Relationships between a probation officer and an offender are an actual topic of discussion within the framework of effective offenders social rehabilitation. This paper considers the role of the officer in the process of offenders change and the ways the officer may employ to stimulate transformation. Recent researches proved the effectiveness of interpersonal communication between an officer and an offender. The paper provides basic methodologies for successful communication with an offender and demonstrates how an officer may play a key role in further socialization of an offender. There are three core principles and five core practices that give positive results in changing process. The paper clearly explains the point of each principle and practice and the circumstances under which they should be used. The moral values that should be dominant during the interaction with an offender are also addressed. The importance of these values is conditioned by the effect, which they have on offenders behavior. Therefore, the paper demonstrates how a probation officer influences the behavior of an offender.
Keywords: offender, behavior, rehabilitation, influence, change
Can Probation Officers Change an Offender?
Place New Order
The role of probation officer in the process of offenders rehabilitation has recently changed. Effective correctional intervention received its recognition because this is a way that helps to decrease the risk of recidivism among offenders. Sociologists have already developed various approaches and methodologies, which enable probation officers to become key figures in changing offenders social behavior. Therefore, probation officer as a person who regularly interacts with an offender and observes his or her line of behavior in different situations has many opportunities to find an approach to a person and help him or her to change.
To reach positive results in changing an offender, a probation officer should take into account the principles of effective intervention and follow the core interventional practices. Even though many scientists, including Martens, expressed their disbelief in the effectiveness of offenders treatment, the others continued to investigate this issue and, as a result, developed basic principles, on which probation officers may rely now during their change-oriented mission. They are also called RNR (principles of risk, need, and responsivity) (Andrews & Bonta, 2010). The point of the risk principle is that static (criminal background records) and dynamic (peers, alcohol/drug addiction) risk factors may provide one with the information about the probability of criminal behavior. The principle of need focuses on the determination of risk factors and development of preventive plan to eliminate the possibility of criminal behavior. According to the principle of responsivity, the treatment process accompanied by the usage of social theories, such as behavioral and cognitive, leads to the best results. Responsivity also includes placing emphasis on offenders strong sides and motivating them in the process of communication as a way to increase offenders belief in the ability to change and desire to achieve this goal (Andrews & Bonta, 2010). According to the researches conducted in 2010, correctional programs that employ at least one of the mentioned principles have lower rates of recidivism in comparison to those programs that do not use any of the above principle. Naturally, programs based on the implementation of two or three principles have even lower rates of recidivism (Andrews & Bonta, 2010). Scientifically proven, effectiveness of the RNR principles determines actions of probation officers. According to them, the officer should first define the probability of criminal behavior. Second, they should develop preventative measures to avoid the danger of recidivism. Third, they are expected to influence the offenders model of behavior relying on the understanding of social concepts.
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The next important step in achieving a positive impact on offenders behavior is to choose an appropriate variant of correctional practice. In 1980, researchers developed five basic approaches targeted at changing offenders behavior. They consist of anticriminal modeling and its strengthening, application of public power, problem resolution, use of community resources and attention to the development of confidential relations between an offender and probation officer. Probation officers should use their authority strictly but fear. It means that the reasons for its use must be predictable for an offender in the case of inappropriate behavior and the outcomes of its application should be successful (Dowden & Andrews, 2004). Development of the anticriminal model of behavior and its strengthening implies officers ability to become a model of social behavior for an offender. This ability may be presented in different variants: demonstration of social benefits that an offender may get from correct behavior, stimulation of proper behavior, explanation of what socially proper behavior means and discussion of its details, demonstration of social equality between an offender and the officer. Development of problem resolution skills requires the officer to prepare an offender for possible provocative situations and to explain how to deal with them. The point of the final element of core correctional principles is in the creation of friendly, mutually respectful and trusted atmosphere between an offender and an officer. This practice is the most important at the beginning as only after the establishment of good relationships, the officer will be able to help an offender to change. Despite numerous researches and statistics that clearly prove the effectiveness of CCP, there are still not many correctional programs that include them. However, there has been recently a positive tendency in the increase in developed program projects based on CCP (Bonta, et al., 2004). Therefore implementation of CCP in the process of interaction with an offender is an obligatory action, which an officer must take.
Since the establishment of positive relationships between an offender and officer is a major condition of further successful rehabilitation, this aspect of officers actions deserves special attention. The main challenge that an officer faces in relations with an offender is finding a balance between protection of public order from offenders criminal behavior and building friendly relations with an offender. For this purpose, there are three models of community supervision, which may help an officer in changing an offender. The first model focuses on surveillance as the main tool for rehabilitation. The second model concentrates on the social aspect of offenders improvement and requires more personal participation of the officer in the formation of offenders corrected outlook. Its idea is connected with the treatment-oriented approach to the offender. The third model is the combination of the mentioned above two models with the prevalence of one or another, depending on circumstances of a concrete situation (Ward, 2008). Therefore, the task of an officer is to correctly choose the model, which will be the basis of further relations with an offender. A probation officer should take into account all necessary factors, including a personal psychological type of an offender to make this choice correctly.
Though scientifically recognized principles and practices of offenders rehabilitation proved their effectiveness, the officer will not be able to use them properly without referencing to basic moral values. One of them is Saint Leos core value of respect. The importance of this value during interpersonal communication between an offender and an officer cannot be overestimated. Social opinion about people with a criminal background has many unfair stereotypes, which make offenders feel worse than other members of society. Under these circumstances, officers attention to offenders individuality, personal positive features and talents will help them to overcome social pressure and strengthen their self-esteem. Confidence in respect of others is the main prerequisite of offenders behavioral transformation as a person who made mistakes previously has many fears and hesitations as to whether he or she may return to normal way. In such an emotionally vulnerable period, an offender perceives social attitude as one of the key factors when answering this question. Therefore, demonstration of respect for offenders personality is necessary not only from the moral point of view, but also from scientific one. Respect will help to prevent an offender from returning to criminal behavior and develop trusted relations with them.
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that each member of society may make mistakes. When these mistakes have criminal character, it may lead to different forms of freedom limitations. However, the main aim of such measures is not punitive but preventative and correctional. Changing offenders behavioral model is important both for society and the offender themselves. Society will significantly decrease crime rate only when offenders change the approach to their personal role in society, and community will accept offenders only when they change their outlook. Therefore, probation officers are those people who have the power to influence offenders and stimulate them to change. Correctly chosen strategies of interaction enable the officer to significantly change an offender in a good way.