Offending behaviour programmes and interventions

Offending behaviour programmes and interventions currently available for offenders in England and Wales.

Offending behaviour programmes and interventions

Offender behaviour programmes and interventions aim to change the thinking, attitudes and behaviours which may lead people to reoffend.

Most programmes and interventions are delivered in groups but one-to-one provision is available in some circumstances.

They encourage pro-social attitudes and goals for the future and are designed to help people develop new skills to stop their offending. These include:

  • problem solving
  • perspective taking
  • managing relationships
  • self-management

Offending behaviour programmes often use cognitive-behavioural techniques. There is good international evidence that these are most effective in reducing reoffending.

A range of programmes are available both in prisons and in the community for people on probation. They include programmes to address:

  • specific offences, for example sexual offending and domestic violence
  • general patterns of offending behaviour
  • substance misuse related offending

Risk, needs and responsivity principles

We use these to help us target the right programmes for the right people so that:

  • the level of support provided by a programme matches a person’s risk of reoffending
  • the content of the programme covers the areas a person needs to address to stop further offending. For example, being impulsive or having poor relationship skills
  • the approach is adapted to respond to people’s individual circumstances, abilities and strengths. For example, there are programmes specifically for people with learning disabilities

Evidence shows that programmes that follow these principles are more likely to work. Programmes are offered as part of a package of rehabilitative activity and support. They are most effective when they are properly targeted and provided within a prison or probation culture that supports rehabilitation.

Programme effectiveness and accreditation

Evidence shows there are common features of effective offending behaviour programmes. Evidence also shows what is ineffective and what we should avoid doing. This includes programmes which are:

  • poorly designed or run
  • targeted at the wrong people, and or
  • delivered by inadequately trained staff

This can sometimes increase offending.

Accredited programmes

The Ministry of Justice uses accreditation to provide confidence that a programme:

  • is designed based on the best available evidence
  • will be delivered as intended
  • will be evaluated to show the outcomes that are being met.

Programmes are accredited by the Correctional Services Accreditation and Advice Panel (CSAAP). This is a panel of independent, international experts. They assess programmes against the principles of effective interventions. These principles state that high-quality programmes or interventions:

  • are evidence based and/or a have a credible rationale for reducing reoffending or promoting desistance
  • address factors relevant to reoffending and desistance
  • are targeted at appropriate users
  • develop new skills (as opposed to only awareness raising)
  • motivate, engage and retain participants
  • are delivered as intended
  • are evaluated

Accredited programmes must demonstrate sound evidence that:

  • the techniques used will help offenders to change
  • assessment tools will reliably target the right people
  • there is a commitment to monitoring the quality of programme delivery and to evaluation

Information about accredited programmes offered locally may be obtained from:

List of CSAAP accredited programmes

This list of CSAAP accredited programmes includes all those which are accredited for use in the community and custody.

Tell us what you think of the Prison and probation evidence resource so we can improve it.

Published 23 November 2018
Last updated 10 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. CSAAP attachment change.

  2. Attachment updated.

  3. Descriptions of CSAAP accredited programmes updated.

  4. Descriptions of CSAAP accredited programmes updated.

  5. Descriptions of CSAAP accredited programmes updated.

  6. First published.