Aggression replacement training in the community for adult learning disabled offenders
Curulla, Virginia Latta
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Community based rehabilitation for offenders as an alternative to incarceration is gaining popularity not only because it is less expensive than incarceration but also because it may be more effective. However, offenders with learning disabilities may have unique needs which are not met in many community treatment programs. Such programs often rely upon a lecture format which is ill-suited for many learning disabled individuals, or otherwise do not respond to the communication styles and behavioral characteristics of persons with learning disabilities. Aggression Replacement Training (ART), on the other hand, incorporates teaching methods that have been found effective with the learning disabled. In this study, two groups of adult male misdemeanor offenders with learning disabilities participated in 14 weeks of ART for two hours weekly, utilizing different versions of ART. The dilemma group (n = 16) received all three components, social skills training, anger management and moral education. The nondilemma group (n = 18) received only the social skills training and anger management components, supplemented with additional skills training so that they spent the same total amount of program time as the first group. The control group (n = 33) was made up of individuals who had been found appropriate for the program but did not receive it. Tendency towards recidivism and actual recidivism were compared among three groups (N = 67). Tendency towards recidivism, as measured by the Weekly Activity Record, was significantly reduced in the dilemma group. The nondilemma and control groups showed no significant reduction. The dilemma group also had the lowest frequency of subsequent offense. Among the 16 dilemma subjects, only one individual had charges on his record during the six month followup period. Five of the 18 nondilemma subjects and 8 of the 33 controls had district court charges during the same period. However, the difference in actual recidivism among the three groups did not reach statistical significance due to the low incidence of recorded charges during the six month followup. Community-based Aggression Replacement Training, when it includes the three components of social skills training, anger control and dilemma discussion, appears to have some potential for reducing recidivism in adult male learning disabled offenders.
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