ANGER MANAGEMENT PROGRAMMING FOR FEDERAL MALE INMATES: AN EFFECTIVE INTERVENTION
|Craig Dowden, Kelley Blanchette, and Ralph Serin Research Branch Correctional Service Canada April, 1999|
Executive SummaryIt has been suggested that violent crime is more severe than other forms of criminal activity because of the harm to the victim as well as the greater costs incurred by society. Despite these concerns, very few treatment programs have been introduced which specifically target violent offenders. However, of those programs currently available, Anger Management appears to be the intervention of choice for this population. Unfortunately, there have been relatively few controlled studies that have evaluated the effectiveness of Anger Management programs with violent offenders.
This investigation compared a matched sample of 110 male federal offenders who completed the institutional Anger Management program to an untreated comparison group, the majority (86%) of whom were matched to the treatment group on age, Statistical Information on Recidivism (SIR) risk group and major admitting offence. Where it was not possible to match on all three criteria (14%), offenders were matched on age and SIR risk group. In comparing groups on post-release outcome criteria (non-violent and violent recidivism), survival analysis was used to equate groups for time-at-risk in the community.
The first set of comparisons compared ‘treated’ to ‘comparison’ subjects on non-violent recidivism (defined as any new conviction for a non-violent offence). Both groups of inmates were divided into higher- versus lower-risk groups based on SIR risk group ratings. Results revealed that for the lower-risk cases (n=54), completion of the Anger Management program was not significantly associated with reduced levels of non-violent re-offending. However, when analyses focused on higher-risk cases (n=56), significant reductions in non-violent recidivism were found. This translated into a 69% reduction in non-violent recidivism (i.e. 39.3% recidivism rate for the comparison group versus 12.5% of the Anger Management group).
Although the analyses of non-violent recidivism produced some encouraging results, the primary goal of Anger Management programs is to reduce violent recidivism. Accordingly, groups were also compared on violent recidivism. As expected, completion of the Anger Management program failed to produce significant reductions in violent recidivism among lower-risk cases (base rate =7.4%). However, for the higher-risk group, completion of the Anger Management program was associated with significant reductions in violent re-offending. This translated into an 86% reduction in violent re-offending (25% violent recidivism rate for the control group versus 3.6% for the Anger Management group).
Another interesting finding was that some of the pre-post change scores on assessment measures were significantly correlated with reductions in both non-violent and violent recidivism. For non-violent recidivism, a decrease in “State Anger” was associated with a significant decrease in re-offending. Not surprisingly, when the outcome measure used was violent recidivism, more statistically significant associations were found. Analyses revealed that change scores on three of the six sub-scales were associated with violent re-offending. More specifically, increased insight into anger problems, increased knowledge of anger management skills and increased anger self-competence were each associated with significant reductions in violent re-offending. Again, these results suggest that positive treatment-related change is associated with more positive post-release outcome.
To conclude, the present study highlights several important points. First, the results demonstrate that institutional Anger Management programs show promise for reducing recidivism. Second, the results support the risk principle of case classification. The risk principle states that the most intensive levels of service should be reserved for the higher-risk cases whereas the lower-risk cases should receive minimal intervention and supervision. The findings of the current outcome study strongly support the delivery of treatment resources to higher-risk as opposed to lower-risk cases. Jointly, these findings point to the relative importance of pre-treatment assessment and appropriate designation of high and low-risk offenders to varying levels of treatment services.
Georg Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMFwww.andersonservices.com