Using Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy to reduce crime

Paper of the week selected by the British Nudge Unit: “The paper we would like to highlight this week describes a large-scale randomised controlled trial aimed at improving life outcomes for disadvantaged youth.

Preventing youth violence and dropout: a randomized field experiment (April 25, 2013)
Sara B. Heller, Harold A. Pollack, Roseanna Ander and Jens Ludwig
The paper presents promising results from a trial in which teenagers were offered after-school programming in combination with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps people reconsider biased beliefs they have about the world. In the domain of crime this includes learning to avoid overestimating the extent to which others want to hurt or harm someone else (i.e. hostile attribution bias).
The trial was run in 18 public schools in some of Chicago’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods. 2,740 young males were offered either to participate in the programme (treatment group) or not (control group). Around half of those in the treatment group actually participated – on average for 13 sessions over the course of a year. Offering them the programme reduced the rate at which they were arrested for violent crime by 3.3 percentage points, from 16.7 percentage points in the control group. This is a fall of 20%.
Click here to access the paper”