Heavy caseloads, job stress, and biases can negatively affect relations between these officers and their clients, leading to the likelihood of offenders landing back behind bars.
A positive psychology intervention developed by UC Berkeley suggests that nonjudgmental empathy training helps court-appointed supervision officers feel more emotionally connected to their clients, which, the new study shows, might deter them from criminal backsliding.
The findings, published last month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show, on average, a 13% decrease in recidivism among the clients of parole and probation officers who participated in the empathy training experiment.
“If an officer received this empathic training, real-world behavioral outcomes changed for the people they supervised, who, in turn, were less likely to go back to jail,” said study lead and senior author Jason Okonofua, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.
The results are particularly salient because the U.S. criminal justice system has among the highest rates of recidivism, with approximately 66% of incarcerated people rearrested within three years of their release, with one-half being sent back behind bars.
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