ERIC Identifier: ED400473
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Campbell, Donald S.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC., Canadian Guidance and
Counselling Foundation Ottawa (Ontario).
Counseling Young Offenders for Rehabilitation and Employment:
The Problem and Promise. ERIC Digest.
Canadian counselors working with young offenders confront at least two
problems that interfere with effective intervention: a trend toward increased
incarceration and public confusion and mistrust over approaches to reducing
Although crime in Canada is on the decline, changes
in police practices have resulted in increased reporting of crime among the
young, giving the perception of an upward trend. The tendencies are now to
report offending activities which were once considered minor and were dealt with
outside the justice system, to put more youth in custody, and to favor
punishment and deterrence rather than leniency and rehabilitation (John Howard
Society of Ontario, 1994).
Two forces direct the trend toward punishment and away from rehabilitation:
the public's increasing fear of youth crimes and the program evaluation research
published in the 1970s which fostered the belief that "nothing works" to change
criminal behavior. The trend is unfortunate because it is short sighted, largely
fear-induced, and it ignores a growing body of research confirming different
observations (Henggeler, 1989; John Howard Society of Ontario, 1994; Leschied,
Jaffe, & Willis, 1991).
majority of non-incarcerated, first-time young offenders do not re-offend.
incarcerated, the likelihood of re-offending increases.
most promising rehabilitation takes place in the community and in the home.
are few rehabilitation programs available for youth once they are incarcerated.
Fewer still appear to work.
one program will be appropriate for all delinquent youth, but some do show
promise. Generally, such programs teach concrete skills, address psychological
and learning deficiencies, are built on sound instructional principles, are of
significant duration, and are multi-faceted.
Confusion of Purposes
Counselors and educators of young offenders and other at-risk youth need to
be aware of how various orientations carry different, and sometimes opposing,
beliefs and assumptions which create confusion over prevention and intervention
practices in community and school. Four primary models are evident
Societal change model. Youth crime is a product of society and its institutions
(family, community, school) and is beyond the control of the individual.
Intervention in this model addresses issues of poverty and inequity in the
community rather than "correcting" the individual.
Welfare model. The young offender is assumed to be have psycho/social
deficiencies that cause offending behavior. Intervention provides appropriate
therapy to rehabilitate the individual.
Justice model. Society must be protected from offenders. Individuals commit
crime of their own free will, must be held responsible, and might pay the
penalty set by society under due process.
Crime-control model. Societal order is maintained through laws that punish wrong
doing, achieve retribution through punishment, and deter criminality by threat
of punishment. Youth are no exception.
THE PROMISE: AN ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVE
Research over the
past decade offers renewed promise for counseling interventions that prepare
young offenders to be productive members of society. Programs typically stress
the prevention of behaviors that lead to re-offending. Most behaviors and
attitudes don't directly lead to successful employment, however, they can be
thought of as preparatory. Research is demonstrating what works and also what
leads to failure (Henggeler, 1989; Quay, 1987):
fix" programs do not work. Programs must be offered over months, not weeks, and
of sufficient intensity to change entrenched behaviors and attitudes. Follow-up
"booster" sessions contribute to program effectiveness.
that employ single aims or strategies do not work. Youth offending has no single
cause and the young offender population is far from homogeneous.
programs are multi-faceted. They use multiple strategies (e.g., skills,
problem-solving, self-monitoring, aggression control), have multiple targets
(e.g., individual, peers and home), and have multiple specific goals that
typically generalize over time and across settings.
effects can be missed; programs may be labeled as "failures" if evaluation is
faulty. Simplistic evaluation designs and unreliable criteria (e.g., recidivism)
cannot address the complexity of short-term and long-range outcomes.
do not work when those who offer them do not believe in their efficacy.
Successful programs can fail because of cynicism among those who implement and
of program fidelity is a common cause of failure. Successful programs are often
complex, a reflection of the complex causes of youth offending. If they are not
delivered as designed and those implementing them are not well trained,
successful programs can fail.
Effective programs for young offenders and other at-risk youth typically take
place in the community (e.g., schools, open-custody residences, group homes,
social agencies). The following examples represent the types of promising
programs being applied in Canada. All are multi-faceted, intensive, relatively
long-term, and systematically evaluated. They do not have a specific career
focus, but go beyond simply finding jobs for at-risk or offending youth. These
programs address skill training both in preparation for work and in job
BreakAway Company (Campbell, Pharand, Serff, & Williams, 1994) is a highly
structured, 12-week program for residential or school use, based on
cognitive-behavioral instruction principles. It simulates a work place in which
students are treated as "employees" and group identity is fostered. The
teacher/counselor is their "supervisor." they receive a token salary and
bonuses, negotiate contracts, work cooperatively, receive information through
Company memos, attend staff meetings, and do job shadowing and short-term
placements. The Company "products" are reflected in its objectives: discovering
one's own abilities and job-related skills, and learning cognitive-behavioral
strategies that address problem-solving, interpersonal relations, and aggression
control. Evaluation of the program over 2 years indicates that most students
learn the strategies and apply them in various settings. In 6 to 8 month
follow-up interviews, participants reported such observations as: "You just stop
and think before you do everything now. It's just natural now..."; "Now I think
out problems in slow motion."; "I learned how to control my anger...[I] think
about it, sit down, and say, 'Look what you're doing wrong'."
treatment (Henggeler & Borduin, 1989) is a 2-4 month community-based program
that addresses the causes of delinquency. The focus is on the family system as
the center of a network that includes siblings, peers, and school. Emphasis is
on preserving the family and developing effective social-cognitive skills.
Replacement Training (Goldstein, Glick, Irwin, Pask-McCartney, & Rubama,
1989) is a 10-week program emphasizing aggression control, moral reasoning, and
pro-social behavior among young offenders (both in custody and on release) and
Research during the past decade is beginning to
show clearly that programs for young offenders and other at-risk youth can work
if they are built on principles that lead to effective behavior and attitude
change. The task is not easy. There are no short-term solutions, nor will any
single program likely address all aspects of the problem. Counselors and
educators must have available a repertoire of programs that meet individual and
Campbell, D. S., Pharand, G., Serff, P., &
Williams, D. (1994). "The Breakaway Company: A Complete Career Readiness
Program. Toronto: Trillium Books.
Goldstein, A. P., Glick, B., Irwin, M. J., Pask-McCartney, C., & Rubama,
I. (1989). "Reducing Delinquency: Intervention in the Community. New York:
Henggeler, S. W. (1989). "Delinquency in Adolescence." Newbury Park, CA:
Leschied, A. W., Jaffe, P. G., & Willis, W. (Eds.),1991. "The Young
Offenders Act: A Revolution in Canadian Juvenile Justice." Toronto: University
of Toronto Press.
Henggeler, S. W., & Borduin, C. M. (1989). "Family Therapy and Beyond: A
Multisystemic Approach to Treating Behavior Problems of Children and
Adolescents." Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
John Howard Society of Ontario. (1994). "Youth Crime: Sorting Fact from
Fiction." Fact sheet #3. Toronto, ON: John Howard Society of Ontario.
Quay, H. C. (1987). "Handbook of Juvenile Delinquency." New York: Wiley &
Reid-MacNevin, S. (1991). "A Theoretical Understanding of Current Canadian
Juvenile-Justice Policy." In A. W. Leschied, P. G. Jaffe, & W. Willis
(Eds.), The young offenders act: A revolution in Canadian juvenile justice (pp.
17-36). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.