Domestic violence reduction programmes show ‘disappointing’ results

Review finds non-custodial sentences aid in reducing general reoffending

Prof Ian O’Donnell: “Procedural unfairness communicates disrespect and disregard, leading to further alienation, resistance and noncompliance.”

Prof Ian O’Donnell: “Procedural unfairness communicates disrespect and disregard, leading to further alienation, resistance and noncompliance.”

 

Programmes targeting repeat domestic violence offenders have disappointing outcomes while similar interventions for sexual offenders show only modest results, according to new research.

The findings are contained in a evidence review commissioned by the Department of Justice into methods of preventing reoffending.

Prof Ian O’Donnell of University College Dublin studied recidivism rates and prevention programmes around the world and identified several risk factors for reoffending including previous convictions, unemployment and drug abuse.

Offenders who believe they have been treated fairly by the justice system also less likely to reoffend, Prof O’Donnell said. “Procedural unfairness communicates disrespect and disregard, leading to further alienation, resistance and noncompliance.”

According to the most recent statistics, in Ireland 45.8 per cent of released prisoners commit another crime within three years of release. For offenders managed by the Probation Service the figure is 43.3 per cent.

Prof O’Donnell found suspended sentences or community service can be more effective in reducing reoffending compared to short prison terms. The number of people sentenced to fewer than three months in prison has risen sharply in Ireland in recent years.

Structured early release and parole can also have a positive impact on reducing reoffending, the study found.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was found to have a significant impact on reducing reoffending when it is delivered in prison and in the community.

However educational programmes aimed at preventing recidivism in domestic violence offenders show “disappointing” results, Prof O’Donnell said.

In one the studies, involving 52 men convicted of domestic violence in the UK, only “limited psychological change” was evident after they went through a “pro-feminist psychoeducational rehabilitation programme.”

Some men showed no improvement while others regressed, suggesting the programme may have increased their risk of reoffending.

Another study in Sweden involving 340 men convicted of intimate partner violence found a rehabilitation programme resulted in no statistically significant reduction in recidivism rates.

The report said it is difficult to discern reoffending rates for sexual offenders as they are typically among the least likely cohorts to reoffend. A 2004 study of of 419 adult male sex offenders found 24.6 per cent were reconvicted of a sexual offence in the 21 years after their release while 21.7 per cent were convicted of a violent but non-sexual offence.

“As a group, sex offenders have received a great deal of attention and some treatment programmes have led to statistically significant – but modest – reductions in recidivism,” Prof O’Donnell’s report states.