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The Challenges Of Improving Offender Rehab, Cop Mental Health

Speakers at the annual Forum on Criminal Justice this week presented successful strategies for working with violent criminals and improving law enforcement. Stephanie Spiegel of the University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute shared ways in which offenders can change their behavior and commit fewer repeat crimes. She found that longer, more intensive "multi-modal" rehabilitation programs significantly decreased violent offenses. Multi-modal programs feature "structured activities that use a majority of role-play and practice of new skills, and move away from talk therapy or processing," Spiegel said. Steps to prevent relapses and preparation for successful reentry after prison or jail contribute to improved outcomes. In addition to encouraging proper treatment of offenders, Spiegel favors having interventions delivered by trained, clinical and/or correctional staff. "Drivers for successful implementation, training, coaching, fidelity practices, across the field are important strategies and contribute to the outcomes of effectiveness, even for our most violent high-risk individuals," Spiegel said."

Meanwhile, law enforcement is facing major challenges. Sheriff Rosie Rivera of Utah's Salt Lake County told the forum that the biggest issues law enforcement faces are with hiring and retaining officers. "We have seen a reduction in the amount of people who are applying to become police officers and a huge increase in the [numbers] who are either retiring or not finishing out their complete career," Rivera said. Because hiring rates are so low, Rivera wants to make sure employment standards are maintained. " If you start lowering the standard you're going to see the changes within our community," she said. Changes in retirement plans can have an impact, as 20-year pensions are no longer an option for officers in many agencies. Because of high-profile incidents in 2020 and the social unrest that followed, many potential employees turned away from seeking a police career. Another challenge is the mental health of officers. "Once you go on critical incident after critical incident, eventually that is going to play with your mind and you are going to have some experiences with mental health," she said. Rivera has worked on increasing rest periods and peer support teams to help boost mental morale. She says this plays a role in the interactions between officers and violent offenders. "If you have an officer who is not 100 percent in their mental health, you're going to see the use of force cases go up, abuse cases go up, you may see language change in individuals, and you may see more of their biases come out when they're stressed," Rivera said. The forum is sponsored by the National Criminal Justice Association and the International Community Justice Association.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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