Saturday, February 13, 2010

New Study: Treatment Reduces Crime Rates

A new study published in the Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Review may provides some insight into declining crime rates over the last 20 years. The study authored by Gregory L. Little, Ed.D. and Kenneth D. Robinson, Ed.D. is the first known 20-year recidivism comparison of a treatment program utilized in the criminal justice system.

The study followed nearly 1,500 offenders, some of whom participated in moral reconation therapy (MRT). In the late 1980's, MRT was introduced in correctional settings and provided for small groups of offenders to meet multiple times a week with a trained facilitator to participate in exercises and homework to influence changes in the offender's criminal thinking and behavior.

After 20 years, the authors compared the criminal history of those who participated in MRT and those who did not participate. Those offenders with MRT were 21-percent less likely to be reincarcerated. One in five MRT graduates had no criminal offenses over the 20 years. For those offenders without MRT, a little more 1 in 20 had clean records over 20 years.

Let's say one-million offenders received MRT over the last 20 years. Two-hundred-thousand of those offenders have since lived a crime free life. The state of Ohio provides another perspective on the impact of offender treatment. There are approximately 50,000 offenders housed in Ohio correctional facilities. If every inmate would participate in MRT, Ohio should expect a 21-percent reduction in the number of offenders returned to prison.

The accepted recidivism rate for offenders returning to prison within three years is 66-percent. A 21-percent reduction in recidivism due to MRT would decrease Ohio's prison population by nearly 7,000 inmates. At $24,000-a-year per inmate Ohio could save $160-million a year.

Crime has declined nationwide over the last 20 years. We have heard the decline attributed to better policing, more police officers, decline in crack cocaine use, easing of gun control regulations, fewer young people, better trauma care and even abortion. It appears that criminologists have overlooked the impact of offender interventions like MRT, substance abuse treatment and vocational training in reducing crime rates.

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