Prison program didn't stop reoffending

·2-min read

An intensive behaviour intervention program for NSW prisoners designed to reduced reoffending had little impact, a study has found.

A NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR) study assessed the impact on prisoners who participated in a program through the High Intensity Program Unit.

The study of around 700 prisoners gauged the effect on reoffending, violent reoffending and reimprisonment within three, six and 12 months of being released.

In NSW, 10 High Intensity Program Units (HIPUs) were established in seven jails in 2017-2018, in a bid to deliver behaviour change programs to prisoners serving sentences of 12 months or less.

Approximately 80 per cent of prison sentences imposed by NSW courts between June 2016 and June 2021 were a year or less.

BOSCAR says around 44 per cent of those offenders will be back in jail within two years of being released.

The HIPU scheme delivered intensive behaviour change programs, reintegration services and enhanced release planning for people serving short prison sentences.

Participants were required to attend two-hour treatment sessions six-to-eight times per week, over three-to-four months.

The sessions were delivered in a group setting and were based on existing behaviour change programs such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

"We observed small reductions in our reoffending outcomes between those who finished a program at the HIPU and those who never started, but these differences were very small and were not statistically significant," the report said.

"We found ... little evidence that the HIPUs are effectively reducing reoffending," it said.

"We did not find any evidence for a reduction in reoffending caused by participation in a program at a HIPU."

However, the study concluded that continued development and evaluation of programs to reduce reoffending for those serving short sentences was "imperative given the potential impact in curtailing offending amongst this high volume, high risk cohort."

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