Multi‑Country Study Confirms Access to Specialized Therapy Reduces Reoffense Rates for Violence, Sex Crimes


Sep 9, 2019


A first-of-its-kind analysis of research and data confirms there is hope regarding the rehabilitation of criminally abusive individuals. The analysis, published in Clinical Psychology Review, reviewed 70 previous studies as well as 55,000 individual offenders convicted of domestic, sexual and general violence from five countries (U.K., Canada, U.S., Australia, New Zealand) to understand if tailored psychological treatments could reduce recidivism, or, re-offending.

The analysis examined sexual offense, domestic violence, and general violence programs — but sexual offenses and domestic violence were targeted in the majority of the specialized psychological programs offered to offenders in both correctional and community settings.

According to the study’s observations, individuals who were treated by psychologists committed the same crime again at the rate of 13.4%, as compared to a re-offense rate of 19.4% for untreated individuals. This rate comparison was derived after a period of 66.1 months from the time of individuals’ release dates. Roughly one-third of sexual offenders and domestic violence perpetrators, as well as one-quarter of general violence perpetrators, who received therapy did not reoffend. The likelihood of these individuals committing other crimes also reduced significantly.

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All treatment utilized in these studies fell under the ambit of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is a type of psychotherapy that helps patients link thoughts and feelings to behavior, improve emotional regulation and put better coping mechanisms in place for when problems arise.

A drop in reoffense rates was also linked to when a qualified psychologist advised and supervised the staff that carried out specialized therapy for the offenders. Specific group-based treatment, rather than mixed or individual treatment, produced the most reduction in reoffending. Treatment focused on reducing inappropriate sexual arousal also led to a significant reduction in reoffending for sexual violence offenders.

“The results of this study are good news. They suggest that treatment can be effective, particularly if care and attention is paid to who delivers the treatment as well as how treatment is implemented,” said Professor Theresa Gannon, lead author, a chartered forensic psychologist and Director of Kent’s Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology, in a statement.

The study recommended that policymakers work to optimize programs geared towards reducing reoffense by bringing in qualified psychologists, and by controlling program implementation. In India, an approach created to rehabilitate offenders and reduce their potential to re-offend might help provide access to mental health care to imprisoned people who previously have never had any, eventually reduce the prison population, and make society safer for marginalized groups. However, considering that the number of mental health providers remains critically low in India — while the potential for rehabilitation is promising, realizing it remains a distant goal.


Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a culture writer at The Swaddle. Previously, she worked as a freelance journalist focused on gender and cities. Find her on social media @aditimurti.


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