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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Community sentences and re-offending

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There is a clear evidence base to show that good relationships between offenders and their supervisors are important for the identification of needs, ongoing engagement with their sentence, and ultimately for rehabilitation. The research shows that successful supervision requires

What factors are linked to re-offending?

A recent (29 January 2015) study from the MoJ: “Reoffending by offenders on Community Orders: results from the Offender Management Community Cohort Study” examines a number of factors associated with reoffending including offenders’ needs and their relationships with their offender manager.

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The study

The report summarises findings from the Offender Management Community Cohort Study (OMCCS), a longitudinal cohort study of adult offenders who started community orders between October 2009 and December 2010.

Some of the headlines findings are unsurprising: males are more likely to reoffend (36%) than females (27%); younger offenders are more likely to reoffend (39% of 18 to 20-year-olds compared with 28% of those 40 years old or over); and the rate of reoffending increases with the number of previous convictions.

However, there are some more interesting findings in the detail of the report.

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Offenders’ needs

Again, unsurprisingly, the rate of reoffending increases with the number of criminogenic needs identified in OASys. It was especially high for drug misusers, and even more so if they also had an employment or housing need. 86% drug misusing offenders had three or more of these needs recorded in OASys. We know from recent research that there are at least 57,000 homeless, drug and/or alcohol dependent offenders in the treatment system in any one year.

The one-year reoffending rate for drug misusers was 55% compared to 24% of those who did not have a drug problem.

The table below shows the relationship between need and re-offending rates:

reoffending by need

Offender relationships with supervising officer

There is a clear evidence base to show that good relationships between offenders and their supervisors are important for the identification of needs, ongoing engagement with their sentence, and ultimately for rehabilitation. The research shows that successful supervision requires the development of trust, flexibility, a constructive and consistent relationship and the availability of sufficient resources such as time and locations to hold meetings. It also shows that poor relationships may harm desistance from offending behaviour.

Predictably, therefore, offenders who said that they had an ‘excellent’ relationship with their Offender Manager were less likely to re-offend (30%) than those with an ‘OK’ relationship (40%). Offenders were asked for their views at different points in their community sentence and a change in their opinion of the quality of their relationship with their probation officer – positively or negatively – was reflected in a similar change in their likelihood of reoffending.

Interestingly, the frequency of meetings between probation officer and offender had no impact on reoffending. However, offenders who had longer meetings with their supervisor (an hour or more rather than 10-19 minutes) were less likely to reoffend.

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Conclusions

The report contains a full list of factors which were found to be associated with a higher rate of reoffending. Offenders were more likely to reoffend if they:

  • were male
  • had a higher likelihood of re-offending (measured by OGRS);
  • committed an acquisitive index offence, compared with violence;
  • had a drug misuse need in the early months of the Community Order;
  • had an unstable accommodation need;
  • had a pro-criminal attitude;
  • disagreed that their Offender Manager understood their needs;
  • met with their Offender Managers for 10–19 minutes, compared with those meeting for an hour or more; and
  • met with their Offender Managers less than once a month, compared with once a week, while those who met with their Offender Managers once a week were more likely to re-offend compared with those who met once every two or three weeks.

It will be interesting to see if the new private probation providers take these findings into account as they seek to supervise more offenders with a smaller budget.

 

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