Dr. Donald Andrews and colleagues have been developing a body of research aimed at generating principles of effective correctional treatment—that is, treatment that can reduce rearrests and reincarcerations and can help offenders reintegrate into society (Andrews, 1995
; Andrews et al., 1990
). Andrews and colleagues argue that correctional programs that follow three principles related to risk, criminogenic needs,
produce the best outcomes. Numerous studies and meta-analyses support the importance of these principles (Andrews et al., 1990
; Knight, Simpson, and Hiller, 1999
; Lowenkamp, Latessa, and Holsinger, 2006
). Developed for correctional populations, the principles apply to the large portion of the drug-abusing population that is involved in the criminal justice system.
The risk principle consists of two elements: (i) clients who are assessed as being at higher risk for reoffending are more likely to benefit from treatment than lower risk clients; and (ii) higher risk clients should receive more intensive services than lower risk clients. In the work of Andrews and colleagues, “risk” refers to the likelihood of future criminal behavior, but it is reasonable to assume that the principle also holds for drug abuse—that is, offenders with more severe drug problems should receive higher intensity treatment, while those at lower risk of relapse should be referred to less intensive programs, such as drug education, monitoring through drug testing, or self-help. Apart from ensuring optimal outcomes, matching problem severity to treatment approach makes for efficient use of scarce treatment resources. What constitutes high and low risk depends on whether the patient is a probationer or parolee and what treatment resources are available. The guidelines for designating clients as at high risk will be tighter in systems where intensive services are in short supply than in systems where they are more available.
According to the criminogenic needs principle,
offenders have many needs, and correctional treatment should focus on those related to recidivism. Andrews and colleagues (1990)
have identified the following targets as the most promising for correctional treatment: procriminal attitudes, procriminal associates, impulsivity, risk taking, limited self-control, poor problem-solving skills, poor educational and employment skills, and drug and alcohol dependence. These problems are all associated with drug abuse as well as recidivism. Offenders also have other needs that may require attention for various reasons, but are not associated with criminal behavior and have little or no impact on recidivism. These include enhancing self-esteem, improving living conditions, and addressing vaguely defined personal or emotional problems. Although correctional treatment should not focus on these needs, addiction treatment might benefit from such focus. Determining risk levels and needs requires assessment instruments suitable for identifying crime factors and drug use factors.
Andrews and colleagues (1990)
describe the responsivity principle
as concerned with “the selection of styles and modes of service that are (a) capable of influencing the specific types of intermediate targets that are set with offenders and (b) appropriately matched to the learning styles of offenders.” This principle speaks both to the types of treatment that are most appropriate for offenders and to the characteristics of staff who deliver the treatment. The Andrews group (1990)
argues that the approaches most appropriate to the learning styles of offenders include behavioral and social learning techniques such as “modeling, graduated practice, role playing, reinforcement, resource provision, and detailed verbal guidance and explanations (making suggestions, giving reasons, cognitive restructuring).” As for treatment staff, the responsivity principle recommends that they relate to their clients with warmth, flexibility, and enthusiasm, but with clear messages about the unacceptability of procriminal attitudes, behaviors, and associations.
Andrews and colleagues developed the risk/needs/responsivity principles from research on treatments for the general population of criminal offenders. In more recent work, the responsivity principle has been extended to apply to the distinctive needs of women, racial/ethnic groups, and clients of different ages (Kennedy, 2003–2004
). With specific reference to drug-abusing offenders, NIDA recently published research-based principles of treatment for this population (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2006
; see NIDA’s Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations
). The NIDA principles are consistent with the Andrews principles; together, they provide a framework for establishing programs and other interventions that have a high likelihood of reducing drug abuse and its consequences, including associated crime and further involvement in the criminal justice system.