Home Forums EBP & Related Research Findings Coerced versus Voluntary Treatment

This topic contains 2 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  BettyFrisch February 20 , 2017.

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  • BettyFrisch

    Hello, everyone! Thank you so much for sharing this research article with us. If you need an essay on peer pressure, kindly follow this link http://skywritingservice.com/blog/essay-on-peer-pressure to see how to fight against such a phenomenon!


    I think this entry makes valid points on both sides. To simplify, it’s like parents and children.  As the parent, you are trying to guide the child’s behavior and have their best interests at heart.  However, the child can be stubborn, angry, unable to regulate emotions and they want independence. So essentially, a similar method can be used with defendants.  With a child, you as parent provide 2 “options” so the child believes they have some control/decision making power, even though as the parent, you know that both options are acceptable to you and best for the child.  I know this is simplifying; however, I think the same concepts can apply to defendants. Everyone wants to have a sense of control over their own life, so offer “choices” knowing that both options are for the best.  It’s all in how you word things and interact with people.


    The following is in response to a question on whether coerced treatment works and, if so, does it work better than voluntary treatment.  A challenging aspect to this question has to do with terminology.  What exactly do the words “coercion” and “mandated” really mean?  Is there ever really such a thing as non-coerced treatment?  Here is my understanding of the subject:

    First of all, number of studies show that a combination of surveillance and treatment is more effective at reducing recidivism than surveillance alone.  Below are some of these studies indicating that accountability enhances treatment outcomes.

    Taxman, Faye S. (2007). Reentry and Supervision: One Is Impossible Without the Other. Corrections Today, April 2007: 98-105.

    Aos, Steve, Marna Miller, and Elizabeth Drake (2006). Evidence-Based Adult Corrections Programs: What Works and What Does Not.  Olympia, WA. Washington State Institute for Public Policy.  Available at http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/06-01-1201.pdf.

    MacKenzie, Doris L. (2006). What Works in Corrections? New York: Cambridge University Press

    Sherman, L.W., Denise Gottfredson, Doris MacKenzie, John Eck, Peter. Reuter, and Shawn. Bushway (1997). Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising. Research in Brief. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

    National Research Council. Committee on Community Supervision and Desistance from Crime, (2007). Parole, Desistance from Crime, and Community Integration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    Petersilia, Joan. (2003). When Prisoners Come Home: Parole and Prisoner Reentry. New York: Oxford University Press.

    The question of whether voluntary or coerced treatment yields better results is not easy to answer.  The research is showing mixed results.  Most of the studies found on this subject deal with alcohol/drug related subjects.  These studies deal with addiction issues which makes it more difficult to answer across the various treatment types such as family counseling, cognitive behavioral, anger management, etc.  While drugs and alcohol are a major factor in offenders behavior and treatment they are not the only factor and are usually not the driver of criminal behavior.  Here are some examples of the mixed research results:


    –          The research article Offender Coercion in Treatment: A Meta-Analysis of Effectiveness by Karen K. Parhar, J. Stephen Wormith, Dena M. Derkzen, and Adele M. Beauregard, Criminal Justice and Behavior Journal vol. 35, no. 9, pp. 1109-1135, 2008  DOI: 10.1177/0093854808320169 is especially enlightening in this regard.  They conducted a meta-analysis (129 studies) to compare the effectiveness of mandated, coerced, and voluntary correctional treatment in reducing recidivism (a wide variety of treatments, not just alcohol/drug related). I can’t send this article as it is copyrighted but I would urge you to acquire it.  It provides an excellent summary of this issue and includes a synopsis of a number of studies that both affirm that mandated treatment is as or more effective than voluntary (including NIDA) as well as the opposite, that voluntary treatment yields better results.  Their meta-analysis showed that mandated treatment was found to be ineffective in several analyses, particularly when the treatment was located in custodial settings, whereas voluntary treatment produced significant treatment effect sizes regardless of setting.

    –           On the other hand, the attached article by Goldsmith and Latessa discusses the issue of drug courts efficacy.  They point out the justice system provides the impetus for offenders to participate in treatment (presumably against their will) and results in higher retention rates which is a predictor of success.  Here is a quote from their study: “The retention rates for the drug courts has been approximately 60% for 12 months in treatment, whereas therapeutic communities have reported 1-year retention rates of only 10% to 30% of parolees for 6 months.  Retention and total treatment are key predictors of outcome after treatment.  Closer supervision of the individuals in drug courts is one reason why the results are superior.”

    –          The attached summary of Joan Petersilia’s article indicates strong research support for a combination of treatment and supervision.  That is, under supervision you can more readily apply rewards and consequences, you can give incentives to increase motivation, and you can better provide work, school, and treatment all of which are key to recidivism reduction.

    My summary conclusion of your question is as follows: Treatment is rarely truly voluntary.  There are pressures that incentivize one to finally submit to treatment whether that is a life threatening event (e.g., overdose), family member pressure, or the threat of losing a good paying job or career.  Generally speaking, we get the best results when the individual wants to be in treatment (whether court ordered or pressured by life circumstances) and understands why it is imperative to enter treatment.  However, whether one stays in treatment once he/she feels better or the pressure is off is a critical factor in longer term success.  The risk of receiving an unwanted criminal justice penalty should treatment not be completed can help provide an extra incentive to participate in treatment and aftercare.  Hopefully, the motive to participate in treatment in order to avoid legal consequences changes as one gets engaged in treatment leading to intrinsic reasons to stay.  Treatment can work as well if it is mandated especially if the treatment provider is skilled in enhancing motivation during treatment but if we can increase motivation and have them voluntarily enter treatment we have the best of both.

    As this is not my area of expertise, I am going to ask our Forum readers to add to this discussion.  I am sure that there is plenty of additional research that could help shed additional light on this subject.


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