STICS is a job training program for probation officers to help them apply the risk–need–responsivity (RNR) model with probationers to reduce recidivism. This program was implemented in three Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan.
The objectives of the training include changing how probation officers interact with offenders and adjusting the focus of sessions with clients. Research shows that probation officers often focus on non-criminogenic needs and infrequently use prosocial modeling, role playing, or other cognitive–behavioral techniques with probationers (Bonta et al. 2004, 2008). By training probation officers to implement RNR principles into their interactions with probationers, they may reduce recidivism rates in their probationers.
This model is based on the General Personality and Cognitive Social Learning theoretical perspective, which addresses how learning and risk/need factors affect criminal behavior. The theory suggests that criminal behavior is learned, that this learning occurs within a particular environment, and that some risk/need factors are more important in predicting criminal behavior than others. This theory then implies that offender behavior can change (as opposed, for instance, to a medical model that sees an offender as “sick”) (Bourgon et al. 2010).
The RNR model was first proposed by Andrews, Bonta, and Hoge in 1990, and has three core principles:
- Risk Principle: The level of services should be matched to the level of offender. High-risk offenders should receive more intensive services; low-risk offenders should receive minimal services.
- Need Principle: Target criminogenic needs with services—that is, target those factors that are associated with criminal behavior. Such factors might include substance abuse, procriminal attitudes, criminal associates, and the like. Do not target other, non-criminogenic factors (such as emotional distress, self-esteem issues) unless they act as a barrier to changing criminogenic factors.
- Responsivity Principle: The ability and learning style of the offender should determine the style and mode of intervention. Research has shown the general effectiveness of using social learning and cognitive–behavioral style interventions.
There is a strong empirical base supporting the implementation of the RNR principles, although the research is more limited on incorporating these principles in a training program designed to change how probation officers deal with offenders.
The training program includes a 3-day training based on 10 modules. These modules are designed to explain the overview and rationale for STICS; introduce RNR model principles; teach how to implement those principles when working with probationers; encourage the use of prosocial modeling, reinforcement, and other cognitive–behavioral techniques; and explain the benefits of using a strategic supervision structure in individual sessions.
The training is followed by monthly meetings designed for skill maintenance. In these meetings, groups of 3 to 12 officers are encouraged to discuss and practice their skills. Prior to the meetings, officers receive themed exercises with audiotaped examples. Trainers are present via teleconference to guide the sessions and provide feedback. Also, formal clinical feedback is given to the officers based on their officer–client sessions, which are audiotaped and submitted for review.
A 1-day refresher course is delivered approximately 1 year after the initial training.
18 to 100
The results of the study by Bonta and colleagues (2010) revealed significant changes in the officer population, but non-significant, though positive, differences regarding offenders’ subsequent recidivism.
Changes in Officer Population
Compared to control group officers, officers in the experimental group who received the risk-need-responsivity (RNR) training spent significantly more session time focusing on criminogenic needs and procriminal attitudes (p<.01). Likewise, they demonstrated higher-quality RNR–based skills and interventions (p<.01), with the exception of behavioral techniques, where there was no statistically significant differences between groups (p=.06).
The results for offender survival rates and recidivism rates were encouraging. The offenders recruited by the officers assigned to the experimental group had the longest survival rate compared to both the control offenders and the “retrospective” probationer samples. Similarly, the offenders recruited by the officers assigned to the experimental group had lower recidivism rates than the offenders recruited by the officers assigned to the control group. Though the difference was statistically non-significant, it represented a 15 percent reduction (40.5 percent for the control clients; 25.3 percent for the experimental clients).
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