Monday, February 29, 2016

The Availability and Utility of Services to Address Risk Factors for Recidivism among Justice-Involved Veterans

The availability and utility of services to address recidivism risk factors among justice-involved veterans is unknown. We explored these issues through qualitative interviews with 63 Specialists from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Veterans Justice Programs. To guide the interviews, we utilized the Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model of offender rehabilitation. Specialists reported that justice-involved veterans generally have access to services to address most RNR-based risk factors (substance abuse; lack of positive school/work involvement; family/marital dysfunction; lack of prosocial activities/interests), but have less access to services targeting risk factors of antisocial tendencies and associates and empirically-based treatments for recidivism in VA. Peer-based services, motivational interviewing/cognitive-behavioral therapy, and Veterans Treatment Courts were perceived as useful to address multiple risk factors. 

These findings highlight potential gaps in provision of evidence-based care to address recidivism among justice-involved veterans, as well as promising policy-based solutions that may have widespread impact on reducing recidivism in this population.

...The objectives of the current study were to determine the availability of services for justice-involved veterans that address empirically-supported risk factors for recidivism that are targeted by the RNR model, the types of treatment options and resources that are perceived as being most helpful in addressing these risk factors, and whether justice-involved veterans have access to empirically-based treatments for recidivism risk. For most risk factors (substance abuse, lack of positive school or work involvement, family/marital dysfunction, and lack of prosocial activities/interests), responses from the majority of Veterans Justice Program Specialists in our sample included description of some type of treatment option or resource that was available to address these issues among justice-involved veterans. By comparison, only a little more than half of the Specialists’ responses included description of any treatment options or resources to address antisocial tendencies and antisocial associates. This is noteworthy, given that risk factors related to antisociality (i.e., the Big Four) have been identified as the strongest predictors of criminal recidivism (, ).

The current findings are largely consistent with research on availability of services for offenders in general. For example, a recent review highlighted the range of offender reentry programs and services that target vocational training, substance abuse prevention, and other psychosocial needs of offenders (e.g., housing; James, 2015). By contrast, others have noted that extant programming for offenders tend not target antisocial tendencies, despite the centrality of these issues in the prediction of recidivism risk (;). This potential gap may be greater among justice-involved veterans, given that in the current study the availability of interventions that directly target antisocial cognitions and attitudes (e.g., MRT, T4C) were reported to be less prevalent in VA (vs. non-VA settings)...

Full article at:

1 HSR&D Center for Innovation to Implementation, VA Palo Alto Health Care System
2 Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, CA
3 National Center for PTSD, VA Palo Alto Health Care System
4 Veterans Justice Programs, Veterans Health Administration
5 HSR&D Center for Health Care Organization and Implementation Research, Bedford VA Medical Center
6 University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
7 Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA
Correspondence to: Daniel M. Blonigen, Ph.D., HSR&D Center for Innovation to Implementation, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, 795 Willow Road (152), Menlo Park, CA 94025. Phone: 650-493-5000, ext. 27828, Fax: 650-617-2736.  vog.av@neginolB.leinaD

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