‘Empathy Training’ for Probation Officers Decreases Recidivism: Study

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A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that nonjudgmental empathy training helps court-ordered supervision officers feel more emotionally connected to their clients and, arguably, better able to deter them from criminal backsliding, reports Lake County News. The findings, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show, on average, a 13 percent decrease in recidivism among the clients of parole and probation officers who participated in the UC Berkeley empathy training experiment.

The researchers surveyed more than 200 parole and probation officers who oversee more than 20,000 people convicted of offenses ranging from violent crimes to petty theft. Among other duties, parole and probation officers keep track of their clients’ whereabouts, make sure they don’t miss a drug test or court hearing, or otherwise violate the terms of their release, and provide resources to help them stay out of trouble and out of jail. The results are particularly salient in the face of nationwide efforts to reduce prison and jail populations amid a deadly pandemic and other adversities.

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