Research digest: highlights from the Corrections journal

Can we treat sex offenders who deny their offending?

We know how to treat sex offenders who accept responsibility for their behaviour. But what about those men who have been found guilty but who nevertheless continue to deny that they did anything wrong? Internationally, most prison-based sex offender treatment programmes won’t accept them. In New Zealand, staff work with these deniers, encouraging them to take responsibility and accept treatment. But some men remain adamant that they have not offended, and therefore remain untreated. To try to reduce the risk these men will pose on release, Corrections staff are developing a pilot programme for prisoners who are in denial but who are nonetheless willing to attend treatment.

NZ prisoners’ prior exposure to trauma

That many prisoners have had traumatic lives is hardly news, but perhaps surprisingly, there’s limited evidence on the subject. This research measured the prevalence of different potentially traumatising events in the lives of New Zealand prisoners – and the results are sobering. For example, over three quarters of prisoners have experienced violence. Women experienced violence at slightly higher rates than men (81% compared to 77%), and more commonly experienced sexual and family violence. Fifty-two percent of female prisoners and 40% of male prisoners have a lifetime diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Research of this kind helps inform how we treat and manage prisoners, and shows the importance of trauma-informed care.

What works in NZ correctional rehabilitation?

How do we know our rehabilitation programmes work? How do we know they’re as effective as those offered in other countries? And how do we know it was the rehabilitation programme that caused the change and not some other factor? New Zealand is the only country in the world that routinely measures and reports on the outcomes of all its correctional rehabilitation programmes. The process has major benefits, enabling the department to direct resources where we get the best results and discontinue programmes that are less effective. This article sets out some of the more important lessons that have been drawn from the results of these annual outcomes analysis exercises over the last 15 years.

Full articles and more research are available in Practice: the New Zealand Corrections Journal on our website.