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Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction IPP - Criminogenic Needs

Part of the Reentry philosophy is based on the idea that we should recognize and take advantage of what numerous research studies have shown to be effective in terms of correctional programming. In order to be able to do this, we need to understand the notion of "criminogenic needs."

Criminogenic Needs

A lot of research in the past twenty years has amply demonstrated that certain types of correctional programs have been clearly shown to be more effective in reducing recidivism. In predicting recidivism, we know that there are a number of "static" factors that are predictive. These are factors such as age, juvenile and adult criminal history, etc. Programming cannot change these static factors, but it can address other predictive factors that influence an offender's current behavior, values, and attitudes.

These areas, which a) have been shown to be associated with recidivism and b) can be changed, are called criminogenic needs. Which dynamic factors are actually criminogenic needs and which are not does not always match some of the commonly held perceptions and beliefs of corrections staff. For example, it is likely that many people working in corrections environments would quickly identify an inadequate educational background as a criminogenic need for many offenders. Research, however, has shown that educational level in and of itself is not predictive of recidivism. The major predictor is employment. So, if an offender's educational deficiencies impair his/her ability to secure and retain employment, then education is a criminogenic need; if the offender's educational achievement level does not negatively affect his/her ability to secure and retain employment, then education is not a criminogenic need, regardless of how low that educational level might be.

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Briefly stated, research has shown the following types of needs to be criminogenic:

  • Anti-social personality
  • Anti-social attitudes and values
  • Anti-social associates
  • Family dysfunction
  • Poor self-control, poor problem-solving skills
  • Substance abuse
  • Lack of employment/employment skills

Similarly, we know that certain types of programming that have been used extensively in correctional settings do not work:

  • Boot camps
  • Punishment-oriented programs
  • Control-oriented programs
  • Non-directive psychological interventions
  • Self-esteem programs

The Corrections Service of Canada has for a number of years based its array of correctional programs on what the professional literature reveals about offender criminogenic needs. They organized what was known about effective programming into seven major areas of programming (called "domains"):

DRC has also adopted these domains to organize the programming we offer as part of the Reentry initiative. New inmates are screened for risk and needs upon entry into the prison system, and their programming agenda for their stay in prison is determined in large measure by the needs they have. Programming needs not addressed before release may be handled during the community supervision period.

The following sections provide a more detailed discussion of the individual criminogenic needs domains the types of programs that will be used to address the assessed needs of offenders.

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EMPLOYMENT

Factors Considered: This domain deals with the role of work in the offender's life. Needs indicators include employment history, if any; positive and negative aspects of work history (such as job performance, absenteeism, unstable work record, having been fired, inability to earn sufficient salary to live on, having difficulty with co-workers and/or superiors), educational deficiencies (including intelligence, learning disabilities), and vocational skills).

Programming Focus: Programming in this domain should focus on achievement in academic or vocational education programs, completion of an apprenticeship, career training in a field suitable for post-release employment, and other programs designed to assist offenders in looking for, applying for, and retaining a job.

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SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Factors Considered: This domain is concerned with an offender's problems, if any, with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and with any prior treatment programs. It includes details concerning the substance abuse, the extent to which alcohol or other drugs interfered with the offender's pro-social experiences (such as marital/family relations, employment, and social situations), and information about prior substance abuse treatment programming.

Programming Focus: Programming in this domain should focus on actual treatment services designed to educate inmates about alcohol and other drug abuse, to help offenders abstain from the abuse of these substances, and to provide offenders with tools to recognize and stop the relapse into substance abusing behavior.

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MARITAL/FAMILY

Factors Considered: This domain is concerned with an offender's family relationships. Needs indicators include relationships with parents and siblings, absence of parents, history of family abuse and/or criminality, marital history, dependants, parenting skills, and involvement in child abuse.

Programming Focus: Programming in this domain should focus on building support from the offender's family members, teaching parenting skills, and reinforcing offender responsibility for dependent children.

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ASSOCIATES/SOCIAL INTERACTION

Factors Considered: This domain focuses on the characteristics and qualities of the offender's interactions with others, particularly the offender's peer group(s). Anti-social associates and interaction patterns are of special interest. Needs indicators include the extent to which the offender interacts with and is influenced by others with a pro-criminal lifestyle, gang membership, and interactions with others characterized by predation.

Programming Focus: Programming in this domain should focus on an understanding of the consequences of anti-social associates and their influence on behavior, understanding of the offender's role in the social interaction process (whether the offender is a predator or is too easily influences by others), and identification of an appropriate pro-social support network.

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COMMUNITY FUNCTIONING

Factors Considered: This domain considers the offender's capability for functioning adequately in the community. The domain covers a wide range of community living skills: stable, well-maintained place of residence, health, hygiene and nutrition, financial management skills, appropriate leisure time activities, and awareness of available social assistance programs.

Programming Focus: Programming in this domain should focus on knowledge and skill acquisition in the specific areas of deficiency. Additionally, general "life skills" programs and release preparation programming will contribute to addressing needs in this area.

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PERSONAL/EMOTIONAL ORIENTATION

Factors Considered: This domain covers a multi-faceted and wide range of personal and emotional need factors that have been shown to be predictive of criminal and recidivistic behavior. This dimension includes needs that fall into three major categories:

  • Cognitive defects, which include problem-solving, inter-personal relationship skills,inability to understand the feelings of others, and narrow, rigid thinking.
  • Behavioral problems, including behaviors likely to result in negative consequences, suchas impulsivity, risk-taking, aggression, anger, frustration tolerance and gambling.
  • Personal Characteristics, which may increase the likelihood that the offender will beinvolved in criminal behavior (e.g., personality dispositions, behavioral preferences [including inappropriate sexual attitudes or preferences], and mental status characteristics).

Programming Focus:

  • Some programming for need in this domain will be diagnosed and treated by the Mental Health staff. Programming for the remainder of offenders will focus on addressing cognitiveand behavioral needs in the areas of problem-solving, coping with stress, management of anger, cognitive restructuring, and impulsive decision-makings or risk-taking behavior.
  • Personal Characteristics, which may increase the likelihood that the offender will be involved in criminal behavior (e.g., personality dispositions, behavioral preferences [including inappropriate sexual attitudes or preferences], and mental status characteristics.
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ATTITUDE

Factors Considered: This domain considers the characteristics and extent of the offender's pro-social and anti-social attitudes. It is concerned with favorable attitudes toward crime and violence and minimization of the impacts of criminal behavior and disregard for convention, the justice system, and the rights of others.

Programming Focus: Programming in this domain should focus on developing and fostering non-criminal thinking, emphasis on victim awareness and empathy, and the development of pro-social values.

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