An Investigation of Completion Status of a Cognitive Behavioral Intervention in a Population of Offenders on Probation

Date

2007-08-08

Authors

Gonzalez, Paul Lee

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Abstract

An alternative to traditional punishment and incarceration has been to place individuals who commit crimes under the supervision of a community agency for a specific period of time. These probation sentences are instituted for the purpose of reducing the cost to the state of incarcerating offenders while maintaining deterrence against new offenses. Since the goal of such agencies is to reduce both costs and new offenses by convicted criminals, they are constantly searching for ways to do both. Toward this end, certain programs, based on cognitive behavioral interventions, have been developed for use in these populations. One such program, Thinking for a Change, is used in the Dallas County Community Supervision and Corrections Department. A prior investigation of the Thinking for a Change program matched program completers to a control group and found the program to be effective at increasing interpersonal and problem solving skills, as well as reducing recidivism. As a follow up investigation, the current study looked at differences between offenders who complete the program and those who drop out. A sample group of probationers were selected from referrals made over a period of four years in order to determine what outcomes can be expected from a typical program participant. Demographic variables, initial risk assessment, program completion, severity of initial and subsequent offenses, probation revocation, and recidivism data was collected and analyzed to determine differences between program completers and dropouts as well as which variables were predictive of success in completing the program and completing probation without revocation. Findings suggest that demographic variables and initial risk assessment predicted program completion, completion of probation without revocation, and recidivism. In addition, program dropouts had higher rates of recidivism and more probation revocations than those who complete the program. Additional research is needed on the relationship between program completion and psychological variables associated with personal, social and economic stressors. Potential studies should focus on the use of newer, improved risk assessment measures and ways to implement cognitive behavioral programs in order to increase access to probationers and reduce dropouts.

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