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A Call To Focus on Gun Offense History In Violence Treatment

Gun violence is one of the most prominent public health issues facing the U. S. today. One way the criminal justice system has tried to combat this problem is through the development of treatment programs in which law enforcement agencies collaborate with the community.

These intervention programs target specific individuals, such as gang members or those arrested for gun crimes, that have been deemed high-risk to recidivate due to their criminal behavior. These programs provide resources to these individuals with the overall goal of preventing shootings and subsequently reducing gun violence.

One model that has gained notoriety is Risks-Needs-Responsivity (RNR). In essence, this model mirrors an individual’s rehabilitation to their assessed risk of reoffending and addresses the underlying causes of their deviant behavior through cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce their criminal propensity.

What is not known is whether a treatment program that has a focused approach to gun crimes and a foundation in RNR can effectively decrease gun violence.

An article in Justice Quarterly Michael Ostermann and Sadaf Hashimi looked to address this shortcoming by examining recidivism patterns of people who had a prior gun offense and compared them to similarly situated individuals that did not have a prior gun conviction.

The authors obtained a sample of 11,026 people from a highly populated state on the east coast. Within the sample, 1,158 people had a gun-related crime, while 9,868 people did not.

Using a risk survival analysis, the authors examined if there were differences in rearrest risks for individuals who had a prior gun conviction and those who did not. They found no significance for general rearrests of individuals who had a prior gun conviction.

However, they did find that individuals with a previous gun offense had twice the risk of being rearrested for a new gun offense than those who did not in the follow-up period. Additionally, the authors looked at the

rearrest risk of parolees who had a prior gun-related conviction. They found that the rearrest risk of these individuals during the follow-up timeframe increased by 80 percent.

The authors analyzed if a prior gun conviction had an impact on whether parolees would receive treatment in the community. They found that gun offense history was not a significant factor in the determination of receiving community-based treatment and found other factors, such as being male, those who served less time in prison, and individuals who received a higher score on their risk assessment increased their chances of receiving treatment in the community.

Overall, the authors concluded that people with a prior gun-related conviction are at a higher chance of committing a new gun crime compared to similar people with no prior gun conviction. This led to their conclusion that practitioners and policymakers should have gun offense history be a factor in their risk assessment and that treatment programs should address gun violence.

One suggestion they make is that individuals who go to prison for a gun-related crime should

receive treatment that focuses on gun avoidance and have that treatment continue once they are

paroled. Based on their analysis, the authors believe a focused approach to gun-related

convictions has the capability of reducing gun violence and can help decrease the chances of an

individual being rearrested for another gun crime.


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