Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

What works (and doesn't work) in reducing offending

Australian Institute of Criminology, Paul Gendreau
17 December 2003 -

Prof Paul Gendreau
University Research Professor, University of New Brunswick at Saint John, Canada


Assessing the impact of correctional interventions on reducing offending behaviour has long been a focus of the correctional enterprise. In this presentation, three sets of literature, all based on the results of meta-analyses, are reviewed and discussed as to their effects on recidivism. The discussion includes an examination of the impact on recidivism of:

  • treatment programs focussing on the key elements that make a program effective and related cost-savings
  • intermediate sanctions
  • the effects of prisons [e.g. length of incarceration, etc].

The policy recommendations forthcoming from these disparate approaches are outlined.

Dr Gendreau is a University Research Professor in the Department of Psychology and Director of the Criminal Justice Studies Centre, University of New Brunswick, Saint John, N.B. He began working in corrections in 1961. Throughout the years he has been an administrator in corrections as well as held various academic positions. In addition, he has been involved in reviewing correctional services in his native country and Australia, Jamaica, New Zealand and several U.S. states.

He served on the Board of the Canadian Psychological Association from 1983-1991 and in 1987-88 he was President of the organisation. The International Corrections Association awarded Dr Gendreau the Margaret Mead Award in 1998. In 2001 he received the Distinguished Contributions in the Application of Psychology Award for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in public service psychology from the American Psychological Association (Division 18).

The main thrust of his research concerns a) assessing what works in the treatment and punishment of offenders and the prediction of recidivism, b) the assessment of correctional treatment programs using the Correctional Program Assessment Inventory (CPAI-2000), c) the effects of prison life and the policies that should be pursued to make prisons safer and more humane environments, d) the strategies needed to combat ineffective common sense policies in corrections, e) the use of meta-analytic statistics & graphs (rather than significance testing) for generating useful information for policy development.