One thing that family members of ex-convicts and the population hope for is that the offender is rehabilitated and does not go back to a life of crime.
This is not an easy feat, but according to a new report, empathy or sensitivity training for correction and probation officers will help clients avoid repeat offending.
Large workloads, stress at work, and prejudices can harm relationships between officers and their offenders, increasing the probability of inmates returning to prison.
Empathy training without judgment, according to a positive thinking strategy produced by UC Berkeley, makes court-appointed monitoring officers feel increasingly compassionate and empathetic to the offenders, which, according to the new report, can prevent them from crime relapses.
The results, which were reported recently in the publication “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” indicate that clients of probation and prison guards who engaged in the empathy training trial had a 13 percent lower risk of recurrence on average.
According to research writer and lead author Jason Okonofua, an associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, “If an officer obtained this empathic instruction, real-world behavioral results for the people they monitored improved, and they’re less likely to return to jail.”
The findings are especially important because the United States’ criminal justice system has one of the greatest rates of recidivism in the world, with nearly 66 percent of incarcerated individuals being arrested again in about three years after their release, with 50 percent of them being sent back to prison.
“Ongoing criminal justice changes are diverting more people away from prison and into probation or parole, which is why we need to find scalable ways to keep pace with this change,” says Okonofua, who has led similar interventions for school teachers to check their prejudices before disciplining students.
The analysts polled over two hundred parole and probation officers that supervise over 20,000 individuals charged with crimes stretching from serious offenses to petty larceny for the report. They ensure that their clients do not skip a drug screen or a court date, and they have a program to assist them in keeping a low profile and out of custody.
The researchers created and conducted a half an hour digital empathy questionnaire that asked officers about their work motivation, biases, and perspectives on rapport and responsibilities.
Using Suggestion To Elicit Empathy
The UC Berkeley poll asked what aspects of their work they find rewarding in order to elicit their sense of self and beliefs, as well as tap into their empathy. “When I run across those guys, and they’re doing well, I’m like, ‘Awesome!’” said, one respondent. Others said it was most essential to them to become a voice for those who need it.
In terms of biases, the study highlighted extreme circumstances wherein probation/parole officers exploited their authority over anybody under their watch, which include perceptions that some individuals are habituated to a life of crime.
Participants were also asked to rank how much accountability they share for their colleagues’ wrongdoings as members of a profession. The majority of people said they had no liability.
Researchers discovered a 13 percent reduction in recidivism among offenders whose release and correctional officers finished the empathy study ten months after the training was provided. The department and its venue are not to be revealed as part of the research policy.
Although the research did not include information about what kept parolees and individuals on probation from reoffending in the months following the officers’ empathy training, the findings indicate that a shift in relationship dynamics was significant.
Okonofua said, “As our research demonstrates, the interaction amongst parole or probation officers and the individuals they oversee is crucial and can contribute to positive results if attempts to be more accommodating are made.