Forensic Theories

  1. RNR Theory
Description Applicability Pros Cons
·       Was developed in the 1980s and has been used to increase success in assessing and rehabilitating criminals

·       It is a model of crime prevention rooted in behavioral psychology

·       Made up of three principles:

–        Risk principle (who to target)- the level of services and offenders risks to re-offend again

–        Need principle (what to target)- evaluate  criminogenic needs and their use in the treatment

–        Responsivity  principle(how to intervene) – focuses on the offender’s ability to learn through a rehabilitative intervention and tailoring the intervention to learning styles, motivation, and strength of the offenders

·       It moves from the notion that nothing works to what works

·       In the General Personality and Cognitive Social Learning (GPCSL) perception of criminal behavior. It reflects a personality susceptibility and the learning of criminal behavior governed by the expectations that an individual holds and the actual consequences to his/ her behavior. RNR applies to this in:

i.          General personality- this is the antisocial personality pattern. RNR helps to capture the history of the generalized rule, violation and personality factors (criminogenic needs, e.g., self-connectedness and responsitivity factors, e.g., need for excitement)

ii.          Cognitive – through deliberate self, conscious self-regulation and automatic-self regulation that points to the pro-criminal attitudes and values

iii.          Social learning – GPSCL highlights the need to learn with the social context of friends and family. An RNR assessment of the rewards and cost of criminal and pro-social behavior in such context provides an inclusive survey of the criminogenic needs as well as strengths


·       Change action is active and direct (deliberate)

·       Change focus starts  internally than externally and is considered at an individual level

·       It provides strong empirical evidence

·       On offenders heterogeneity, it assumes offenders have distinct characteristics from non-offenders that can influence the criminal propensity

·       Has a primary focus on risk management

·       Has empirical validity as it  is consistency with pre-existing empirical data

·       The theory has unifying power and external consistency as some of its findings merit in the Freudian theory of behaviorist

·       Contributes to the development of risk offender instruments

·       which provides information for offender treatment.

·       Addresses both criminogenic and  non-criminogenic needs that reduce recidivism



·       Uses deficit approach that affects motivation towards positive change such as competency and self-determination

·       It fails to motivate and engage offenders in the positive rehabilitation process

·       The model explanatory depth is limited in some key areas, e.g., the positivity principle is the least developed yet it contains much of what makes the theory humane and effective

·       The contextual gap that exists between priority  dynamic risk factors (the central eight) and the theoretical resources needed to translate these factors into treatment plans, clinical formulations and intervention design  limits the theory explanatory depth

·       The approach does not seek the consent of the offenders on treatment goals in the risk management approach

·       Little attention is paid on reentry and reintegration of the offenders into the social environment

·       The theory framework lacks simplicity as the PCC which is complex is the only source of its detailed

  1. Good lives model
Description Applicability Pros Cons
·       GLM developed Ward and Stewart in 2003

·       It is a strength-based theory model that assist offenders in achieving their life goals while managing the risks of re-offending

·       It is an effective correlation intervention through its foci on helping the individuals  to develop and promote meaningful life plans that are incompatible with future offending

·       It is grounded on human dignity and universal  rights


·       The GLM holds that human beings share a set of similar basic needs and aspirations, and it is the responsibility of the community to provide each with the resources required for a good life that can be meaningful and rewarding.

·       As one seeks to live a good life, ends up using maladaptive behaviors to achieve their goal such as rape for sexual intimacy

·        which is attributed by the lack of  both the internal and external resources that can allow one to achieve life goals in a prosocial

·       These obstacles constitute the GLM ideology of criminogenic needs.

·       The GLM perspective holds that wrong strategy used in an attempt to fulfill essential and basic human needs is the cause of criminal offenses or behaviors. It, therefore, offer interventions that reduce recidivism.


·       The GLM rehabilitation framework  focuses  goals, which encourages individuals to identify and formulate ways of achieving personally meaningful goals in prosocial ways

·       GLM has the flexibility and breadth to accommodate the variety of risk factors and complex needs offenders

·       Provides a natural fit with dynamic systems, framework, and evidence-based interventions to the offenders

·       The GLM does not ignore risk management instead it focuses on dual risk management by providing both internal and external conditions

·       GLM has demonstrated substantive effectiveness in addressing some limitations of RNR through treatment, fostering desistance and paying adequate attention to environmental factors.

·       It lacks empirical support

·       Misguided operationalization of the GLM has a higher possibility of causing ineffective treatment and the ultimately higher probability of reoffending

  1. Strength-based therapy
Description Applicability Pros Cons
·       Type of positive psychotherapy and counseling that focuses on one’s internal strength resourcefulness and less on the weakness and shortcomings

·       The focus sets up a positive mindset to help an individual build on essential qualities, identify their strength, improve on their resilience as well as a positive change on how they view the world

·       The approach is characterized by identifying strengths through assessment, working with individuals  to identify goals and create their treatment plan, assisting them to give back to the community, and providing opportunities to participate in community activities

·       When one has poor or low self-esteem, or a victim of an abusive relationship and has developed emotional issues, to help them visualize on their strengths

·       People with severe mental problems such as depression to build confidence and reduce stress

·       Applicable to individuals of all ages, couples as well as families

·       The approach allows for identifying offender strengths and positive attributes while humanizing the individual

·       It will enable offenders to recognize that they are of value and can positively contribute to the community and broader society

·       Accelerates learning and performance of an individual

·       Moves the focus away from deficits of people but instead, it emphasizes strength and capabilities to overcome a problem

·       It impacts life satisfaction, functional and health status


·       Focusses on enhancing competency and less on character

·       When weakness go unchecked or unmonitored can derail on the effectiveness

·       Some studies reveal that there are less favorable results of strengths-based case management on post-treatment, social network, and symptom indicators, compared with treatment as usual





Good Lives Model

Over time, the Calgary community has demonstrated increasing incidences of sexual abuse from sexual offenders. They have characterized it as a moral panic. From the public outcry, sexual offending has become endemic and quick measure should be taken to counter the concern and ensure public safety. Some of the evidence to this concern points out to inadequacy and failure of the researchers and treatment expertise in providing sustainable solutions. In 1974, Martinson anonymously declared that there was no remedy for sexual offending (Martinson, 1974).  More than ten years later, Furby et al. (1989) declared that there was no evidence that sex offender therapy reduced reoffending (Furby et al., 1989). From the evidence, emerging recommendations suggest that the community members should take full responsibility to manage and control the risk.

Like many treatment regimes, measures that have been introduced by the legislatures and judiciary lacks empirical validation. On a number of cases, literature has advised against such actions and advocated for rules that match the risk sexual offender’s cause to the community. Currently, sexual offenders are subjected to mental health disorders as a corrective measure. However, this has become difficult for them to manage the problems in their daily life prompts a need to integrate the Good Lives Model (GLM) in the managing and the prisoner and their environment to help them overcome negative mental impacts in the community. The model promises a better solution to the problem in a better way. The model addresses the shortcomings of the risks management approach.

The GLM model, which was first proposed by Ward and Stewart in 2003, is a  strength-based approach to offender rehabilitation (Ward & Stewart, 2003). The model is grounded on human dignity and universal human rights. The model assists the offenders in managing their life goals while managing the risks of recidivism. The model utilizes a strategy that reduces criminal behavior. Criminal behavior results when one lack both internal and external resources essential in satisfying their values. Hence, an individual adapts maladaptive attempts to meet life needs. It is an effective correlation intervention through its foci on assisting individuals in developing and promoting meaningful life plans that are incompatible with future offending. Therefore it is useful in addressing the concerns of sexual offenders in Calgary Canada.




Furby, L., Weinrott, M. R., & Blackshaw, L. (1989). Sex offender recidivism: a review. Psychological Bulletin, 105(1), 3. JOUR.

Martinson, R. (1974). What works?-Questions and answers about prison reform. The Public Interest, 35, 22. JOUR.

Ward, T., & Stewart, C. A. (2003). The treatment of sex offenders: Risk management and good lives. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 34(4), 353. JOUR.