Zoltan BogschuetzEnabling more Hungarian probation officers to deliver Aggression Replacement Training (ART) to young clients. That is the main goal of the project on youth crime that is being carried out in Hungary within the STARR (Strengthening Transnational Approaches to Reducing Re-offending) project, which is well under way. Time for a midterm review. “I think the researchers will find that the ART programmes show good results.”

Before the second World War Hungary had a probation service that developed in the same direction as the probation service in the UK. This however ended after the second World War. In the middle of the 1970s two Probation Services were set up in Hungary – one for juveniles, the other for adults. “For three decades the organisations mainly did casework”, recalls probation advisor Zoltán Bogschütz, a senior official in the Central Office of Justice Probation Methodological Department. “In 2003 however a major reform plan was adopted and the two services united. It was also decided that the organisation should extend its services and introduce group work. At that time the United States (where ART originated), England, the Netherlands and some Scandinavian countries had good experiences with ART. We felt our clients should benefit from that as well”. In 2007 twelve Hungarian professionals, probation officers and prison officers were trained in ART by experienced professionals from Reclassering Nederland, the Dutch probation organisation. Some have moved to other positions since then, but most of the trained tutors have been delivering ART for the last three years. Zoltán Bogschütz: “Unfortunately we didn’t have the resources to do scientific research on the results. So I cannot refer to exact success rates yet. Nevertheless, we believe that the programme is successful, because it is well structured and has well defined elements which involve clients. The tutors like to work with it and most of the clients seem to appreciate it as well.”

STARR
One year after the introduction of ART in the work of the Hungarian Probation Service the STARR project was set up. “We have been successful in ensuring that Hungary became one of the partners on the project”, says Zoltán Bogschütz, who was a CEP board member from 2007 to 2010 and who had been involved in STARR from the beginning. “Under the framework of this project seventeen probation officers were trained last spring using the English approach to ART. This five-day training was planned to be given by one English trainer and two Hungarian ART experts. These three experts had already worked together on ART in another project earlier in Turkey. Unfortunately our colleague from West Yorkshire Probation Trust couldn’t fly to Hungary due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland. Therefore the first ART training was conducted by the two Hungarian colleagues and that went very well.”

Differences
The Dutch and English versions of ART have a lot in common, but there are some differences as well, explains Zoltán Bogschütz. “Both courses focus on improving social skills, reducing aggression and increasing moral reasoning – the three main components or modules in all versions of ART. These goals however are achieved in slightly different ways. Take for example the improvement of social skills. Some of our young clients lack several basic social skills. They are, for example, very bad in simply listening to other people or communicating with them. Or they are not able to withstand group pressure. It’s a lack of these kinds of social skills that often lead people to commit crimes. The Dutch probation service has made short films for each social skill. The first part of the film shows clients how a lack of social skills can get them into trouble. Then ‘learning points’ are introduced: how could this trouble have been avoided? Let me give you an example. The topic is dealing with a group pressure. The first learning point is that the client has to think about what the group wants him to do and why. The second step is that the client must decide what he wants to do himself. Then he has to decide how he will tell the group what he wants to do. And finally, of course, he has to tell the group what he has decided. After a discussion on the learning points the second part of the film is played. The starting situation is the same, but the actors consequently show the right approach, using these ‘learning points’. The clients then carry out a role play, repeating only the positive part of the film and showing each other how they can handle the situation successfully. A week later they bring and play their own stories relating to the learned social skill.”

Experiences of the clients
The English Aggression Replacement Training, that consists of eighteen weekly sessions, doesn’t use film. The trainers present only the good scenarios. The participants have to role play their own related stories. Zoltán Bogschütz outlines that “both the Dutch and the English ART versions, of course, aim to incorporate the stories and experiences of the clients as much as possible. This makes the course more interesting for the clients, which means they will learn more. Don’t forget, the clients are obliged to follow the training, it is not their choice. ART requires the clients to actively use their brains as well as their emotions. The closer you stay to topics they can relate to, the better they can and will do so.”

Feedback training
Starr traineesThe seventeen new Hungarian ART tutors have been deploying their new skills in the field since their training. “In December we will have a three day feedback training session”, Zoltán Bogschütz looks forward. “Hopefully the volcano in Iceland will stay quiet during this period, so our English colleague can attend the training this time! The tutors will be able to share their experiences, ask questions and discuss the challenges they have met so far. We also want to make sure that the tutors are delivering the training as they are meant to, because we would like to be able to compare the results of the Dutch and the English versions. This can only be achieved if the Hungarian tutors stay close to the original training. The scientific evaluations will be carried out by the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, the Hungarian National Institute of Criminology and The National Offender Management Service (NOMS). I think they will find that both programmes show good results. I’m very curious what they will discover when they compare them.”

One third of Hungary
The Hungarian tutors that have followed the Dutch and English programmes now offer ART in 7 out of the 20 Hungarian counties at this moment. Not a bad result, Zoltán Bogschütz feels. “It would be good to increase this number step by step. According to the 2003 reform plan of the Hungarian Probation Service the organisation should have consisted of approximately 900 people by 2006 (600 probation officers and 300 administrative staff). Currently however we only have about 400 staff for some 82,500 cases per year. This serious lack of staff means that if some probation officers specialise themselves and practice group work, the caseload of their colleagues will increase. In other words, the Probation Service has been given a new task, but not sufficient resources to fully carry them out. Nevertheless, I think we have made a good start. Next year I hope we will be able to bring the programme to the other Hungarian counties. At the same time we should focus on several other qualitative factors, like how to select the most suitable clients for the different group programmes. For this reason we need to introduce a risk and need assessment tool. It is also very important to establish a team to monitor group work in the whole country in order to maintain and improve the quality of the trainings. If we do all that and if we do get sufficient staff members, I’m sure that ART has a beautiful future in Hungary, as it has in many other European countries.”


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