What is a domino effect? You line a box of dominoes up in a pattern, knock one down, and what happens? If you set the pieces up correctly, the one you knock down will hit the one behind it which will, in turn, hit the one behind it and this really cool and quick process of dominos falling one by one will ensue until the last has dropped. That’s a domino effect.
What would happen if you removed a single domino in the middle of your pattern? The dominoes would still fall, but once the missing domino’s place was reached, the effect would stop. In essence, removing a single piece changes the outcome of the effect.
Life is a lot like dominoes. From the day we are born, the first piece is tipped. Our patterns are large and complex. We are like a sea of dominoes with infinite directions of possibility. The direction we take in life is influenced by people and events—some within our control and some not—and when one of those direction influencing components intervenes (like removing a dominos from the pattern), the result can be life changing.
Why are we talking about dominoes and life? Because it so aptly illustrates the topic of cognitive behavioral intervention versus prison. And here’s why:
CBI Intervenes to Change Life Courses
Cognitive Behavioral Intervention or CBI Classes is just one of the court services our team offers. The concept behind it is much like that of substance abuse treatment versus prison. At its core, the goal is to intervene at an opportune moment in time to pull a domino from the cascade in progress and redirect the person involved to a better path. Unlike substance abuse treatment, CBI targets first-time offenders with a misdemeanor such as trespassing, shoplifting, or larceny.
According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), CBI is a stand out in the criminal justice system. Says the NIJ, “[It] reduces recidivism [i.e. re-offending or repeat offenses] in both juveniles and adults.” According to a study undertaken by Mark Lipsey of the Vanderbilt University, those subjected to punishment and deterrence systems (like prison) commonly increased repeat offense behavior while those given a therapeutic approach based on counseling and skill building reduced further repeat behaviors.
Understanding Why CBT Works
Why does cognitive behavioral therapy work? Simply put, it targets the root of the problem which is most often flawed thinking. CBI classes have a heavy focus on beliefs, values, and attitudes. It was Winston Churchill who once said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference,” and CBT aptly demonstrates the truth of his wisdom.
Perceptions directly impact one’s behavior. Sometimes one’s views are skewed. CBI works to find and correct any such irregularity, particularly the ones that lead to criminal charges. It focuses on the why versus the what, which means zeroing in on the underlying sequences that lead to the person’s legal trouble. For example, a case of first-time shoplifting could be due to any of the following:
- A lack of problem-solving skills or poor decision making.
- Immature or irrational thought patterns.
- Inability to foresee consequences.
- Impulsive behaviors.
- A belief of entitlement.
- An inability to manage emotions and the reactions or actions they generate.
- The belief that force is necessary to achieve the desired outcome.
- An egocentric viewpoint loaded with an inability to trust others.
- Ignoring the rights of others.
Instead of punishing the results of such cognitive processes through prison, CBI seeks to pinpoint the underlying issues that lead to the criminal activity. It’s a means of working toward a long-term solution.
Why Long-Term Change Beats Prison
But why focus time and resources on a program that could potentially call for long-term therapy and counseling? Is it worth the investment of resources versus what is already devoted to our state and federal penitentiaries?
In 2015, we published an in-depth blog covering the benefits of substance abuse treatment versus prison. One of the top benefits we uncovered was monetary savings. Research indicated that if just 40 percent of eligible offenders received the proper substance abuse treatment, it would save the criminal justice system some $13 billion each year! Carry this same study over to the impact CBI, and CBT programs can have on first-time offenders, and the savings could be dramatic.
More importantly, the changes that CBI programs put into play in the lives of participants lead to crime reduction and a better future for those who attend, apply, and stick with the ideas and skills taught. Cognitive behavioral intervention is a proven way to remove the domino that leads to a life of repeat offenses and criminal activity. What does this accomplish? It effectively changes the domino effect in one person’s life—an effect that causes more dominoes to fall both in their life and the lives of those affected by their actions—sending them toward a better future. For some, it derails a life altering event while pushing them in the direction of becoming a productive member of the community.
Stigma Be Gone
But for programs like cognitive behavioral intervention to work, we as a community must muster a serious supply of stigma be gone. It’s a widely accepted belief that criminals choose to be criminal and therefore deserve the full extent of any punishment the justice system deems applicable. And while there will always be cases where a person turns to a life of crime because they simply want to, there are many, many more where the person at fault has lost their way. In these cases, intervention can be as positive, beneficial, and challenging as a drug or alcohol intervention.
So do your part. You can help end the stigma surrounding poor decision making and substance abuse. It all starts with learning more. Here’s some light reading to get you started: