July, 20 2018

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Changing Behavior in Teens

When it comes to stopping repeat criminals, talk therapy focusing on the past doesn't work. Neither do boot camps or drug education programs. Incarceration, as popular as it is, works only half the time.

What type of treatment does work?

An alternative solution: teaching specific behavioral changes that offenders can implement immediately.

"You have to teach offenders new ways to behave," said Dr. Edward J. Latessa, a nationally known researcher and expert on repeat criminals.

That includes getting offenders into jobs, banning their association with troublesome acquaintances, fostering involvement in sober activities, identifying positive mentors and teaching them how to be assertive rather than passive and how to spot the triggers that lead to illegal behavior.

"You have to target attitudes, values and beliefs."

Why other Treatment Fails

Deterrence efforts have failed because habitual criminals don't have the behavioral skills or the rational perspective to judge the effects of their actions, said Latessa, who addressed several hundred criminal justice professionals at a meeting in Grand Junction this week.

On the other hand, interventions that focus on action often do work.

"We practice. We role- play. We simulate situations," Latessa said of his influential treatment methods. "We don't sit around and ask, 'What would you like to talk about today?"'

The basis of this approach is the notion that thinking affects behavior. If offenders change how they think, they change how they feel and act.

High-risk individuals need high-intensity treatment and need to be identified early on. But the right amount of treatment depends on the individual. Multiple studies show that too much intervention, such as placing low-risk offenders together in a residential program, can have negative results. Offenders can lose jobs and positive connections while bonding with other criminals.

Implementing this Type of Treatment in our Current System

The Colorado Department of Corrections is currently working to implement some of Latessa's recommendations, said Jeaneene Miller, director of adult parole, community corrections and youthful offender systems.

The state is focusing on drug and alcohol, mental health and sex-offender programs that can be used shortly before inmates are released from prison for the highest impact.

The department is working with jurisdictions so those programs can extend to their communities after offenders are released. Miller said she recognizes that, in some cases with high-risk offenders, the need for treatment lasts lifetimes.

Related Articles:
North Dakota Heartview Again Offers Residential Treatment 10/31/07
New Florida Troubled Youth Mission 10/30/07
Illinois Juvenile Court Needs Help 10/28/07
'Price of Privilege' Too High for Teens 10/26/07
Illinois Teen Sentenced to Boot Camp 10/26/07
Florida Boot Camp Verdict Protested 10/23/07
New York Showcases New Program to Help Troubled Youth 10/23/07
Vermont Facility Changes Policy for Restraining Troubled Teens 10/22/07
Week Long Evaluation of Academy of Eastern Arizona 10/21/07
Power in You Program Motivates Troubled Teens 10/16/07

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