Book review: The Psychology of Criminal Conduct 6th Edition

James Bonta and D.A. Andrews (2017)
Publisher: Routledge

Reviewed by Glen Kilgour
Principal Adviser Special Treatment Unit Development, Department of Corrections

Reviewer biography:

Glen Kilgour trained as a clinical psychologist at Waikato University, graduating in the early 1990s. He has worked in the Department since 1995 in a variety of roles including principal psychologist and, currently, a principal adviser in the Office of the Chief Psychologist. His interests include reducing violence, programme evaluation, group therapy, young offenders, leadership, staff development, and science fiction.

For over 20 years The Psychology of Criminal Conduct by Andrews and Bonta has been the go-to reading for criminal justice professionals. The early editions introduced risk, need, and responsivity (RNR); eviscerated criminological explanations of offending, and stridently predicted that social class explanations of crime "may well become one of the intellectual scandals of science" (2nd Ed; p43). The writing was dense, statistical and hard going at times. But all self-respecting corrections professionals would have a well-thumbed copy or two at hand.

The 6th edition of this classic tome has been freshly released and is more relevant and readable than ever. James (Jim) Bonta takes the reins with the passing of his longstanding colleague Don Andrews in 2010. Bonta has come through on his promise to write in a "less complex manner" and the book is shorter than the last edition, and the most accessible and widely relevant version I have read, so far. In particular, effort has been made to tone down the rhetoric attacking associated fields, to expand the RNR model to include recent key elements of what works in criminal justice, and to include research showing the effectiveness of offence focused practice with probation staff.

Recommendations for key background readings are relevant and assist those wanting more in-depth study in a particular area.

As a knowledgeable reader with more than 20 years practice, I still found information relevant to my work and learning, and was pleasantly surprised and challenged in some places. In summary, it is hard to fault this version of "The PCC" and I strongly recommend it as a starting point for any correctional practitioner and as a reminder of key principles for the old-hands.