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Reducing Recidivism Through Probation Supervision: What We Know and Don't Know From Four Decades of Research

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 77 Issue: 2 Dated: September 2013 Pages: 43-48
Chris Trotter
Date Published
September 2013
6 pages

This literature review focuses on the impact on offender recidivism of supervisors' various skills and practices in the one-to-one supervision of offenders on probation or other community-based orders.


All of the eight studies reviewed found that when probation officers used certain practice skills, their clients offended less often. In seven of the eight studies, the recidivism reduction reached statistical significance. Each of the studies examined the following skills and practices: prosocial modeling and reinforcement, problem solving, and cognitive techniques. These three skills were prominent in the studies in one form or another, although cognitive skills were less specifically examined in the earlier studies. Trusting and non-blaming relationships with good communication seemed to be more effective than those characterized by reflective listening practice or even engagement of the client in the interview. Of the five studies that examined risk, four found that medium-risk probationers benefited from skilled supervision more than high-risk probationers. In two of the studies, low-risk offenders exposed to effective practice skills also had lower recidivism. The studies generally examined practice skills in routine probation supervision. The eight studies examined are Andrews et al. (1979); Trotter (1996; Taxman (2007, 2008); Pearson et al. (2011); Bonta et al. (2011); Robinson, VanBenschoten, Alexander, and Lowenkamp (2011); Smith, Schweitzer, Labrecque, and Latessa (2012); and Raynor, Ugwudike, and Vanstone (forthcoming). 27 references