Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $641,614)
This project consists of a large field study with the purpose of modeling probationer decisions about whether or not to desist in future criminal acts. The proposed model goes beyond the rational actor approach incorporating psychological factors that probationers rely on to make decisions about their future behavior. The research team will collect responses from 572 probationers in the state of Nebraska testing several specific hypotheses derived from a Therapeutic Jurisprudence based model of probationer decision making, which emphasizes perceptions of procedural justice, distributive justice, interactional justice, style of motivation(promotion vs. prevention), and anticipated emotions after success or failure in probation goals. These factors are measured 6 times after each of 6 consecutive supervision sessions in which offenders meet with their probation officers. Outcome data will include indicators of probationers, decisions whether to desist (e.g., rearrests, substance abuse, treatment attendance, employment, and school attendance). Using a combination of ordinary least squares regression, logistic regression and structural equation modeling the team will test three central hypotheses: 1) If offenders perceive that the supervisory session was procedurally fair, produced a balanced outcome, resulted in respect for the offenders, and reconnected them to the positive aspects of their lives, they will view the law as legitimate. As a result, they will decide to comply with court orders and ultimately choose healthier behaviors. 2) When probationers leave supervision with a heightened sense of prevention motivation they are most likely to be successful because they will avoid future anti-social acts. However, errors of omission (failing to participate in ordered therapeutic intervention) are also detrimental; therefore, an increase in promotion focus and engaging in appropriate goal behavior may also increase the likelihood of offender success.
3) Regardless of their actual feelings, offenders will be more likely to comply with supervision orders and probation requirements to the extent that they forecast positive affect (or negative affect) in subsequent supervision hearings if they follow (or failed to follow) probation requirements. Analyses will also examine the role of risk to recidivate as a moderator variable for hypotheses 1-3. If our model shows significant paths to improve healthy offender decision making, we will learn not only how best to think about probationer choice to desist, we will also learn new ways for probation officers to help offenders make better decisions. ca/ncf