The Impact of Post-Program Change in Criminogenic Need on Returns to Federal Custody Among Federally Sentenced Women

Research Highlights: Post-program reduction in need level on the DFIA-R is associated with fewer returns to federal custody for women.

Why we did this study

In 2010, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) began implementation of holistic, gender- and culture-informed models of correctional programming for women offenders. Recent research has provided preliminary evidence linking program participation to improved post-treatment outcomes (Derkzen et al., 2017; Harris et al., 2015), reductions in level of criminogenic need (Wardrop & Pardoel, 2018), and, among Indigenous women, reduced recidivism rates (Derkzen et al., 2017). The current study aimed to build on previous results by examining the association between changes in specific criminogenic need domain ratings post-program and returns to custody.

What we did

Women included in this study were admitted to federal custody for a new warrant of committal between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2018 and had completed at least one correctional program during this period. The final sample included 3,715 program completions, representing a total of 2,030 women offenders (32.6% Indigenous). Level of criminogenic need was assessed within 90 days pre- and post-program using the Dynamic Factors Identification and Analysis – Revised (DFIA-R) parole officer ratings.Footnote 1 Post-program ratings were coded as either a ‘Positive Outcome’ (reduction in need or maintaining asset to community adjustment/no need for improvement/low need for improvement) or ‘Negative Outcome’ (maintained higher need or increased in need) for the overall and domain ratings.Footnote 2 Rates of returns to federal custody for any reason were calculated while controlling for time at risk. We were unable to examine change on the Generic Program Performance Measure (GPPM) linked to community outcomes as too few women who showed improvement on the GPPM post-program returned to custody.

What we found

Women with reductions in criminogenic need post-program had significantly lower rates of return to custody relative to those who did not improve or remained at moderate or high need. Women with a negative outcome for the DFIA-R overall ratings were almost twice as likely to return to custody (21.9%; [95%CI 18.5 - 25.8]*) relative to those who had positive outcomes (12.4%; 95%CI [8.8 – 17.0]*). As shown in Table 1, lower need and decrease in need on most DFIA-R domains were associated with significantly lower return rates. However, the Personal/Emotional and the Attitudes domains only trended towards statistical significance. Women who maintained a lower need or decreased need level on the Substance Abuse domain saw the greatest reduction in returns to custody, returning at a rate 2.3 times lower than women whose need level was not reduced. Of note, women who maintained a higher need level or increased their need level in the Community Functioning domain had the highest rates of returns to federal custody. When disaggregated by Indigenous ancestry only change on Community Functioning was related to outcome for Indigenous women.

Table 1. Rate of returns to custody by DFIA-R domain
DFIA-R Domain Outcome n Rate of Return to Custody
[95% CI]
Associates Positive 400 14.2 [11.3 – 17.5]
Negative 329 26.3 [21.3 – 31.9]
Attitudes Positive 523 16.8 [14.0 – 20.0]
Negative 205 25.3 [19.2 – 32.7]
Community Functioning Positive 532 15.3 [12.7 – 18.3]
Negative 196 31.4 [24.3 – 40.0]
Marital/Family Positive 402 13.6 [10.7 – 16.9]
Negative 327 26.6 [21.8 – 32.2]
Personal/Emotional Positive 334 16.9 [13.4 – 21.0]
Negative 395 20.7 [ 16.9 – 25.0]
Substance Abuse Positive 402 12.4 [9.7 – 15.5]
Negative 327 29.0 [23.9 – 35.0]
*Note. Rates adjusted for time at risk should not be interpreted as absolute percentages. 95%CI = 95% confidence interval

What it means

Overall, results demonstrated that: 1) The DFIA-R can detect meaningful change post program participation and 2) reduction in need or maintenance of low need is significantly related to lower rates of return to custody. The relationship of change in criminogenic need and returns to federal custody did not reach a level of statistical significance on the Personal/Emotional and Attitudes domains, areas that may require more intensive intervention to produce meaningful gains. The higher rate of returns for women who had higher need levels or increased need level on the Community Functioning domain highlights the importance of reintegration efforts being focused on such issues as identifying stable accommodation and sources of financial stability.

For more information

Please e-mail the Research Branch or contact us by phone at (613) 995-3975.

You can also visit the Research Publications section for a full list of reports and one-page summaries.

Prepared by: Kate Pardoel & Kaitlyn Wardrop

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