Stratagies for Tacling Offending Behaviour

‘Cognitive Behavioural programmes would be most effective if delivered alongside partnerships focused on practical ways of tackling the multiple day to day problems from which a high proportion of offenders suffer’. Critically evaluate this statement drawing upon the academic literature, including theory, and your own practice experience. This essay aims to critically evaluate the use of Cognitive Behavioural Programmes (CBT) within probation practice and assess whether such programmes are more or less successful if run alongside partnership work to tackle an offenders criminogenic needs.

The essay will begin by looking at the introduction of CBT programmes in relation to the ‘Effective Practice’ principles. The essay will go on to look at what difficulties may arise in partnership work with group certain categories of offender; in particular issues surrounding mentally disordered offenders and female offenders. Throughout the essay I will be referring to case examples drawn from my own experience in working with CBT programmes and in multiagency working.

In 1995 a Probation Circular (77/1995) required the Probation service to review their current and planned programmes against the ‘What Works’ initiative and effective practice principles. There was a push for results-led practice in community interventions that could stand the test of accountability (Chui, 2003, p59). Research looked at the Cognitive Behavioural based approach to programmes which was already being offered within the Prison service (Friendship et al 2001). Whilst the probation service had been using a variety of un-evaluated programmes the prison service had developed a ‘quality assurance system based on an accreditation procedure for group programmes’ (Raynor, 2002, p1189). The Home Office decided that the Probation Service should follow suit and in 1999 a Joint Prison and Probation Accreditation panel was formed to ‘quality assure’ the delivery of Probation and Prison run rehabilitative CBT programmes (Hendderman & Hough, 2004, p153).

At the same time as these changes the Crime and Disorder Act 1999 pushed for ‘joined up’ multiagency work ethic in order as to get ‘Tough on Crime’ and move forward using ‘joined up solutions’ and a ‘devolution of power to local people rationale’ (Pitts, 2000, p). The research into ‘What Works’ in preventing reoffending was done using meta analysis to evaluate side by side data (McGuire & Priestly, 1995, p7). It identified effective practice to be ‘any treatment or intervention that achieved the desired outcome’, which in the case of effective practice in probation, is a reduction in reoffending (McGuire and Priestly, 1995, p4). The principles defined in achieving effective practice have been identified as ‘Risk, Responsivity, Need and Integrity’ (Chapman & Hough, 1998, p6).

An evaluation of the ‘Straight Thinking on Probation’ (STOP) programme run by a Welsh Probation area demonstrated a decrease in reconviction rates for those who had completed the programme (Chui, 2003, p59). Indeed further research by Friendship et al (2002) evaluated the effect of CBT programmes on prisoners between 1992-1996. Friendship et al (2002) found that reconviction rates fell considerably when a prisoner had successfully completed a CBT programme. It was based on such research that the Probation service could recognise effective practice in regards to CBT Programmes.

Cognitive Behavioural Theory draws on two earlier theories- cognitive theory and behavioural theory. Behavioural theorists argue that individuals are responsive to their environment and thus their behaviour follows suit, whereas Cognitive theory concentrates on how a person processes information under their own perception, which may lead to offending behaviour (Cherry, 2005, p16). Probation accredited programmes developed to incorporate both these aspects; thus they incorporate skills in moral reasoning alongside social cognition.

Bandura (1977) discusses the need to address both cognitive and behavioural skills in his discussions regarding his ‘social learning theory’ which argues these skills are often lost through poor socialisation, poor parenting and poor role models (Palmer, 2003, p160). Cognitive Behavioural treatment is now integral to the work done by the probation service and lies within most Probation accredited group programmes (Raynor, 2002, p1186).

Some criticise this accreditation system stating that the wide scale implementation of group programmes is contradictory to ‘effective practice’. For example some argue that there lies a problem in terms of the ‘Integrity’ of the group programme as a result of them being rolled out on a National scale (Brooks et al. 2007, p19). In order for group programmes to become accredited they must adhere to strict guidelines as previously mentioned. The programme is thus replicated nationally. The problem with this replication is that it may affect the responsivity of the programme as there is limited capacity for flexibility (Brooks et al, 200,p39).

The Euro centricity of probation group programmes was also a matter raised by the Joint Prison/Probation Accreditation Panel (2001-2002). Research was undertaken by interviewing Black and Asian prisoners in 14 prisoners -it found that half the men spoken to had concerns over race and cultural issues. In light of this a decision was made to incorporate diversity issues through accredited programmes. It may be argued that it is not only the needs of BME offenders that must be better met, but other minority groups such as female offenders, mentally disordered offenders and those with cognitive deficits or learning disabilities. Interagency working has long been seen as the best approach when addressing the needs of Mentally Disordered offenders. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 recognises and sets out statutory duties for multiagency practice in this area.

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