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  • Writer's pictureSam Wilks

Cognitive Enhancement Programs do they Reduce Recidivism


Recidivism, or the tendency of individuals to reoffend after release from prison, is a persistent problem in the criminal justice system. Research has shown that recidivism rates are high among those who have been incarcerated, with many individuals returning to prison within a few years of their release.


To address this issue, cognitive enhancement programs have been implemented in many prisons across Australia with the goal of reducing recidivism by improving inmates' cognitive abilities and decision-making skills. However, there is very little public accessible data to examine the effectiveness of these programs and provide insight into their potential benefits.


Cognitive enhancement programs or education programs are designed to help individuals develop the cognitive skills necessary to make better decisions and avoid criminal behaviour.


These programs typically involve a combination of individual and group sessions, focusing on topics such as problem-solving, decision-making, impulse control, and emotional regulation. Inmates may also receive training in vocational skills, such as computer programming or carpentry, to help them prepare for life after release.


Cognitive enhancement programs are promoted as an effective way to reduce recidivism by addressing the underlying cognitive and behavioural factors that contribute to criminal behaviour. By improving inmates' cognitive abilities and decision-making skills, these programs can help individuals make better choices and avoid the types of behaviours that led to their incarceration in the first place. The theory on its benefit is merit-based and should be sound.


Research has shown that cognitive enhancement programs can have a positive impact on inmates' behaviour and outcomes after release in the US and Sweden. One study conducted by the RAND Corporation in the US found that inmates who participated in cognitive enhancement programs were less likely to recidivate than those who did not participate.


Inmates who participated in these programs were more likely to find employment after release and had higher earnings than those who did not participate. However, these studies were all completed in the 1970s prior to the full rollout of over 80% more welfare schemes in the US. Since the 1970's the recivisim rate in the US has increase by 50% in some states and there is not consistent data to show it was attributable to defunding of education programs as they have increased substantially. Private investigations in the Swedish studies did not correlate with the same success rates in Sweden over time either. So we can not differentiate if this was a short term trend or a long term solution?


The benefits of cognitive enhancement programs promise to extend beyond the individual. By reducing recidivism rates, these programs could also have a positive impact on society as a whole. Fewer individuals returning to prison means reduced costs for the criminal justice system and fewer victims of crime.


I must note that the effectiveness of cognitive enhancement programs may depend on a number of factors, including the quality of the program, the motivation of the participants, and the support provided after release. Programs that are poorly designed or poorly executed may not have the desired impact, and participants who are not motivated to change will not benefit from programs.


Cognitive enhancement programs may be effective in reducing recidivism rates, they are not a cure-all solution for the complex issue of criminal behaviour. Other factors, such as economic and social inequality, access to education and job opportunities, culture and mental health issues, can also contribute to criminal behaviour and recidivism. Addressing these factors requires a more comprehensive approach that goes beyond cognitive enhancement programs alone.


The effectiveness of these programs depends on a number of factors and should be implemented as part of a broader strategy to address the root causes of criminal behaviour and recidivism. By addressing the underlying factors that contribute to criminal behaviour, we can create a safer and more supportive community. Although Australian data on recidivism rates is inconclusive, as an adult educator I have observed the positive changes attributed to skills-based competency training that leads to employment. I personally have a bias, and I believe that any training that can lead to employment or employability will reduce recidivism. I would like to see greater longterm and short term data on this, if only to identify those programs and teachers that have a positive affect and why? From the author. The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.


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