Lowering Criminogenic Risk Factors
We’ve learned enough about the existence and definition of the risk factors. We’ve also seen examples of how they work to predict crime. What can we do to lower our risk?
Flip the factors.
Drug and/or Alcohol Addiction
Poor Impulse Control
Lack of Career and/or Education
Pro-Social Network (not isolation!)
Family Counseling/Boundary Setting
Drug and/or Alcohol Treatment
College and Job Training
Sneaky Criminogenic Risk Factors…..When What Looks Positive is Actually Fraught with Danger
Let us walk through an example together that illustrates how sneaky the criminogenic risk factors can be:
John Doe has just been released from jail. He has a methamphetamine addiction and has been recovering. He is clean from all drugs and alcohol now. He has a sister who is pro-social and supportive of him. He’s trying to start a new life for himself. John moves thousands of miles away from his old anti-social friends and is determined to make a healthy, happy future for himself. He has no college education, but works hard and is physically strong. He gets a job working for a busy construction company. His sister is thrilled. He has a plan to save money and has a work truck which is running although it’s old. some of the guys who work at the construction company are using drugs and John shares some of the things he learned in drug treatment with them and encourages them to start on a better path.
This situation looks positive at first glance.What are John’s criminogenic risk factors?
- Anti-Social Network. John has not drawn firm enough boundaries with his acquaintances. He is not solid enough in his new life to spend time, energy or effort attempting to help people struggling with current drug addiction. It’s only a matter of time before the law of constructive possession means that he gets arrested for being in a car or a place at the job where he’s near someone else’s drugs. His sobriety will not save him from a drug possession charge based on constructive possession. We do not review the law in this article, but Ascend students are taught the law of constructive possession and will cringe at the thought of being in the vicinity of someone who is actively in the throes of an addiction. John should have NO ONE in his network who is even remotely tied to drugs. NO ONE. UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
John has a pro-social sister. He should be expanding the pro-social network so he has a group of people to socialize with as he starts his new life. Remember – a person’s anti-social network of today will be their co-defendants in the future!
- Lack of Career and/or Education. John is understandably proud of the fact that he’s working and saving money. That is an excellent accomplishment! John is at risk, however, because his job may not be stable in addition to the fact that he has anti-social co-workers. When we have an education or other career training, we are set apart from the general population. What are the qualifications for John’s construction job? A strong body and a willingness to do tough work. Many people have these qualifications. What if John had an AA degree in a construction related field? A business degree? An architecture degree? The job pool is a lot smaller and he would be more in demand.
What happens to John if the weather is bad and construction is slow? There is little stability then. John has no medical benefits. What happens to him if he’s injured? What happens to him if his addiction is triggered by the co-workers’ drug use and he needs treatment?
What happens if John’s truck stops working? How will he be set back? He has a small savings account, which is great, but he may need those savings to survive if the weather changes and he’s unable to work for a period of time. An entry level job will not provide John with the level of security he needs to become truly stable over the long term.
John’s better path is to enroll in college while he’s working at the construction company and to see that job as a temporary stepping stone to a better one. He should avoid his co-workers like the plague and should be taking his sister’s help in being introduced to people in her pro-social network rather than spending his time forging acquaintances with drug using co-workers. Once he establishes a pro-social network, he is likely to get offered better jobs as well. John needs to change his entire world in order to stay out of jail rather than replicate his old world in a different part of the country.
Lowering criminogenic risk factors is the key to avoiding jail, prison, and/or probation. It is the key to creating a healthier and happier life in which there is long-lasting success. Not one of my clients or students who has made the effort to exclude an anti-social network in favor of a pro-social one has ever regretted it. In fact, they have thrived personally and professionally.
This is not to say that lowering these factors is easy. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult. But small, consistent, determined actions can eventually yield lowered risk factors and a new start to life. The first step is to become empowered with the knowledge that the factors even exist. That knowledge has been the platform from which many of our Ascend graduates have changed their lives. It is incredibly hard. But our students are incredibly resilient and capable. When they are empowered with knowledge, they manifest positive change that would not have been possible had they been kept in the dark about these sneaky criminogenic risk factors.