New Study Finds: Empathy-Trained Parole & Probation Officers Help Prevent Prisoners’ Reoffending

Without doubt, job stress, biases, and heavy caseloads may put strain on the relationships between the parole and probation officers and the convicts and thus, increase the chances of the offenders going back behind bars.

According to a UC Berkeley study, non-judgmental and empathy training aided supervision officers in strengthening their emotional connection with their clients and help deter them from slipping into criminal again.

Empathy Helps Reduce Prisoners’ Reoffending Risk

The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that averagely, there was a 13 percent reduction in the recidivism in the clients of probation and parole officers who were part of the training experiment involving empathy.

According to assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, Jason Okonofua, if an officer got this empathic training, the outcomes in the real world changed for the individuals they supervised who were less likely to go back to prison.

These results come in the right time when there’s a nationwide effort to lower the populations in jails and prison because of the pandemic and other adversities.

According to statistics, the US criminal justice system has one of the highest recidivism rates, i.e. 2/3 of the people in prison were arrested within three years of their release and 50 percent of them went behind bars again.

How Was the Study Conducted?

Parole and probation officers have several duties, including tracking the clients’ whereabouts, ensuring they don’t miss out drug tests or court hearings, ensure they don’t violate the terms of their release, and enable resources which prevent recidivism.

For the purposes of the study, the researchers surveyed more than 200 officers of parole and probation who oversaw more than 20,000 individuals convicted of different crimes ranging from petty thefts to violent crimes.

Amongst the survey questions, there was one asking ‘what parts of your work do you find fulfilling’.

The goal was to put the focus on what motivates them and what their biases and views on their responsibilities and relationship with the clients.

10 months after the training, it was concluded that there was a 13 percent drop in the recidivism among the offenders whose officers were part of the empathy survey.

According to Okonofua, the relationship between the officers and the people they supervise has an essential role and may help create positive outcomes if they try to be more understanding.




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