Universiteit Leiden

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Targeting recidivism

On Thursday 26 January 2017 Anouk Bosma will defend her doctoral thesis ‘Targeting recidivism: An evaluation study into the functioning and effectiveness of a prison-based treatment program’. The defence will start at 15.00 hrs, at the Academy Building of Leiden University, Rapenburg 73. Supervisor was Professor Paul Nieuwbeerta, and co-supervisor was Dr Maarten Kunst.

The Reducing Recidivism programme

To tackle the high level of recidivism among ex-prisoners in the Netherlands, a nationally implemented programme called Terugdringen Recidive (Reducing Recidivism) was launched in 2007: A resocialisation programme aimed at reducing recidivism among prisoners who had been given a prison sentence of minimum four months. Until now, no information was available on the extent to which the programme has been successful in reducing recurring crime among the participants.   Bosma studies the functioning and effectiveness of the programme by evaluating the plan,  the process and the product.  As a result it was possible to check 1) to what extent the Reducing Recidivism programme has been effective, based on theoretical and empirical knowledge; (2) to what extent the Reducing Recidivism programme functioned properly according to plan; and (3) to what extent the Reducing Recidivism programme has been effective in reducing recurring crime among the program participants? To answer these research questions, Bosma performed a literature study and consulted a research group of 3,981 prisoners, whose data had been taken from a large number of registration files.

Main conclusions

Bosma’s research first clearly shows that the Reducing Recidivism programme can be considered to be both promising and ambitious, since it applies methods that have proven to be effective on the basis of theory and previous research. However, the research also demonstrates that the implementation of the programme has certain shortcomings. Various problems with the implementation of the programme have had an adverse effect. To start with, only a small group of prisoners could be considered for the programme as a result of very strict selection criteria. The drop-out rate in the programme has proved to be very high (both for participation and non-completion), which in most cases was caused by circumstances related to the organisation of the programme. In addition the study shows that in most cases prisoners were not referred on to some form of behavioural intervention, and the prisoners who were referred were not referred to a programme geared to their individual characteristics. As a result of these shortcomings, the Reducing Recidivism programme was only able to reach a very small group of prisoners. These participants usually only followed a standard programme that did not include behavioural interventions aimed at addressing the factors that are linked to recurring criminal behaviour. Finally, the research demonstrated that the Reducing Recidivism programme only had a small effect on the recidivism figures of the group of offenders that followed a standard programme. Behavioural interventions - usually indicated as the most important cornerstone of the Reducing Recidivism programme -  were also not effective. Though the results of the research are significant, there are reservations about the findings. A large, though rather specific group of prisoners was used for the research and Bosma had to base her analysis solely on registration data. Bosma therefore believes that more research is necessary in order to get an even better picture of the effectiveness of resocialisation programmes in Dutch prisons.

About the author

Anouk Bosma has worked at the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology since 2010, first as research coordinator of the Prison Project, a large scale research project on the effects of detention. On this project she was responsible for data collection and was involved in collecting and analysing various sources of registration data. In 2012 she started her doctoral research. Since October 2016 Anouk is a lecturer on criminology at the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology.

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