Theories of Criminal Behavior That Have Exhibited Influence on Today's Correctional System Thesis

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The objective of this work is to discuss theories of criminal behavior that have exhibited influence on today's correctional system and to support this opinion through providing examples of that influence.

Nonlinear Dynamics of Criminal Behavior Examined

The work of Thomas K. Arnold entitled: "The Nonlinear Dynamics of Criminal Behavior" states that one of the most enduring puzzles in criminology is the combination of both stability and change in criminal behavior over the life course." (2008) Arnold relates that many questions remain unanswered in criminology in regards to the "temporal stability of the criminal offender's risk of committing new crimes." (2008) it has been suggested by some including Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) that over the life course the level of risk is stable and eventually declines due to age effects on the individual. However, others including Sampson and Laub (1993) believe that the levels of risk are more dynamic in nature and over time are likely to change if the offender's immediate environment is conducive to change.

This issue is also examined in the work of Paternoster (2000) and specifically as to whether criminal activity level may be accredited to individual differences in the likelihood for criminal behavior or whether this should be attributed to the offender's changing circumstances in life. Arnold states that issues such as these "have important implications for corrections practice, risk prediction research and theory building in criminology." (2008)

The reason that the study of these factors and their implications to theory is the need for corrections officials to understand the principles of research that is longitudinal in nature and as to what changes in risk might be expected. Arnold states that there are two primary areas that should concern the practitioner:

(1) Dynamic measurement; and (2) the level of change to expect. (2008)

Arnold (2008) additionally relates that it is important to know have "guidance in the area of measurement and the level of change to expect in any given time period...since corrections departments work with the largest population of offenders under supervision."

For this reason the field of corrections "...has taken a much more dynamic approach to risk than traditional criminologists and most corrections department sue some form of structured dynamic risk assessment instrument for offender classification." (Hubbard, et al., 2001 in: Arnold, 2008)

II. LIS-R and LIS in Risk Assessment

Structured dynamic risk assessment instruments are utilized in measuring various static risk indicators including history of criminality as well as time risk indicators including drug use and unemployment. From this a risk score is calculated that is typically linked in linear fashion to the likelihood of recidivism on the part of the criminal offender. The Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LIS-R) is used in dynamic risk measurement in assessing recidivism risk and is stated by Arnold (2008) to be " of the more accurate risk prediction instruments available" however, only 15% of correction departments in the United States utilize the LSI-R. (2008) the LSI-R is stated to be a revised version of the Level of Supervision Inventory (LSI).

The LSI uses a structured interview and criminal records search to answer fifty-four yes or no questions relating to both static and dynamic risk factors. The risk score is produced by adding the yes answers together. The LSI has the capability of measuring changes in risk that "occur over time." (Arnold, 2008)

II. Shift toward Rehabilitation in Correctional Systems

The work of Astrid Birgden entitled: "Therapeutic Jurisprudence and 'Good Lives'; a Rehabilitation Framework for Corrections" states that correctional systems worldwide "are currently undergoing a shift towards rehabilitation." (2002) the determination of guilt or innocence and imposition of sentencing of criminal offenders requires that the court be responsible for administering punishment while the administration of the sentence itself falls to the correctional system. According to Gendreau (1996) the most recent transition from a punishment to a rehabilitation model of corrections is "one of the most significant events in modern correctional policy." (in: Birgden, 2002)

III. Models Used in Addressing Rehabilitation

Birgden states that the most popular model used in addressing rehabilitation in the contemporary correctional system 'can be described as a risk-need approach with a focus on risk management and community protection. That is, the prevention model." (2002) it is additionally related by Birgden that the "empirically-based risk management approach is mistakenly perceived as 'the only legitimate goal of treatment and any other aim is misguided and empirically unwarranted." (2002) Community protection has been centric in the shift toward rehabilitation in correctional policy. (Birgden, 2002, paraphrased)

The 'risk principle' is stated by Birgden to indicate "that more intensive services should be applied to higher risk offenders. The 'need principle' indicates that criminogenic needs or dynamic risk factors directly related to offending should be targeted" according to what should be treated. (2002)

There is a need for inclusion of pro-offending attitudes, criminal associates, antisocial personality and poor problem-solving skills in criminology. It is stated that the 'responsivity principle' is one that indicates "that treatment approaches should use structured cognitive-behavioral interventions' and match the individual learning styles of offenders." (Birgen, 2002)

Birgden (2002) states that the "construct driving rehabilitation in corrections should be good lives or well-being, not risk management or relapse prevention. Well-being occurs when physiological, social and self needs are met. Physiological needs are met by healthy functioning of the body. Social needs are met by family life, social support, meaningful work opportunities and access to leisure activities. Self meets are met by family life, social support, meaningful work opportunities and access to leisure activities. Self needs are met by autonomy, relatedness and competence." (Birgen, 2002)

The work of Ward and Steward (2002) propose that rehabilitation efforts should consider the "...primary goods of offenders' abilities, interests, opportunities and basic value systems. This conception of well-being underlies rehabilitation programs in that increased offender capabilities will improve quality of life and in turn reduce changes of recidivism." (Birgen, 2002) the concept of good lives in the rehabilitation context has been linked by Ward et al. To empirical research that is both current as well as to several philosophical and psychological theories" and it is stated that the core assumptions are those as follows:

(1) Wellbeing is made up of goods that are objective, universal and worthwhile in themselves. Natural goods arise from human nature and have their origin in basic human needs that have evolved over time;

(2) Human beings are mutually interdependent and can only gain personal goods if others provide them with the necessary physical, social and psychological nourishment. Failure to meet basic human needs results in social maladjustment and problematic behavior;

(3) as human beings are by nature self-organizing entities that seek integration and self-fulfilling lives, well-being is derived from choice;

(4) Wellbeing needs to be individualized. (Birgen, 2002)

Birgen (2002) states that the assumptions of therapeutic jurisprudence and good lives have been combined for the purpose of providing a framework for correctional services in maximizing offenders' psychological well being and that this is upon the basis of seven principles:

(1) the law has an impact on rehabilitation;

(2) Rehabilitation should meet psychological needs;

(3) Autonomous decision-making is necessary in rehabilitation;

(4) Rehabilitation is a multi-disciplinary and multi-agency endeavor;

(5) Rehabilitation needs to be individualized;

(6) Rehabilitation is normative; and (7) Rehabilitation requires an individual-community balance. (Birgden, 2002)

IV. Evidence-based Rehabilitation: Policy-Maker View of Public Desire for Corrections

The work of Latessa (2004) entitled: "The Challenge of Change: Correctional Programs and Evidence-Based Practices" states that it is important "that those with an agenda for change understand the political context that exists at all levels of a correctional organization, be it large or small. Although there are exceptions, first and foremost, politicians and those they appoint, including correctional policy makers, are committed to survival, which usually translates into an aversion to what they perceive as risk taking." (Latessa, 2004)

It is stated that policy makers are not held to be "necessarily opposed to evidence-based programs and practices" however the problem is that policy makers need assistance in understanding why certain changes are beneficial. Public support for rehabilitative programs is stated to be very strong however, policy makers generally hold the view that the public holds prison time to be only punitive in nature. It is important to assist policy makers in understanding that the public "is not monolithically punitive and that the research shows that a larger percentage support rehabilitative efforts can be a powerful way to begin breaking down some of the resistance they my have to developing effective correctional programs and alternatives to incarceration." (Latessa, 2004)

Those who are in decision-making positions also need assistance in understanding precisely what evidence-based practices are and that the development of alternatives that are effective and research-based programs is not going to inherently "put them at odds with public opinion, and that they may in fact be more consistent with what the public wants than they know." (Latessa, 2004)

VI. Primary Characteristics of Effective Correctional Treatment Programs… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Format

Theories of Criminal Behavior That Have Exhibited Influence on Today's Correctional System.  (2009, October 30).  Retrieved January 26, 2020, from

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"Theories of Criminal Behavior That Have Exhibited Influence on Today's Correctional System."  30 October 2009.  Web.  26 January 2020. <>.

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"Theories of Criminal Behavior That Have Exhibited Influence on Today's Correctional System."  October 30, 2009.  Accessed January 26, 2020.