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Prevention of reoffending: The value of rehabilitation and the management of high risk offender

Warren Young, P.H.P.H.M.C. van Kempen & (eds.)
Antwerp: Intersentia Uitgevers N V

The current book, with chapters in both English and French, seeks to provide a foundation for the implementation of rehabilitation programs within the criminal justice system. This book offers perspectives from a wide range of individuals involved in various arms of the criminal justice system across a variety of countries. As indicated in the Preface, the volume seeks to contribute to penal policy, an area that is of interest to the public, criminal justice professionals, policy-makers, and researchers. However, the collection of chapters adds little to what is known about this area of study. Specifically, a key limitation of this book stems from the fact that the authors rarely rely on empirical information and instead substitute personal opinion and anecdotes. For example, some authors begin their chapter with a description of their number of years of service in a specific field, which alone is an insufficient basis for which information should be deemed reliable.

The book’s chapters are sparsely cited; the reader is given no direction as to where such information can be verified or explored in greater detail. Indeed, many chapters appear under-researched. In instances where chapters did refer to prior research, conclusions went beyond what the data had shown. As one example, Young (2014) had argued that risk assessment was often limited by the unstructured manner in which it was conducted. As no prior research is referred to, it is difficult to identify the basis for such a comment, given that actuarial risk assessment has been ongoing for nearly a quarter century (Harris, Rice, & Quinsey, 1993) and structured professional judgment has moved beyond its infancy (Hart, 2001).

For example, based on the presentation of univariate statistics related to the demographic characteristics of a prison sample, Aylward (2014) had concluded that:

imprisoning individuals without attempting to address the underlying cause of their criminal behavior, such as the individuals [sic] failure to achieve employment due to a lack of education or job skills, whilst they are in prison only serves to reinforce and crystallize the cyclical pattern of cause and effect, thereby increasing the likelihood of reoffending. (p. 109)

Regarding this passage, though it is known that longer sentences in prison lead to higher rates of recidivism (Gendreau et al., 1999), it is not possible to conclude from demographic characteristics prior to that imprisonment increased the likelihood of re-offending. Readers interested in the role of incarceration on re-offending could consider research on state dependence (e.g., Nagin & Paternoster, 2000). Relatedly, researchers interested in work on chronic offenders, incarceration practices, treatment/intervention successes and failures, desistance, and other policy themes already have a number of sources to refer to, including a recent special issue of Criminology & Public Policy, which summarizes existing research in new ways or presents new data (also see Kazemian & Morizot, 2015; Maruna, 2001; Welsh & Farrington, 2015; Zara & Farrington, 2015).

Stylistically, the title of each chapter often is not consistent with the overall content of the chapter. In particular, only a small proportion of each chapter specifically addresses the title. Given this, it is unclear why the authors chose to create so many chapters of such little length and content. The tone of some chapters appears as they were written as speeches delivered to members of the International Penal and Penitentiary Foundation colloquium (see, for example, Butler, 2014), which further detracts from the book’s reach to a wider audience.

Overall, while this book may serve as a helpful reminder of material presented at the conference mentioned above, it appears to have few benefits for academics and policy makers who were not in attendance.

PhD Student, Simon Fraser University
PhD Student, Simon Fraser University


Aylward, S. (2014). The value of rehabilitation to the tax-payer. In P.H.PH.H.C. van Kempen & W. Young (Eds.), Prevention of reoffending: The value of rehabilitation and the management of high risk offenders (pp. 109-118). Cambridge, UK; Intersentia.

Butler, A.S. (2014). The justification for taking measures to predict offending/reoffending and manage risk: A theoretical perspective. In P.H.PH.H.C. van Kempen & W. Young (Eds.), Prevention of reoffending: The value of rehabilitation and the management of high risk offenders (pp. 155-168). Cambridge, UK; Intersentia.

Gendreau, P., Goggin, C., & Cullen, F.T. (1999). The Effects of Prison Sentences on Recidivism. Ottawa, ON: Department of the Solicitor General Canada.

Harris, G. T., Rice, M. E., & Quinsey, V. L. (1993). Violent Recidivism of Mentally Disordered Offenders the Development of a Statistical Prediction Instrument. Criminal Justice and Behavior 20(4), 315-335.

Hart, S. D. (2001). Assessing and managing violence risk. In K. S. Douglas, C. D. Webster, S. D. Hart, D. Eaves, & J. R. P Ogloff (Eds.), HCR-20 violence risk management companion guide (pp. 13-25). Vancouver, BC: Mental Health Law and Policy Institute, Simon Fraser University.

Maruna, S. (2001). Making good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild TheirLives. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Morizot, J., & Kazemian, L. (2015). Introduction: Understanding Criminal and Antisocial Behavior Within a Developmental and Multidisciplinary Perspective. In J. Morizot & L. Kazemian (Eds.), The development of criminal and antisocial behavior (pp. 1-16). Berlin: Springer International Publishing.

Nagin, D., & Paternoster, R. (2000). Population Heterogeneity and State Dependence: State of the Evidence and Directions for Future Research. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 16(2), 117-144. Berlin: Springer International Publishing.

Welsh, B. C., Farrington, D. P., & Gowar, B. R. (2015). Benefit-cost analysis of crime prevention programs. In M. Tonry (Ed.), Crime and justice: A review of research 44, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Young, W. (2014). The justification for taking measures to predict offending and reoffending and to manage risk. In P.H.PH.H.C. van Kempen & W. Young (Eds.), Prevention of reoffending: The value of rehabilitation and the management of high risk offenders (pp. 145-168). Cambridge, UK: Intersentia.

Zara, G., & Farrington, D. P. (2015). Criminal recidivism: Explanation, prediction and prevention. Routledge.

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