The threat of a prison sentence has long been seen as the best incentive to ensure people’s meaningful engagement in court-ordered treatment. But what if that assumption is wrong? And as some states implement measures to reduce incarceration—and with them the leverage afforded courts and prosecutors—what other factors ensure such treatment can be effective?
This research brief argues the central element governing the effectiveness of treatment is the quality of the human interaction that accompanies it. As recent studies bear out, a strong therapeutic relationship is less a matter of its length, outside incentive, or even approach, and more a matter of engagement.
Offering a new synthesis of risk-need-responsivity theory, therapy outcomes, and procedural justice, the authors call for more investigation into variations on the traditional treatment court model, including the absence of punitive sanctions for non-compliance, and a more holistic conception of intervention itself.