Criminal psychology research

Female Recidivism Rates and Emotional Intelligence

This chapter explores a variety of research in the field of psychology that relates to criminality, criminal violence, and reoffending. It encompasses the functional definition and application of the concept of recidivism, general risk factors for crime recurrence, the outlook of criminal relapse in the United States, a comparative look at the predisposition of women and men to crime and recidivism. The chapter also reviews some of the documented trends in offender behavior during rehabilitation and after release from the prisons that form a sound background for determining their probability of relapsing into crimes. It also reviews America’s justice system and its response to the current challenge of rising number of offenders, which poses both social and economic burdens on the state and federal governments. The chapter also reviews the literature on emotional intelligence and its relationship with criminal behavior and restoration of offenders from their criminal lives. The data derived from secondary sources presented in this chapter provides both general and specific impressions of the studies done in determining predictors of recidivism, and the existing gaps as a means of framing emotional intelligence as one of the factors to consider in determining the possibility of offender relapse after rehabilitation.

Despite the fact that controversies have characterized the definition of what recidivism entails, the Florida Department of Corrections (2004) defines it as the return of released offenders to the prisons. The United States Legal (2012: 1) describes recidivism as the rate at which released prisoners return to the prisons for committing either a different or the same offense. Based on these definitions, one outstanding thing is that recidivism involves the return of a former inmate to the prison for reasons involving committing a repeat of the same offense or another crime (Gardner, Boccaccini, Edens & Bitting, 2015). Therefore, recidivism is synonymous with “repeat offending” and “re-offending.”

The Use of Actuarial Measurements for Recidivism Prevention

In Bonta (1996), the measurement criteria for crime recurrence are classified into two categories of the first generation and second-generation techniques respectively. The first generation measures involve medical assessment and professional judgment. Nonetheless, many kinds of literature attest to the invalidity of this approach when used by even the most competent clinicians and scholars (Meehl, 1954). Among the correctional services, it is also believed that the first generation assessments are invalid. The second-generation measurements of recidivism consist of actuarial approaches, which are standardized instruments objectively used in predicting risks. An example of this statistical approach is the Salient Factor Score (SFS) (Hoffman, 1983).

The SFS is based predominantly on the static aspects of criminal history. Since these factors are deemed not to change over time, the resultant measures are insufficient to inform the classification process and treatment decisions since they are fixed. The fixed nature of static elements limits the need to account for changes in the offender’s behavior. Bontas’ other generation of measurements consists of two types of instruments. The first one involves the prediction of risks based on dynamic parameters. Examples of these measures of changing risks are Community Riskmeeds Management scale, Level of Service Inventory (LSI-R), the Wisconsin system. The personality test scales including the MMPI Pd scale, Socialization scale (SOC) of the California Personality Inventory (CPI), account for the static items. A meta-analysis of these assessment methodologies indicates that PCL-R and the SOC scale of the CPI are better predictors of re-offending compared to the MMPI Pd scale.

Reducing recidivism (Approaches and assessments)

Criminological literature mostly agrees on other predictors of relapse in adult offenders such as age, gender, criminal history, childhood factors, and membership to criminal groupings. Nonetheless, there is a long-standing controversy and minimal interests in the viability of dynamic risk factors as prediction paradigms. Various reasons explain this complacency and disagreements in the dynamic factors. First, the tenets of the changing factors such as attitudes and offender needs have been derided in most if the literature on criminology. Second, some of the methodologies used express skepticism in dealing with the varying risk factor due to the conception of their unreliability (Walters & Lowenkamp, 2016). For instance, the dynamic elements are subject to change over time, unlike the static ones. Furthermore, the measurement of the changing attributes necessitates some degree of subjectivity hence their unreliability. According to the psychometric theory, any unreliability in the measurement of a measurement aspect leads to the underestimation of validity (Cronbach, 1990). Therefore, the use of dynamic variables to predict crime resurgence makes them weak predictors. Third, experts in the field of criminal justice have often widely disfavored the likelihood that assessing criminogenic needs has a potential of predicting their criminal behavior (Bonta, 1996).

The commonly used criteria for classifying risk factors; Wisconsin classification system (Baird, 1981) confirms these three attributes of the dynamic crime risk factors, which limit their use in assessing criminal recidivism. Feeley and Simon (1992), confirms that other factors also undermine the interests in dynamic variables in criminological studies. The new trends in penology focus on managing aggregates of offenders in a simplistic way rather than looking at their individual status. This general treatment of criminals reduces the interest in dynamic variables (Garcia-Sancho, Salguero & Fernandez-Berrocal, 2014). Nonetheless, the relegation of the utility of dynamic factors has massive ramifications for the correctional facilities and professionals therein since they occasionally have to classify the inmates for different treatments such as parole supervision and transfers. Practically, the lack of integration of dynamic factors into the reclassification process of offenders devalues the validity of change measurement. Apart from the two classes of predictors, three other specific types have been widely debated. These include the offender’s social class, intelligence, and personal distress. Nonetheless, Tittle and Meier (1990, 1991) have challenged the view that socioeconomic status can be among the primary predictors of recidivism. They contend that social class of origin is a frail predictor of juvenile delinquency.

Over the decades, there has been a general view that offenders are less intelligent compared to the non-offenders (Goddard, 1920). Based on this foundational perspective, various researches conducted in the field of criminal justice and criminal psychology have established a correlation between intelligence and delinquency (Hirschi and Hindelang, 1977). The publication of The Bell Curve (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994) is arguably a culmination of the need to draw a strong relationship between recidivism and intelligence. The curve arguably presents one of the strongest claims that intelligence quotient is a powerful predictor of criminal trends. The conclusions of Herrnstein and Murray (1994) have grave implications for the provision of favorable treatments for offenders since intelligence is considerably an immutable force.

Andrews et al., (1990) provide a different assertion that personal distress variable, which includes low self-esteem and anxiety do not account as recidivism risk factors hence inappropriate targets for treatments. These conclusions contrast the therapeutic practices and programs that often give priority to lowering the stress levels of offenders and raising their self-esteem as an appropriate intervention. This practice in therapy is highly attributable to the teaching of the mental health theory and practices that correctional professionals attain before actual deployment to the prison (Gendreau, 1996). There is a generalized trend in recovery and self-help interventions that often focus on alleviating the offender’s personal distress (Hoge et al., 1993).