A synthesis of literature on the effectiveness of community orders

by Robert C. Davis, Lila Rabinovich, Jennifer Rubin, Beau Kilmer, Paul Heaton

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Abstract

The U.K. National Audit Office (NAO) commissioned RAND Europe to conduct this review to identify and synthesize international research about the effectiveness of community orders in reducing re-offending. In this report, we review research on ten of the common requirements contained in community orders. Through examining reviews, systematic reviews and meta-analyses we draw conclusions about the state of research in the areas of unpaid work, mental health treatment, education/skills training, drug treatment, anger management, alcohol treatment, programmes for perpetrators of domestic abuse, regular probation, intensive probation and cognitive/behavioural programming. We also assess the strength of the evidence on whether each of these requirements affects the likelihood of re-offending. We find that the quality of research on the effectiveness of community-based interventions for offenders is extremely variable. However, in two areas — cognitive/behavioural programming and drug treatment — rigorous research exists which points to a reduction in the odds of re-offending. In four other areas — programmes for domestic abuse perpetrators, unpaid work, education and basic skills training and intensive probation — existing studies have not suggested that the programmes have a positive effect on recidivism. Finally, in four areas — anger management, probation, and alcohol and mental health treatment — the question of impact on re-offending remains unsettled. This review highlights the need for more rigorous research — especially randomized trials — into the requirements that constitute community orders.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    The effectiveness of community orders

  • Chapter Three

    Conclusions

  • Appendix A

    Methodology

  • Appendix B

    Reviews by topic

  • Appendix C

    Significant individual studies by topic

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the National Audit Office and was conducted by RAND Europe.

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