Approaching Responsivity : the Victorian Department of Justice and Indigenous Offenders

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Offender rehabilitation has developed a stronghold on correctional practice in the past two decades. Further strengthening this grip have been three main  principles for effective practice; risk, needs and responsivity. This paper will focus on the
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  Approaching Responsivity: The VictorianDepartment of Justice and IndigenousOffenders Claire Spivakovsky † Offender rehabilitation has developed a stronghold on correctional practice in the past twodecades. Further strengthening this grip have been three main principles for effective practice;risk, needs and responsivity. This paper will focus on the responsivity principle, which dictatesthat effective rehabilitation involves consideration of an offender’s cognitive behaviouralcharacteristics and appropriate program delivery. In particular, this paper will analyse how thistask has been approached by the Victorian Department of Justice in relation to Indigenousoffenders. Drawing on recent interviews with Justice staff, it will be shown that Justice’s approachto being responsive to the needs of Victorian Indigenous offenders is more complex thanaddressing cognitive behavioural characteristics and program delivery. It involves meaningfulinteractions that extend beyond the Department of Justice and Indigenous offenders to includeIndigenous communities. Introduction The move by correctional agencies to apply principles for effective offenderrehabilitation to their objectives and frameworks is not a recent occurrence. Whilethis move has formed the focus of much research, the principle of responsivity, oneof the key principles for effective practice, has received very limited consideration inregard to its practical application by institutions and the resulting lived experiencesof offenders. Addressing the institutional aspect, this paper explores the VictorianDepartment of Justice approach to the principle of responsivity in relation toIndigenous offenders. The paper does this by discussing the narratives of VictorianDepartment of Justice staff in regard to their direct and indirect work that attemptsto respond to the needs of Indigenous offenders and the influences on this work. It isargued that the formal and informal interactions that occur between the Departmentof Justice and Indigenous communities as well as between the Department of Justiceand Indigenous offenders, has moved the practice of responsivity into a morecomprehensive area of response than that which is outlined in the correctionalliterature. †   Department   of   Criminology,   University   of   Melbourne   (2007/8)   10    Flinders    Journal   of    Law   Reform   649  This argument is developed over the three parts of the paper. Part one providesthe background for the move towards offender responsivity and outlines the twomodels that have been incorporated into the Victorian   Reducing Re-offendingFramework. The second part outlines the methodological approach taken, includingthe description of the sample, interviews and analysis. Part Three draws on recentinterviews with Justice staff and critically explores how the Victorian Department of Justice has approached the principle of responsivity in relation to Indigenousoffenders. The Development of Offender Rehabilitation ‘With few and isolated exceptions, the rehabilitative efforts … have had noappreciable effects on recidivism’   (Martinson, 1974 p. 25). This single quote isarguably the most well known and most commonly referred to conclusion that hasbeen drawn in the history of offender rehabilitation development. So quicklyaccepted and unchallenged were these words of Martinson that they sparked aninternational era of ‘nothing works’, which hindered interest in offenderrehabilitation for 20 years. Indeed, it was not until the development of meta-analysisin the 1990s, which allowed data to be aggregated across a number of comparablestudies, that conclusions in stark opposition began to be drawn. As positive findingsbecame more frequent, a renewal of interest in offender rehabilitation occurred. Thisinterest saw the forgone conclusion that ‘nothing works’ open up into a focusedexploration of ‘what works’ in offender treatment and practice.Emerging as a response to this issue of ‘what works’ was the Risk-Need-Responsivity Model (RNRM). This model was developed through a combination ofthe results from the aforementioned meta-analytical studies into successfulrehabilitation (Andrews, Bonta and Hoge 1990), and the theory of the Psychology ofCriminal Conduct (PCC). Briefly, the PCC is based in the area of personality andsocial learning psychology and therefore views behaviour in relation to personalityand social constructs, such as low self-control and antisocial cognition (Andrewsand Bonta 2003). In its current configuration, the RNRM uses this empirical andtheoretical base to propose three principles for effective practice.1 1   The   srcinal   Model   included   an   additional   two   principles   for   effective   practice:   professional   override   and   program   integrity.   Although   these   aspects   are   acknowledged   in   discussions   of   effective   practice,   they   no   longer   form   part   of   the   RNRM.   Spivakovsky,   C   (2007/8)   10    Flinders    Journal   of    Law   Reform   650    Risk-Need-Responsivity Model The first principle for effective practice is the risk principle. This principle dictatesthat the offender’s level of risk should reflect the relative risk of re-offending that theoffender poses. Hence, risk is attributed through classification procedures andresults in different levels of treatment, with intensive treatment reserved for thoseoffenders classified as ‘high risk’ (Andrews et al. 1990, p. 20).The second principle for effective practice is the needs principle. This principledistinguishes between addressing those needs which are criminogenic and thosewhich are non-criminogenic. In the RNRM, the primary focus is on addressing thecriminogenic needs of the offender. Hence, the dynamic factors of the offender (suchas anti-social attitudes and associates) are targeted because this model is premisedon the belief that, when addressed, they lead to a reduction in recidivism. Incontrast, the attributes of the offender (such as low self-esteem and anxiety) aresidelined because they have not been shown to reduce recidivism (Andrews et al.1990; Ward and Stewart 2003).The third principle for effective practice is the responsivity principle. The RNRMoutlines this principle as the need to address the responsiveness of offenders toparticular programs by acknowledging the variances in their personality andcognitive-behavioural characteristics (Andrews et al. 1990). In particular thisprinciple entails consideration of the internal factors (such as intellectualfunctioning) and external factors (such as programme delivery) that may reduce theoffender’s response to interventions (Ogloff and Davis, 2004 p. 233).While the RNRM definition of responsivity has overwhelmingly dominated thecorrectional literature on ‘what works’, and as a result international correctionalpractice of offender rehabilitation, a second model for effective practice also emergedin the last decade that provides an alternative approach to responsivity; the GoodLives Model. Good Lives Model The Good Lives Model (GLM) focuses on enhancing the offender’s life (for a fullreview of this model see Ward 2002 a and b; Ward and Brown 2003, 2004; Ward andStewart 2003). This model views offending as caused by an individual’s inability tosatisfy their basic human needs, such as relatedness or autonomy, through pro-socialchannels. Thus, in this model, criminogenic needs are understood to be internal orexternal obstacles that frustrate the individual’s ability to fulfil his/her basic human Spivakovsky,   C   (2007/8)   10    Flinders    Journal   of    Law   Reform   651    needs (Ward and Stewart 2003). Differentiating itself from the RNRM, the GLMtakes a broad approach to enhancing the offender’s capabilities, rather than focusingmerely on these obstacles to reduce recidivism. In this way it is hoped that offenderswill no longer need to adopt anti-social strategies to fulfil their basic needs.Whilst the GLM does not specify a ‘responsivity’ principle as such, it doesprovide an alternative understanding of the process of making offenders andprograms responsive to one another through this concept of offender enhancement.The GLM proposes that, rather than viewing the internal and external conditions ofthe offender as obstacles that need to be addressed in order to move offendersthrough the system with maximum responsiveness to programs, these points shouldbe seen as indicators of what should be possessed by the individual. This modelprovides guidance for how to identify such indicators and further, what conditionsand developments are required in order for the offender to achieve enhancement (orresponsiveness) in both the correctional setting and in their normal environment(Birgden 2002; Howells et al. 2005; Ward 2002b; Ward and Brown 2003, 2004; Wardand Eccleston 2004; Ward and Stewart 2003). The GLM therefore sees ‘responsivity’as both a penal mechanism and an indicator of the characteristics and attributes thatneed to be enhanced in order for the offender to be more responsive to life’schallenges when released. Furthermore, this dual purpose of responsivity meansthat, although the GLM appears to contrast with the RNRM, by locating riskmanagement within the GLM approach, one can actually capitalise on the benefits ofboth models (Ward 2002a). Hence, whilst these models are distinct in parts, theyshould not be seen as dichotomous.Corrections Victoria, situated within the Department of Justice2, appears tohave accepted the non-dichotomous relationship of the RNRM and the GLM in theirrecently developed offender rehabilitation framework, Reducing Re-offendingFramework: Setting the Scene (Birgden and McLachlan 2004). This Frameworkattempts to integrate the two models and therefore provides offence-specificprograms which aim for risk management, in addition to the provision of offence-related programs which aim to enhance the offender’s capabilities. However, as thisFramework has not been further developed since the srcinal scene was set, (or atleast any such developments have not been made public) there is very limitedindication of how the responsivity principle will be addressed within thisintegration. 2   The   Victorian   Department   of    Justice   encompasses   police;   courts;   prisons;   emergency   services;   regulation   of   gaming,   racing,   liquor   licensing   and   trade   measurement;   and   victims ʹ services.   Spivakovsky,   C   (2007/8)   10    Flinders    Journal   of    Law   Reform   652    Exploring Indigenous Responsivity in Victoria The above review indicates a lack of research on the practical application of theprinciple of responsivity. The research outlined in this paper attempts to address thisgap by exploring how the Victorian Department of Justice has approached thepractice of responsivity in relation to Indigenous offenders. But why focus on theapproaches to Indigenous offenders? First, this focus is driven by a personalcommitment to exploring how correctional agencies have attempted to address thedisgraceful figures of Indigenous over-representation in the criminal justice system.Second, correctional interaction with Indigenous offenders is a drastically underresearched area and it is hoped that, by showing what is occurring now, newdevelopments can take place and progress can be made towards reducing this over-representation. The third reason for this focus relates to the move by correctionalagencies to become more culturally appropriate - a move which, in part, provides anexample of a modern application of responsivity. Occurring simultaneously to therenewed interest in offender rehabilitation was a move towards correctional practicewhich can be considered ‘culturally appropriate’. Zeller (2003, p. 175) provides auseful explanation of the process of becoming culturally appropriate, proposing thatagencies must:(a)   become knowledgeable about the group they are working with, (b) be self-reflective and recognise biases within themselves as well as within theirprofession, and (c) integrate this knowledge and reflection with actualpractice.In Victoria, the move towards culturally appropriate practice has come in responseto the Royal Commission into Absrcinal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC). While thereis insufficient space to provide a complete overview of the numerous findings andrecommendations of the RCIADIC, it is important to note that one of the maincontentions of the Commission was that the criminal justice system was insensitiveto the cultural needs of the Indigenous population and as a result, ‘too manyabsrcinal people are in custody too often’ (RCIADIC National Report Volume 1,Para 1.3.3). In response to these findings and recommendations, the VictorianDepartment of Justice has developed two sequential Victorian Absrcinal JusticeAgreements: Phase One (Department of Justice 2004) and Phase Two (Department of Justice 2006). The purpose of both phases of the Agreement is to move towards aculturally appropriate Victorian Department of Justice which addresses over-representation of the Indigenous population through appropriate initiatives acrossthe criminal justice system. Spivakovsky,   C   (2007/8)   10    Flinders    Journal   of    Law   Reform   653  
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