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Examining Improvements in Criminogenic Needs: The Risk Reduction Potential of a Structured Re-entry Program§


  • §Contract/grant sponsors: Supported in part by grants to S.B.H. from the American Psychology-Law Society, the American Academy of Forensic Psychology, and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.

Kirk Heilbrun, Department of Psychology, Drexel University, MS 626, 245 N. 15th St, Philadelphia, PA 19102. E-mail:


The risk–need–responsivity (RNR) model describes the importance of targeting criminogenic needs through planned interventions in order to reduce the risk of future offending behavior. Although risk/needs instruments capture these dynamic risk factors and previous research has demonstrated their sensitivity to change in these domains, correctional programs may not be leveraging the full case management potential of these instruments. This study explored the potential for improvements in criminogenic needs through participation in a brief, structured re-entry program consistent with the principles of RNR. Four criminogenic needs were identified as having the potential to change during the course of this program: education/employment, family/marital, procriminal attitudes/orientation, and antisocial pattern. The results indicated that overall risk level significantly decreased during the course of the treatment program, as did risk level for each of these criminogenic needs. For three of these domains, the participants in the highest risk category experienced significant improvements, consistent with the risk principle of RNR. Implications for the interface between assessment and treatment planning are discussed. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.