According to What Works literature, there are specific principles that characterize effective interventions: risk, need, responsivity, professional discretion and therapeutic integrity (Andrews et al, 1990; Andrews & Bonta, 1998)
The Risk Principle
This principle is based on evidence that the level and intensity of service provided to a correctional client should be dependent on the level of risk posed by that client. Contrary to commonly held beliefs, the effects of treatment are greater among higher risk candidates than lower risk cases, but the recidivism rates of low risk probationers was greater under amplified, rather than regular, supervision (Andrews, 1989). The balance of treatment level and risk level is imperative to provide an effective treatment program for both low and high risk offenders.
The Need Principle
This principle focuses on the dynamic needs of an individual for targets of intervention. These targets have been termed criminogenic needs, or, those features of an offender’s circumstances and characteristics that are predictive of future criminal conduct.
The Responsivity Principle
Responsivity refers to the general approach used to influence change. Andrews and Bonta (1998) suggest that appropriate types of service tend to use cognitive-behavioural and social learning practices including the application of antecedent control, consequent control, skill enhancement, and cognitive change. In addition to the general approach used it is important to consider specific staff and client characteristics and to match the style and mode of intervention accordingly (Andrews et al, 1990)
The Principle of Professional Discretion
Given the heterogeneous nature of the correctional population, there are occasions where practitioners will be required to override assessment findings and develop a plan of intervention guided by an offender’s individual qualities and unique needs. To ensure that override procedures are implemented properly it is important to ensure that staff possess the necessary skills and access to supervisory support to make appropriate decisions.
The Principle of Therapeutic Integrity
Effective programs ensure that standards of professional conduct are upheld by providing staff with training, supervision, and ethical guidelines.