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The use of a structured guide to assess proxies of offending behaviours and change in custodial settings

Audrey Gordon (Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada)
Stephen Wong (School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom AND Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada.)

The Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 2050-8794

Article publication date: 11 May 2015




Within controlled environments such as prisons or forensic facilities, strong sanctions and other factors can inhibit the expression of offence-linked behaviours otherwise observable in community settings. For example, institutional restrictions may distort the offender’s habitual expression of aggressive behaviours such that the individual’s aggressive characteristics are less intense or observable. Thus, the influences of controlled settings can make it difficult for staff to capture idiosyncratic evidence of change or lack thereof over time or with treatment. The purpose of this paper is to describe an assessment and measurement framework that can be used to assist treatment and correctional staff collectively focus attention on relevant characteristics and behaviours idiosyncratically linked to offending.


The authors use the terms “offence analogue behaviours (OAB)” to describe proxies of offence behaviours observable in controlled settings and “offence replacement behaviours (ORB)” as the contrasting positive, pro-social skills and strategies that the individual implements to change and manage problem areas linked to aggression and criminality. This paper discusses the application and practical utility of the framework and an associated assessment and measurement tool; the Offence Analogue and Offence Replacement Behaviour Guide (Gordon and Wong, 2009-2013).


The OAB and ORB Guide has shown to be useful by directing the attention of treatment personnel to the here-and-now offence related behaviours displayed by offenders in custodial settings. In the absence of such focused attention, relevant proxy behaviours can often be masked in these highly controlled environments. The Guide is therefore a useful adjunct to identify such behaviours for treatment and for assessing treatment-related changes.

Research limitations/implications

The OAB/ORB Guide was developed based on a conceptual framework derived from the empirical literature on correctional treatment, risk assessment, psychological theories and clinical practice. While there has been some positive pilot use of the Guide’s utility and preliminary research, at this point, empirical evidence is still lacking.

Practical implications

The OAB/ORB Guide provides quantified and structured guidelines to assess offence proxy and offence replacement behaviours observable day-to-day within controlled environments, such as during custody or supervised release to the community.


This guide was developed to assist staff with the identification, documentation and measurement of idiosyncratic negative and positive offence-related proxy behaviours observable across custodial or supervised contexts. Accordingly, the authors suggest that OAB/ORB guide information can be used to evaluate changes in risk over treatment and/or time. Further, the authors describe how this framework may enhance the efficacy of multi-disciplinary treatment and management teams. Two cases are used to illustrate the application of the Guide.



Gordon, A. and Wong, S. (2015), "The use of a structured guide to assess proxies of offending behaviours and change in custodial settings", The Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 83-100.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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