A synthesis of literature on the effectiveness of community orders
Published Jan 10, 2008
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.