Study: When parole, probation officers choose empathy, returns to jail decline

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Lake County News on 3/30/2021 by Yasmin Anwar

Heavy caseloads, job stress and biases can strain relations between parole and probation officers and their clients, upping offenders’ likelihood of landing back behind bars.

On a more hopeful note, a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that nonjudgmental empathy training helps court-ordered supervision officers feel more emotionally connected to their clients and, arguably, better able to deter them from criminal backsliding.

The findings, published March 29 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show, on average, a 13% decrease in recidivism among the clients of parole and probation officers who participated in the UC Berkeley empathy training experiment.

“If an officer received this empathic training, real-world behavioral outcomes changed for the people they supervised, who, in turn, were less likely to go back to jail,” said study lead and senior author Jason Okonofua, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.