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Expert: ‘We can change offender behavior, we just need to go about it the right way’

A joint legislative committee today is hearing detailed presentations on the right and wrong ways to prevent recidivism, or reoffending by criminals; Ed Latessa, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati, shared the latest studies on what works and what doesn’t. Punishment alone doesn’t prevent reoffending, he said; if it did, there wouldn’t be so many people in prison who’d been there before. But treatment also doesn’t work unless it’s effective treatment, appropriately targeted and effectively delivered. “Now this doesn’t mean we can’t punish and treat,” Latessa told the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Interim Committee. “That’s what we do in the criminal justice system. But we can also change their behavior through that process.”

Effective programs are behavioral, he said. “They focus on current risk factors, not the past. … Offenders are actively learning new ways to behave, new skills.” He showed a video clip of a trained probation officer and a probationer, talking about how the offender could avoid a friend who was luring him back to the same criminal behavior that landed him behind bars. “We can change offender behavior, we just need to go about it the right way,” Latessa said.

The joint committee, which includes 11 senators and representatives and is co-chaired by House Judiciary Chairman Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, and Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, also is scheduled today to hear a detailed analysis of Idaho’s criminal justice system from the Council of State Governments criminal justice reinvestment program; and a presentation from South Dakota officials on what happened in that state’s justice reinvestment project.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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