After a guilty verdict - OCR Psychology


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Gillis & Nafekh - Recidivism rates

Aim: investigate recidivism rates on a community based employment scheme


  • 23,525 offenders released between Jan. '98 and Jan. '05. 95% were men.
  • Content analysis of data on offenders in the sample
  • Matched pairs design - those employed prior to release/those unemployed. Matched for gender/risk level/release year/sentence length/substance abuse etc.


  • Average time to get employment - 6 months for men & 10 months for women and those in employment programmes prior to release less likely to reoffend
  • Median time of reoffending - 37 months (employed) vs. 11 months (unemployed) and 70% of employed group remained on conditional release compared to 55% of unemployed group.

Conclusions: A planned return to the community through employment schemes increases the likelihood of offenders not commiting a crime.

Evaluation: Strong sample/methodology - generalisable. Quantitative data - easy to analyse.

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Dooley - Unnatural deaths

Aim: investigate all unnatural deatsh that occured in English and Welsh prisons between 1972 - 1987.


  • Content analysis of prisons personal papers.
  • Social, psychiatric and forensic history used to analyse papers. Groups with verdict of suicide compared to groups that did not.

Results: 442 unnatural deaths. Of these 300 were classed as suicide. Remainder got a variety of verdicts, 52 from consciously self-inflicted injury (CSI). Significantly more of the suicide group were on remand. CSI group mostly female and deaths during the night.

Discussion: overcrowding in British jails increases prisoners stress and is linked to high levels of suicide rates at present. Many prisoners also have mental-health and addiction problems whens admitted to prison.

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Mair and May - offenders on probation

Aim: investigate the experiences of offenders of probation orders.


  • Survey using a questionnaire that was piloted with 24 offenders, then improved and given to final sample.
  • 3299 offenders selected randomly from 22 probation offices.
  • 40% failed to take part, with more failing to turn up in London area. Therefore the smaller offices are over represented.
  • Interviews conducted by independently employed researchers visiting selected offices and asking questions about the offenders life and their likelihood of re-offending.

Results: 88% of the sample found probation very/extremely useful. 60% of the sample felt their probation officer would help them sort out their problems. However only 37% thought it would stop them re-offending altogether. Having someone independent to talk to was the most useful function of probation.

Conclusions: Probation seen in a positive light by offenders, although those that didn't keep appointments were excluded from results. Not one offender in the survey thought probation was intended to stop them re-offending and almost 1/3 went on to re-offend.

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Sherman and Strang - Restorative Justice

Aim: look at good practice in RJ and reach a conclusion on its effectiveness.


  • internet search of key words 'restorative justice' with 'recidivism' or 're-offending' or 'mediation'. This yielded 424 results.
  • 2 researchers analysed the content of all research where a sample of offenders on an RJ program was compared with a similar sample who were not. This yielded 36 results.

Results: Reductions in re-offending were found for violence and property crime. It doesnt work for all crimes and is more effective in cases with a personal victim and where violence has been used.It can help the victime overcome any post-traumatic stress and improve their mental health.

Conclusions: Strong evidence RJ is effective in some cases and support its increased use.

Evaluation: Useful in finding out whether RJ is a effective tool to use, however secondary data could be unreliable.

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Eberhardt et al. - Black features

Aim: Investigate whether black offenders with stereotypically black features were more likely than white people to get the death sentence.


  • Laboratory experiment
  • Analysis of death-eligible cases in Philadelphia between 1979 - 1999.
  • 44 cases of black men murdering white victims. Their photos were shown to 51 naive raters from Stanford Uni (32 white, 15 asian, 4 other) and they were rated on a scale of 1-11, where 11 was very stereotypical.

Results: The most stereotypically black defendants were 57.5% more likely to recieve the death penalty than less stereotypically black defendents at 24.4%. In a 2nd study there was a black defendant and black victim, the analysis produced no significant effect, suggesting black victims are seen as less important.

Evaluation: Ethnocentric, drawn from just one state in the USA therefore not generalisable.

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Cann - Cognitive skills

Aim: to find out if cognitive skills programmes were effective in lowering re-offending rates for women prisoners.


  • 180 offenders, who started enhanced thinking skills (ETS) or R&R between 1996-2000. Comparison group of 540 females who did not take part in ETS.
  • Expected 2 year re-conviction rates were calculated and women were matched at high, medium or low risk. Actual re-conviction rates were calculated 1 and 2 years after release.

Results: No significant differences were found between treated group and comparison group on expected re-conviction or actual re-conviction. R&R group were significantly more likely to re-offend.

Discussion: Earlier studies on male offenders had found positive results. Women offend for different reasons such as drug abuse, relationship problems and the programmes were innappropriate for women as they had been developed for men.

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Ireland - Anger management

Aim: assess whether anger management courses work with young male offenders.


  • 50 prisoners who'd completed an anger management course and control group of 37 prisoners who had been assessed a suitable for such a course. Matched after cognitive interviews, checklist by prison officers rating angry behaviours, and self-report questionnaire.
  • Quasi experiment. Prisoners in treatment group underwent the measures above twice, before and after treatment whilst the control group undertook them twice without any intervention between.

Results: Significant reduction in prison wing-based aggression in experimental group and they also scored lower in questionnaire, there was no change in either for the control group. 92% of prisoners in control showed improvement on at least 1 measure, 48% on 2 measures and 8% showed deterioration.

Conclusions: Prisoners appeared to be helped by the course in the short-term but there is no re-conviction data for the long-term.

Evaluation: Self report, could be demand characteristics.

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Wheatley - Acupuncture


  • 350 prisoners in 6 high security prisons recieved acupuncture and standard care program. Control group recieved standard care program but no acupuncture.
  • 2 trained practitioners working with groups of 10-15 prisoners. Needles inserted into 5 acupuncture points in the ear and prisoners left to relax for 40 mins before returning to normal duties. Qualitative and quantitative data.

Results: Prisoners reported better sleep and coping skills, improved relaxation and health improvements. They made more effort to attend classes and contact families and staff said the wing was calmer and there was less demand for healthcare after acupuncture sessions.

  • 70% reduction in drug related incidents. 41% reduction in serious incidents. 42% reduction in positive drug tests.

Conclusion: enough evidence to expand the use of programme throughout prison system.

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