THE EDUCATION OF PROFESSIONALS IN THE FIELD OF CRIME PREVENTION: ORGANIZATION, IMPLEMENTATION, EVALUATION
Aleksandar Budjanovac, Ph.D.
Department of Behavioral Disorders
Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences
University of Zagreb
During the last several years a significant increase in the number of criminal acts has been noticed in the Republic of Croatia (see Table 1). Further, some new forms of crimes that had not been identified as “disturbing” during the last 10 years, have been introduced and labeled as “disturbing crimes” in today’s societies. These are people trafficking, cyber criminality etc.
Such an increase in crime rates points to the fact that preventive strategies for this problem are either malfunctioning or have serious deficiencies. The causes of these problems can be multiple, but they are mainly dependent on government crime policy in terms of readiness for problem solving. This type of problem was of particular interest to a well-known criminologist Walter Miller (Bersani, 1970), who stated that some authors in their analyze have confirmed that public sensibility about delinquency issues serves to psychological functions of an individual.
Table 1. Data on reported and convicted offenders in Croatia
Adult offenders, reported and convicted – statistical reports 2003 (Croatian Bureau of Statistics 2003).
These functions were based on an assumption that in dealing with crime, effective programs and strategies represent a serious threat to the very persistence of each institution, which leads us to the conclusion that those institutions are not prioritizing problem solving. In other words, if problems of crime could be dealt with in an effective way, this problem would soon cease to exist in such scope and institutions would become obsolete. Bearing in mind that people who govern the institutions have great deal of power and money which they would lose if their institution cease to exist, it is arguable that they do not want to deal with the crime problem effectively.
Nonetheless, constant increase of both crime and recidivism demands urgent and rapid answers from society, because society as a whole would benefit if those problems could be dealt with in more effective way. One answer is the education of professionals working in crime prevention, and this is the main theme of this paper.
Firstly, it is important to emphasize the fact that the Croatian higher education system is not coordinated with the European system. Undergraduate education is fairly rigid and inadequate, in the sense that the curriculum has already been made for the students so they have very little, or more often, no possibilities for selecting the lecture courses for specialization in a field by their own choice. For example, in some faculties courses specialize in management principles. Knowledge and techniques learned on such courses can be greatly useful in creating and managing crime prevention programs. Yet, the problem here is that students do not have the opportunity of attending such courses during their regular undergraduate education because the course do not form part of the curriculum in their faculties, which hence students are deprived of these valuable principles, methods and techniques.
Undergraduate study in the Republic of Croatia lasts for four years, and after graduation, students are considered fresh “expert”, but these “experts” are not specialized in any particular field. As an example, The Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences (or more precisely, The Department of Behavior Disorders) offers knowledge and work techniques for undergraduates studying both adult and juvenile offenders, but the opportunity for specialization in work with either of these has not been offered to the students. So, after graduation, we have experts who know a little about of everything, but who lack any concrete skills or methods which they can use with juvenile or adult offenders. Hence, after graduation students attend various additional to gain necessary knowledge.
Postgraduate study is mostly academic and not specialized, so again, the “expert” does not acquire any technique that he/she can implement or use in his/her field of work. In the field of human sciences various types of scientific research are being conducted, but there is no research in the field of treatment efficiency.
It is important to stress that there is no specialized postgraduate study in the field of criminality here in Croatia which could make possible the implementation of new methods and skills in the field of delinquency prevention. Research is being done and various scientific results achieved under the framework of the postgraduate study, but these results are not proving effective in practice.
The results of scientific research do not apply in everyday practice due to several reason. For example, practitioners and people who have power to decide rarely read scientific literature. Furthermore, the application of the results demands great investment in term of energy and resources – there is lack of sufficient motive for this. Also, there is a general resistance concerning the implementation of new practices and policies.
Therefore, we conclude that the Croatian academic system currently lacks true training, and teaching of skills and methods that can be used in practical work. As mentioned previously, the “gaps” in practical knowledge are being supplemented with various forms of education. This paper will give an overview of three types of supplementary education:
- Education from the various psychotherapeutic courses (reality therapy, cybernetics of psychotherapy, neurolinguistic programming, gestalt, transactional analysis, etc…)
- Education in the forms of short seminars, courses and workshops
- Education related to a specific current programs
- Education from the various psychotherapeutic courses (reality therapy, cybernetics of psychotherapy, neurolinguistic programming, gestalt, transactional analysis, etc…)
These courses originated from the western countries and were introduced into/in Croatia in the late 1970s. These are all courses that represent alternative approaches to psychoanalysis. They have not been recognized as official psychotherapies by the Croatian authorities, and people who have certificates from these courses are not listed in the official registry of psychotherapists.
Such courses of education like these last for several years and are quite expensive, so the institutions who are interested in sending their practitioners to attend them are hindered almost from the beginning. Owing to the costs, only a few practitioners have been sent on these courses to learn valuable skills and methods. It is not uncommon for practitioners to have to pay for the courses out of their own pockets in order to achieve something for themselves.
The courses are attended by practitioners from various fields and levels of crime prevention, from kindergarten and school teachers, social care and services, to jail and prison treatment staff. So, a large number of people have completed specialized education and have received a certificate that says they have gained some new knowledge and skills which can be implemented in their work in order to improve it. Regarding what has been said previously, it would be logical to expect their competence and results to reach higher levels. However, instead of precisely structured programs with the possibility of scientific evaluation, the benefits are not forthcoming. Evidently, practitioners still cannot communicate in terms of programming. They have an understanding of treatment that differs from scientific understanding. Most of them do not think that treatment should be highly structured, well designed, thoroughly conducted and evaluated. For them, treatment is limited to contact with the client – solving their daily problems, and dealing with their requests and complaints, etc.
So, the question can be asked “What is the reason for this situation?” One possible answer lies in the fact that “certified practitioners” do not apply newly gained knowledge and skills, or they only apply them on very rare occasions, so there are no visible results. Their employers do not expect or demand them to use the new skills in their work. Thus, it is difficult to assess to what extent and how the knowledge is being applied. In reality, the real fact is, there are very few programs that are based on the knowledge and principles achieved through these courses. The programs are limited to a few areas – only a few schools in the whole of the Zagreb area.
Through its application it is expected that this knowledge should improve the general competence and yield results. The question is whether the result is necessarily any better. Furthermore, employers supervise the implementation yet there is little evidence for this.
A second possible answer is, undoubtedly related to insufficient funds. Even when the practitioner has a will and new ideas on how to improve things, he or she often faces difficulties because of the lack of necessary funds. Furthermore there is a problem of passive resistance among the fellow co-workers which needs to be confronted. Mostly, the co-workers are afraid of changes or they have no time for new things since they are already overwhelmed with their regular job duties. This problem will be addressed further on this paper.
- Education in the forms of short seminars, courses and workshops
The second type of education courses which has been growing in the Republic of Croatia during the last few years is in the form of seminars, courses and workshops. They are short-lasting (mostly 2-3 days) and are conducted by the Croatian experts. For example, these are series of courses on alcohol abuse in the Center for Education of the Croatian Ministry of Justice, short seminars on substance abuse for jail and prison treatment staff, social care and service staff, and for school and kindergarten teachers, etc.
These types of courses are based on supplying general information on given problem, and in the best cases, on practicing a few skills in dealing with specific problems. In most cases, this is not sufficient for a practitioner to really learn some new things and to improve the old ones. Furthermore, this type of education offers only specific skills for specific problems, meaning they are based on the educator’s experiences and cannot be always applied to the whole population as a whole.
Since this type of education obviously does not provide enough knowledge or chance to practice some client-based work skills, it raises a few questions: What is their purpose? How much can a person learn in 2 or 3 days and is there any sense in what he/she has just “learned”? Exactly how good are the educators?
If the hypotheses made by Miller (Bersani, 1970) are true – meaning institutions involved in making, conducting and applying programs for solving delinquency issues are not really interested in dealing with those problems in appropriate way and that public concern about delinquency serves only to psychological functions of an individual – the possible conclusion that this education only serves to satisfy the concerned public, or in other words, to create an illusion that something is being done in the field of crime prevention. People who are the main educators on these seminars are quite often people exposed in media and presented as “the experts in this particular field”. Beyond this, there is not a real concern for effective prevention strategies; rather, it is gratification of individual psychological needs, as mentioned previously, with considerable financial remuneration.
The reality is, that these workshops and seminars, when the outward appearance is that, the form has been satisfying, meaning, general something will be done, in fact all the practitioners received was a little general information about the problem and virtually no practical skills. However, assuming that those practitioners are people who want to learn some new ways and new skills, and who want some practical knowledge and applicable ideas, the question is then: why are those practitioners so quiet when they find out that their expectations have not been fulfilled?
One possible answer may be that since the educators are presented as leading experts in the particular field, the professionals who work in that field do not feel competent enough to ask a problem question or even dispute what was said. Also, since they are overwhelmed with their work in everyday jobs, it suits them to escape for a day or two; In other words, it suits them to take a passive role at such workshops and seminars.
Even if they find something they can implement in their work after one of these short courses, there is an identical problem to the one mentioned earlier when we discussed the first type of education. Namely, their employers are not asking or demanding that they use those new skills, and much less directing and supervising their work if they decide to do so.
- Education related to a specific current program
The third type of education which is part of a current program and which is designed for all the people working on the specific program. Such education is rarely conducted and the reason for this is quite simple: there is a very small number of structured programs for a certain targeted population, with precisely defined goals and methods of work, and conducted by the people who have learned and implemented principles of education courses from the first type. Sometimes, professionals involved in these programs have completed some of the education from the first type, and some of them have attended some short seminars and workshops. It would be ideal if they all have completed both the first and the second type of education, but this is rarely the case.
The main goal of such education is providing new, applicable working skills and techniques that can be implemented and that will certainly give positive results. Some of the programs include family violence prevention program, (Martinjak, 1998); “Yoga-nidra” Relaxation Program in the Minimum Security Penal Institution Valtura-Pula, (Brgles, 1996); Institutional and post-penal treatment of drug abusing offenders, (Mikšaj-Todorovic& Butorac, 2003); Education of School Teachers – successful and quality work with students and their parents, (Kranzelic-Tavra & Feric, 2003); Treatment of alcohol abusing offenders in the Medium Security Prison in Turopolje (Miksaj-Todorovic et al., 2001)
As mentioned earlier, institutions have no interest in dealing with delinquency problems, because it could threaten the existence of the institutions. Hence, all preventive programs are condemned to multiple problems at the outset.
The main goal of the “Family Violence Prevention” program (Martinjak, 1998) was revealing crimes against juveniles and appropriate measures once these became clear. Since the practitioners (from The Health Department, sciences, social care and police) working on this program had insufficient knowledge, it was necessary to educate them in how to recognize child abuse symptoms and how to work with the child once the symptoms have been revealed (we should point out here that the Ministry of Health decided not to co-operate). It is interesting that “experts” who had no previous knowledge of how to deal with abused children, had to be educated from the beginning by the project leader. After one year of working on the project, the number of revealed crimes against children has doubled, indicating that the program had been more than successful. However, when the project leader was assigned to another place, the program was terminated.
The “Yoga-nidra” Relaxation Program in the Minimum Security Penal Institution Valtura-Pula” (Brgles, 1996) was conducted in the Minimum Security Prison at Valtura in Pula. A treatment staff worker came up with the idea, and designed the program together with the Professors of the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences. The project leader conducted the project with the help of a physician. The project goal was to regulate offenders’ aggressive behavior, or more precisely, to facilitate offenders’ behavior transformation by educating them how to check their aggressive behavior and how to reduce muscular tension by using the techniques of “yoga-nidra”. The program was evaluated and yielded good results. The project leader, who is certificated “yoga-nidra” teacher, offered this program to the Ministry of Justice for application in other institutions, but he did not receive any response or money to continue, and eventually, this program was terminated too.
The education of practitioners has also being conducted in the program “Institutional and post-penal treatment of drug abusing offenders” (Miksaj-Todorovic & Butorac, 2003) on three levels: prison treatment staff, practitioners in the Center for Abuse Prevention and students. The education was conducted by project leaders. The main problems are insufficient funds for staff education, and their work on the Program is not adequately paid. So, the team manages this problem through mutual collaboration, support, knowledge exchange and collegial supervision (Miksaj-Todorovic & Butorac, 2003). In addition to this program, the institution practitioners are overwhelmed with their regular work (mostly administrative work), and thus it leaves them little time for the work on the program literature study and planning the use of techniques and skills. In other words, they cannot fully concentrate on the program.
The “Education of School Teachers – successful and quality work with students and their parents” program (Kranzelic-Tavra, & Feric, 2003) was intended both for school teachers as significant people directly involved in shaping student’s personality and behavior, and for parents. The main goal of this program was education and training of teachers and parents in techniques of quality relationships, more adequate knowledge transfer, non-aggressive problem solving, recognition and expression of emotions. Also, the teachers were trained in knowledge about constructive work with parents in order to help them deal with student’s problems.
Problems started to appear even before the program was initiated. Namely, the funds for the program were supplied by the Ministry of Education, but they were almost immediately cancelled without any explanation, so the headmasters had to pay for the education out of the school budgets. The second problem was the teachers. The education was on a “non-voluntary” basis and the schedule for education was inadequate (Friday afternoons and Saturdays). Passive resistance also occurred, since the teachers were not ready to hear someone from the university “telling them how to do their own job”.
Nevertheless, the program finally started and while those attending seemed to be a little interested in the subject, just enough to demand “a magic wand” which could solve all their student problems. However, they showed how overwhelmed they were with the amount of work involved and the “burn out” syndrome was at a pretty high level.
Ultimately, the supervisions became a kind of “complaint” session; they complained about how hard it is for them to work in such harsh conditions, and how no one understands them. They talked about general education issues, forgetting the Program itself. They stopped talking about the knowledge they had gained, about current program issues, etc. Thus, supervisions lost their original meaning namely the monitoring of Program delivery.
Alcohol abuse offender’s treatment program in Medium Security Prison in Turopolje (Miksaj-Todorovic, et al. 2001) was cancelled because the Ministry of Justice had a quite indifferent attitude towards the program. It was up to the project leader’s good will whether he continues with the work or not. Today, the treatment program for alcohol abuse offenders still exists, but it is not being conducted according to previous strategy.
To conclude, all of the above programs demonstrated that they had not been or were not being conducted systematically because of insufficient funds, indifferent attitudes, lack of motivation, passive resistance, and “burn out” syndrome. The members of the institutional staff who had initiated some of these programs could not raise the resources to continue with their work.
One of the biggest problems we are dealing in Croatia with is that institutions whose practitioners have achieved some level of education are not prone to implementing their skills and methods in a direct approach to clients. Also, they do not allow their own staff to start new programs. Therefore, the third type of education is almost never initialized from inside the institutions.
We should point out that it is important for a practitioner to be involved in both first and second types of education, in order for the skills can be applied in the third type. In another words: those practitioners should be the educators of their work colleagues and together with them should be creating some new and better prevention programs. But, as stated earlier, the institution administrators do not insist on applying these new skills, so it is up to the practitioners and their good will to use them. With regard to constant crime rate growth and malfunction of prevention programs, it seems obvious that they chose not to apply them in their work.
Also, the “Yoga-nidra” Relaxation Program in the Minimum Security Penal Institution Valtura-Pula” and the “Family Violence Prevention” program have shown how it is virtually impossible to create and run a prevention program (regardless of how good it is) without the psychological and financial support of institutions. So, practitioners use the newly learned skills, but without any structure and evaluation possibilities, and without any official support.
Referring to the fact that first and second types education have been present for almost three decades, it is logical to presume that the number of third type education and related programs should also increase. Sadly, this is not the case. Even if there are such programs, there is no written evidence for them.
Therefore, our experts (who have completed first and second type education) are either not working in preventive programs or they do not report on their work. If we look back on the crime statistics, the first presumption is more likely to be the correct one, and we can ask ourselves why is it the case?
One possible answer lies in the fact that only a very small number of practitioners have enough money to complete any of the education from the first type since the courses are too expensive. Because of that, the majority chooses the second type of education, which is much less expensive and short-term, but they receive almost no practical skills, so in the end they feel incompetent to create new prevention programs with clearly stated goals, working skills and strategies in which they would have an educator’s role.
We have mentioned earlier that many of the people working in the institutions are suffering from so-called “burn out” syndrome, which makes them unprepared for any kind of change. The reason is as follows: changes demand additional commitment including consulting updated literature, and since the nature of their jobs such that they do not stop at the end of the working day, additional commitment means doing two separate jobs. Also, we must emphasize the fact that their work is burdened with huge amount of administrative work which leaves them less time to work with their clients.
This whole problem area has already been recognized in other countries, which have conducted research and several meta-analyses of this problem and came up with findings that can be applied to all other countries with the same difficulties. According to these results, there are some obstacles that are common to all programs (Gendreau, 1979).
The first one is called theoreticism and involves accepting or rejecting knowledges on the basis of one’s personal values and experiences. It means that every program is put into the socio-political context of the society in which it takes place. If such a program demands significant change in the institution’s model of work, it is likely that the program will receive verbal support or even permission for conducting it, but without any necessary funds. Of course, these programs are expensive because they introduce almost revolutionary changes; therefore, they represent a serious threat to the existence of some institutions. One of the biggest problems here is the bewildering array of disciplines (e.g. criminology, economics, law, management, psychiatry, psychology, social work, and sociology) and occupations (e.g. academics, administrators, clinicians, and the police) all which are competing in an unseemly fashion for the “holy grail” of intellectual hegemony (Gendreau & Ross, 1979). This leads to anti-intellectualism, draining knowledge from other reliable sources.
The obstacles also include a phenomenon called “ethnocentrism”. Once it is taken for granted that our disciplinary boundaries and the socio-political context we live in adequately define how things should be, then it is a small step to tacitly assume our reality is superior to others. It is not a uncommon case that various “experts” forget the multi-causality of problems, so they ignore the results from other disciplines working in the same field. This can cause considerable academic confusion in practice who tend to read outside their disciplinary boundaries.
The second obstacle can be called “unsuccessful technology transfer” (Gendreau, 1995), meaning necessary information is not getting into the hands of those who need it. It has emerged that many substance abuse practitioners’ clinical decisions are never based on reading professional periodicals. If practitioners do receive information that changes their approach to treatment, it tends to be from workshops; even then, it is a relatively small percentage who profit.
Over the years, the criminal justice system has witnessed a new generation of high-level administrators who are generalists with little or no training in the helping professions (Gendreau, 1996:152). These administrators have attended several workshops or short courses and find themselves competent enough to create a strong, precise, preventive program that can be objectively and scientifically evaluated, and of course, one that brings positive results. This represents politically correct programming, meaning those administrators create such programs that are mostly ad hoc, organized for a single purpose: so that politicians can say something is being done! Administrators in Croatia often attend some type of education, but like the practitioners, they do not use their knowledge to create new programs and to improve and suppport existing methods of work.
There are pretty clear examples of theoreticism and lack of true administrative support in the Project No. 0013111 - “Institutional and aftercare treatment of convicted addicts” (Supported by the Ministry of science and Technology of Republic of Croatia). The Project received mainly verbal support from the administration and has had very little financial and material support. Furthermore, some members of the medical profession have “attacked” the Project on several occasions – they do not accept the concepts that are different from theirs; however, in the field of addiction treatment there is enough place for all kind of professionals, and for their collaboration.
Most of the articles published in The Republic of Croatia that are related to the issue of prevention and treatment of delinquency and in so-called “should-be-ology”; This is a well-known notion, which can be defined as presentation of the changes, methods and so on, that are necessary for improvement of certain fields of work, if only they could be implemented in practice. The authors usually list the problems that should be resolved. Sometimes they present a way in which the situation could be improved and sometimes they do not.
However, such way of writing articles is completely useless for practical purposes, and there are several reasons for this:
1. Very few people read the articles, and those who do most often are not in the circle of decision-makers. So, most of the published articles remain unnoticed and are soon forgotten.
2. If someone of the decision-makers do read such articles, it has no effect because in decision making the facts based upon scientific research are the least important ones. The dominant interests are professional interests, the interests of the dominant groups, or the personal interests of the people who promote their own ways and methods regardless of their efficiency.
3. The decision-makers often do not have the intellectual capacity needed for understanding the messages of such articles.
4. New ideas about organization are hard to perpetrate into the rigid Croatian system for the following reasons: it is easier to continue using old methods, even if they are inefficient; people in the positions of power do not want the changes that could expose the inefficiency of old methods (for example, introduction of evaluation); some individuals who are occupying the positions of power have personal interests in the old ways of work (for example, giving lectures in quasi-education); there are no basic preconditions for the introduction of new ideas – reorganization of the system, providing the material resources, employment of new professionals, etc.
The only way in which some new ideas can be accepted is if someone from a position of power sees some kind of personal gain, either material or promotional (for example, victory in elections). Unfortunately, the ideas that are implemented out of such motives rarely benefit the community, and most often the only people who benefit from them are those who introduced them. Besides, such projects are of brief duration: only as long as the people who introduced them need time to gain some benefit.
If this is so, then the question can be asked: why write the articles that propose introduction of new ideas at all? It is very probable that they will not have any direct impact on practice, and that they will end up as the part of the exams for the students and literature for those rare enthusiasts.
They should be written primarily because permanent writing and promotion of such articles, along with the attempts to make an impact on practice, in some 30, 50 or 100 years may result in some positive breakthrough in theory and practice.
This process in The Republic of Croatia was, is and will be long-term, hard, and from time to time stopped and set back by wars and the promotion of medieval ideas made in ignorance by those who rule the country without consulting the experts. It is also totally uncertain, because there are no guarantees that anything will be better in the future.
Such a pessimistic attitude is, unfortunately, reinforced by years of experience which showed how the war and the change of system have cause a setback for the whole country, and especially in the field of social care and work with problematic populations – convicts, addicts, juvenile delinquents, etc. There are no guarantees that the near future will not bring a system even more backward than the present one.
The articles should be written because experts in the future will be able to see that in our time there were people with keen perception of the problems, who proposed adequate solutions and analyzed the reasons for their non-implementation. In such a way, future experts may be able to learn from our mistakes.
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Brlges, Z. (1996): Possibilites of implementation of “yoga nidra” relaxation program in minimum security prison Valtura-Pula. Criminology and social integration, 4, 1, 89-97
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Gendreau, P. (1995): Techonology transfer in the criminal justice field: Implications for substance abuse. In T. E. Backer, S. L. David & G. Soucy (eds), Reviewing the behavioral science knowledgebase on technology transfer (NIDA Research Monograph No. 155). Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Gendreau, P. (1996): Offender rehabilitation: What We Know and What Needs to Be Done. Criminal Justice Behavior, 23, 1, 144-161.
Gendreau, P. & Ross, R. R. (1979): Effective correctional treatment: Bibliotherapy for cynics. Crime &Delinquency, 25, 463-489.
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Miksaj-Todorovic, Lj. & Butorac, K. (2003): Inter and Intra Institutional Conflict Analysed in Relation to the Treatment of the Convicted Addicts in Croatian Practice. Social work with Juvenile Offenders – Critical thinking in social work, theory and practice, IUC, Dubrovnik, School of social work, theory and practice, 13-20th June 2003.
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