Rehabilitating serious violent adult offenders: an empirical and theoretical stocktake
Extensive meta-analyses of the correctional programme evaluation literature have generated developments in the technology of programme design. However, the risk, need and responsivity principles do not constitute a rehabilitation theory and cannot answer specialist offender programme design questions. After more than a decade of involvement in programmes for seriously violent offenders, we decided to reassess the empirical evidence underpinning violence rehabilitation in adult men. We focused on both mixed and violent offender samples, reviewing the outcome data from nine evaluations of cognitive-behavioural interventions. Despite a plethora of methodological difficulties, it appears that most of the programmes had small to large effects on violent and non-violent recidivism. Little could be concluded from these evaluations about the most promising theoretical framework for future programme development. Most programmes contained only scant information on their underlying theory base. None referred to multivariate aggression or crime theories. We conclude that there is a pressing need for additional evaluative research, and theory development. To date, the case for specialist violent offending programmes has not been made.
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