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Why don't offenders complete treatment? Prisoners' reasons for non-completion of a cognitive skills programme

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In an evaluation of the Enhanced Thinking Skills (ETS; Cann et al., 2003) programme, reconviction at 1 year was higher for treatment non-completers (i.e. those allocated to treatment who started but did not complete) than for untreated prisoners (i.e. those not allocated to treatment). It may be that non-completion increases risk of reconviction for some offenders, hence efforts should be made to reduce non-completion rates. In designing retention strategies, the views of offenders are important. This study, conducted with adult male prisoners, elicited information from ETS non-completers (n=18) about what interfered with programme completion. For comparison, views on ETS of completers (n=6) were taken. The main themes were: (1) non-completers were motivated to stop offending and motivated for treatment; (2) compared with completers, non-completers saw ETS as less relevant and less well-timed in relation to their current concerns; (3) some non-completers found ETS too demanding, while others found ETS too slow and patronizing; and (4) working in a group was an area of dissatisfaction for non-completers. Limitations are the small sample size, varying reasons for non-completion, and gathering of offenders' views retrospectively. In future, treatment engagement should be studied prospectively, examining different categories of non-completers, and using larger samples.

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: Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2007


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