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Pandemic Pushes Distance Treatment Into Mainstream

As social distancing mandates continue throughout the country, criminal justice professionals are faced with the reality that traditional high-intensity intervention protocols aren’t viable. Group treatment, classroom environments and even face-to-face clinician sessions present unacceptable risks of spreading infection.

Schools and colleges have moved to online instruction, medical treatment has been extended through telehealth and AI (artificial intelligence) diagnosis, and companies across the country are working, training and collaborating remotely. So it’s no surprise that more criminal justice professionals are now beginning to use distance treatment for offender interventions.

To this end, the Federal Judiciary recently requested $4.5M to support remote delivery of intervention treatment for an anticipated public quarantine period of three months. But for many public health experts, three months may be an overly optimistic projection, and additional funds will likely be needed for these areas. Even under the best scenarios, ending public quarantine after three months would require extensive COVID testing and individual isolation protocols—so individual, remote interventions would still need to be used extensively.

Social Distancing for Risk

Of course, researchers have long held that group intervention environments are not the best treatment solutions if participants aren’t separated by risk. For instance, meta-analyses of existing research by Lowenkamp and Latessa (2004) examined the outcomes of high intensity group therapies when high- and low-risk offenders are treated together and found that these programs significantly increased recidivism among low-risk individuals. According to the authors, these programs impacted low-risk offenders negatively because:

  • When we place low-risk offenders in the more intense correctional interventions, we are probably exposing them to higher-risk offenders, and we know that who your associates are is an important risk factor. Practically speaking, placing high- and low-risk offenders together is never a good idea.

  • When we take lower-risk offenders, who by definition are fairly prosocial (if they weren’t, they wouldn't be low-risk), and place them in a highly structured, restrictive program, we actually disrupt the factors that make them low-risk. For example, if I were to be placed in a correctional treatment program for 6 months, I would lose my job, I would experience family disruption, and my prosocial attitudes and prosocial contacts would be cut off and replaced with antisocial thoughts and antisocial peers.

  • Other factors such as IQ, intellectual functioning, and maturity might be at work. We rarely find programs that assess these important responsivity factors when they place offenders into groups. It could be the case that there are some low-functioning, low-risk offenders who are manipulated by more sophisticated, higher-risk, predatory offenders.

This, taken with a plethora of research showing better learning outcomes when instruction is delivered in self-guided, self-paced environments, points to distance treatment as superior for low-level interventions for low-risk offenders.

The Advent Advantage

Advent offers easy-to-implement adult and juvenile distance treatment solutions to police, prosecutors, courts, community corrections and probation offices across the country. Our eLearning platform allows for full management of over 20 online distance treatment programs to address low-level, non-violent offenses using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) principles.

Put simply, Advent’s distant treatment provides concise, inexpensive treatment to correct anti-social and offense-specific thoughts and behaviors, delivered individually to offenders at the pace that’s right for each. These interventions can be used by low-risk offenders in their homes, on most any Internet-ready device, to maintain appropriate “social distancing” both during the pandemic and for years to come.

To learn more about our distance treatment programs and eLearning management platform, including demonstrations and reviews of our content, please email us today or contact your Advent sales representative.


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