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Advancing Corrections Journal – Edition 10, 2020

The global COVID pandemic has continued to permeate our lives in significant ways. It has created a sudden and unprecedented level of social, economic and personal upheaval. It has also laid bare some of the most entrenched structural inequalities in our communities where the most vulnerable and disadvantaged have been the most affected. The COVID virus has made most of us much more acutely aware of the notion of ‘risk’, and the complicated interplay of factors that can go into calibrating risk, how much of it we wish to take, and when, where and why.

The COVID virus has presented some particular and serious risks for corrections, but RISK more broadly has long been a familiar concept in the world of corrections. Long before the advent of the RNR paradigm and our various risk assessment tools and risk management strategies, dealing with risk has always been fundamental to good correctional practice. Whenever corrections seems to excite the public’s wrath, it is typically because of some kind of misstep in addressing some kind of risk – a suicide in custody, escape, riot or disturbance, or most often, a sensationalized incident of serious re-offending. Dealing with risk is a constant, unavoidable and ubiquitous concern for corrections professionals and so we hope that the Theme of this Edition – Understanding, Assessing, Managing and Reducing RISK – will be of particular appeal.

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ARTICLE 1: FROM LABELLING BAD APPLES TO A BETTER SCIENCE OF SPOILED BARRELS

Shadd Maruna

Last October I had the privilege of delivering the Distinguished Scholar Lecture at the ICPA Annual Conference in Buenos Aires to a surprisingly attentive audience of more than 500 corrections professionals from over 70 countries. This paper is an abbreviated version of that presentation, minus most of the good jokes. The presentation was my attempt to imagine a prison psychology that was not obsessed with risk assessment. It turns out, as a famous Liverpudlian once sang, ‘It isn’t hard to do.’ A huge body of psychological research suggests that risk should be understood as a social, collective construct rather than a personality characteristic of individuals. Far from disempowering psychology, this new lens on risk can liberate the field to support desistance and reintegration without the need for stigmatising labels.
ARTICLE 2: DO RISK ASSESSMENTS PLAY A ROLE IN THE ENDURING ‘COLOR LINE’?

Yilma Woldgabreal, Andrew Day and Armon Tamatea

This paper presents some of the arguments that have been put forward to suggest that current risk assessments are inherently biased and disproportionally disadvantage people of color in Western correctional systems. We suggest that this is a key area of concern for all correctional professionals and that new methods of risk assessment and approaches to training are needed. In our view, without this people of color will continue to be misclassified, over-assessed, placed in the wrong rehabilitation pathways, imprisoned and/or supervised longer than needed, and consequently remaining overrepresented in the correctional system.

In sum, the study results provide support for the indirect effects hypothesis regarding the nature of the association between mental health conditions and crime involvement. The study also provides insights regarding the empirical validity and utility of the risk assessment tools used in corrections. Thus, the study holds significant theory, policy, and research relevance. The discussion focuses on immediate policy implications, most relevant for both institutional and community corrections.

ARTICLE 3: RISK DECAY: IMPLICATIONS FOR RISK ASSESSMENT

Ralph C. Serin

Risk instruments are a mainstay of correctional practice, informing such key decisions as custody classification, the timing of release from prison, and resource allocation for programming and supervision. Over the past 4 decades these risk instruments have evolved, yielding greater breadth in terms of content and applications for different offender subgroups and outcomes. With these changes a primary consideration has been the predictive accuracy of each instrument, often prompting users to champion one risk assessment instrument (RAI) over another. An equally central consideration is the longevity of a risk instrument and its ability to sustain accuracy over time. This paper introduces the concept of risk decay or half-life of risk instruments and discusses its implications for risk assessment.
ARTICLE 4: ASSESSING AND MANAGING OFFENSE ANALOGUE AND OFFENSE REPLACEMENT BEHAVIORS IN CORRECTIONAL SETTINGS

Mark E. Olver & Keira C. Stockdale

Dynamic security entails the use of staff interactions with correctional clientele to contribute to a safe and rehabilitative corrections environment. Offense linked proxy behaviors, known as offense analogue behaviors (OABs), represent criminogenic needs expressed in controlled correctional settings that can jeopardize safety and security. By contrast, offense replacement behaviors (ORBs) represent prosocial alternative behaviors that can supplant OABs, contribute to safe and effective corrections environments, and promote successful reintegration. The present manuscript provides an overview of the OAB and ORB concepts, their assessment, monitoring, intervention and management through both formal and informal means. In addition to correctional programming, interpersonal interactions, per core correctional practices, are crucial to reducing the presence of OABs and increasing ORBs, which also enhances dynamic security. We provide recommendations for assessing and managing OABs and ORBs through routine day-to-day operations.
ARTICLE 5: HOW DOES “CONTEXT” INFLUENCE RISK AND NEEDS ASSESSMENTS IN CORRECTIONAL SETTINGS – IDEAS AND PRACTICES FROM CORRECTIONAL PSYCHOLOGISTS OF SINGAPORE PRISON SERVICE

Boon Siang Kwek, Shamala D/O Gopalakrishnan, Xiangbin Lin, Rashida Mohamed

Correctional psychologists often adhere to comprehensive instructions of manuals and structured protocols of risk and needs assessment instruments in order to ensure that their assessment findings are accurately reported. Apart from the use of manuals and protocols, we propose that it is also important for correctional psychologists to consider the context of each assessment to produce more relevant, nuanced, and useful risk assessment findings for various decisions resulting from the assessments. In this article, we illustrate and discuss the importance of context using four mini-case studies of risk and needs assessments. Through this article, we hope to encourage fellow correctional practitioners to consider, beyond the usual offender-centric risk and protective factors, the unique contextual factors relevant to the cases they assess.
ARTICLE 6: CONSTRUCTING RISK ASSESSMENT ALGORITHMS FOR VIOLENT, DRUG AND PROPERTY-RELATED OFFENDERS: AN EMPIRICAL APPROACH

Laurence L. Motiuk & Leslie Anne Keown

In the Canadian federal correctional system, the Offender Intake Assessment (OIA) and correctional planning process are primarily focused on addressing static and dynamic risk factors. These core components of OIA were examined to determine whether algorithmic equations tailored across major offence types could potentially be used for administration by means of a hand-held mobile application. In accordance with Schedules in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, three major offence types, namely Schedule I (violent, excluding murder), Schedule II (drug), and Non-violent (property) were constructed for 6,525 male first releases over a two year period (2016-17 and 2017-18). An Offender Management System database was used to extract a set of 11 static risk indicators and 7 dynamic domain ratings for each case. Also gathered from OMS was whether or not there were any returns to federal custody. A combined static and dynamic risk index yielded impressive predictions of custodial return for violent, drug and property-related offenders with significant AUCs of .76, .70 and .71, respectively. These results suggest that combining static and dynamic factors into scoring algorithms for major offence types can be useful for moving offender risk assessment further towards streamlined applications technology.
ARTICLE 7: CASTING LIGHT ON PRISON VIOLENCE: MANAGING SITUATIONAL RISK FACTORS

David J Cooke

Systematic approaches to risk assessment and risk management have made dramatic progress in the last three decades. Unsurprisingly, the focus has been on risk factors intrinsic to the individual—e.g., their history of violence, substance misuse disorder, personality pathology or violent ideation. This focus has relevance but also reflects the fundamental attribution bias, that is, the tendency, when it comes to explaining the behaviour of others, to highlight their personal characteristics and downplay contextual factors. This is the opposite of what we do when explaining our own behaviour! When it comes to violence in prisons, the context can have a substantial impact. Prisoners are not violent merely because of who they are but because of where they are—and how they are treated. My colleague Dr Lorraine Johnstone and I endeavoured to develop a procedure designed to manage situational risk factors. PRISM is a Structured Professional Judgement process designed to identify and manage the characteristics of a prison—or other secure facility—that increase the likelihood that individual prisoners will engage in violent behaviour. In this paper, I outline the origins and development of the PRISM approach, describe how it may be implemented and outline several case studies describing its application. By understanding both the individual and the institution we can prevent violence.
ARTICLE 8: EMPOWERING RISK REDUCTION: INCREASING RESPONSIVITY WITH MOTIVATIONAL INTERVIEWING

Michael D. Clark

The Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model provides an empirically validated approach for reducing risk and lowering recidivism. Through considerable research over time, the first two principles of Risk and Need have been well developed and expanded. The third core principle of Responsivity has been overlooked and has lagged behind, even though it encompasses offender engagement and motivation. The good news for correctional treatment is the focus on the responsivity principle has been increasing—and expanding. Understanding the value of engagement and motivation has sparked an expansion of specific responsivity to include the provider-offender relationship. Numerous studies on this relationship find the best reductions in recidivism come from blending control and alliance to establish a synthetic or hybrid approach—one that calls supervision staff to establish a “dual relationship.” This paper will point out the RNR model authors’ endorsements and recommendations for the use of Motivational Interviewing (MI) in correctional settings. MI’s ability to increase an offender’s readiness to change while offering direct practice methods for establishing dual relationships are explored. That MI represents the largest share of what the responsivity principle seeks to accomplish has led MI to be labeled a “natural fit” for community corrections. Several benefits that MI offers the rehabilitation process are detailed.
ARTICLE 9: AN EXPLORATORY STUDY ON THE IMPACT OF A STRENGTH-BASED AND DESISTANCE-INFORMED APPROACH TO MOTIVATIONAL FEEDBACK ON RISK/NEEDS

Shermaine Chionh, Jeslyn S. Z. Ng, and Cheng Xiang Long

This study examined if integrating strength-based and desistance elements in RNR-based risk feedback would motivate offenders to change. Eighteen drug users in the Singapore Drug Rehabilitation Centre received motivational feedback on their risk/needs identified in their Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI) assessments and were guided to identify their strengths and values in order to set life goals. Deductive thematic analysis of their goal-planner showed that those who became motivated after feedback displayed signals of motivation for change by recognizing offending problems, expressing intentions to change, and planning goals and prosocial ways to achieve them, as compared to those who did not. The findings support a practical strength based and desistance approach to motivating offenders.
ARTICLE 10: A NEURODEVELOPMENTALLY-AWARE, TRAUMA-RESPONSIVE APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING RISK

Jane Mulcahy

This article argues that our understanding of risk and criminogenic need can be greatly enhanced by incorporating developments from neuroscience and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) studies about the bio-behavioural impact of accumulating multiple stressors in childhood, especially in the absence of nurturant relationships with an always available, emotionally stable adult. Focusing correctional attention on the importance of a felt sense of safety for health and social behaviour may lead to improved individual outcomes in terms of healing, personal development, human connectedness and a reduced propensity for offending behaviour. Informed by extensive trauma training with international experts, this article weaves literature from various disciplines, including mainstream criminology, developmental psychology, critical psychiatry and neurobiology with the narratives of three prisoner interviewees from the author’s recently submitted PhD research to shed light on the problematic trauma-blindness and non-existent healing focus of the dominant risk management approach.
ARTICLE 11: DOG TRAINING PROGRAMS: A STRENGTH-BASED APPROACH TO CORRECTIONAL TREATMENT

Kimberly Houser & Gennifer Furst

Traditionally, programming in carceral facilities is focused on targeting criminogenic risk through a deficit perspective – fix what is lacking or missing and you reduce recidivism. Although still focusing on criminogenic risk, carceral dog training programs (DTPs), in contrast, respond to these risks guided by a strengths-based approach. The programs encourage individuals to develop the values and skills needed to effectively obtain universal human needs such as a sense of purpose and significance, love and connection. The programs are holistic and provide positive and healing experiences that target multiple criminogenic risks while also providing protective factors such as positive influencers and support networks. The current paper provides a theoretical and evidence-informed framework for understanding the impact of DTPs and examines the use of DTPs in carceral facilities from a strengths-based perspective for supporting change and risk reduction.

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