending, with this effect being more pronounced in community samples (d=-0.23) than institutional samples (d=-0.15). Methodological limitations include poor risk comparability between samples and heterogeneity of non-completers, nevertheless it is possible that treatment non-completion may make some offenders more likely to reoffend.

Keywords: Offender; drop-out; non-completion; programmes; treatment

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Section of Forensic Mental Health, Duncan Macmillan House, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK 2: School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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