Publication date (electronic): 30 June 2007
A complexity perspective on work with offenders and victims of crime*
External link: http://184.108.40.206
Internationally, cognitive behavioral theories form the foundation of work with offenders, because they have proved to be the most effective in bringing about changes and reducing levels of reoffending. As with any theory, the original theory has been consistently modified and adapted in attempts to make it even more effective at bringing about behavioral changes in offenders. This paper first gives an overview of cognitive behavioral theory, seeing how its linear approach has cut it off from wider perspectives that might make it more effective. It also develops an understanding of criminal behavior from a complexity viewpoint. From there it examines from a complexity perspective the work of the Community Probation Service in New Zealand, which uses a cognitive behavioral approach, and the recently completed pilot of the restorative justice system, bringing offender and victim together in a mediated forum. An effective complex adaptive system has strong autonomy and efficient connectivity. If any member of a community violates the autonomy or connectivity of another, a crime is committed. Work with offenders and victims focuses on restoring the autonomy and connectivity of those involved and the whole community, better enabling the dynamics of self-organization to reemerge. Offenders are seen as developing schemas supported by cognitive distortions that allow them to bypass the barriers that keep most of us from offending. If an existing maladaptive schema can be carefully destabilized, it can enable the formation of a new, more effective schema that does not include offending behaviors.
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