The Danish Prison and Probation Service is working systematically towards reducing recidivism among convicts. Based on well-documented models, social workers are trying to change convicts’ attitudes towards crime by using their own personal qualifications and values as well as the behaviour connected with, or leading to, new criminal activity.
When dealing with clients in high risk of recidivism, it may be very difficult to talk about human and social values. If high-risk clients are asked directly about their personal values and goals in life by a social worker, many of them will have difficulties putting them into words. This barrier is well-known to Birger Sjöberg, who is a development consultant with the Danish Prison and Probation Service. When he heard about Dialoogle’s ability to open up for personal thoughts, dreams and emotions and putting them into words, it peaked his interest.
“Many high-risk clients have reading difficulties, which also made a visual tool interesting. So, in cooperation with the Dialoogle team, we created an exercise that invites the client and the social worker to collaborate on defining the client’s goals and achieving them in a relaxed and respectful manner,” Birger explains.
“Once pro-social values that do not incite to crime have been identified, the social worker will be able to talk to the client about how these values connects with his/her criminal behaviour. At this point, there will often be discrepancies. As an example, being a loving and attentive father is not possible if you are continuously in and out of prison.”
This exercise is universal and applicable in all scenarios – both with family, friends and colleagues.
At first, some of the social workers and clients were sceptical of the simple visual tool but their scepticism has been put to shame. The picture cards not just open up to parts of the clients’ personality that are usually not accessible; the fact that there are no wrong answers also offers clients a sense of security. Furthermore, the need for eye contact is reduced because clients can look at their picture cards while they talk, and this is often a great relief to them.
“We have been video recording the sessions in order to be able to provide feedback to our social workers and ensure that the picture cards work as intended. And it is extremely positive when I receive calls from excited social workers telling me about fruitful conversations with clients who were previously dismissive and withdrawn.”
“One of them told me about a client who was unable to find any useful picture cards and just kept mumbling when the social worker asked him to try to find one that said something about what actually mattered to him in life. But the social worker did not give up and kept encouraging him to give it yet another try. Suddenly something happened. He picked up a card and started talking about his kids and how he really wanted to be a good father to them. He picked up another card and continued talking. And then another one. “They all speak to me,” he exclaimed. The ice had been broken, and the road was clear. This makes me happy.”
“This exercise is universal and applicable in all scenarios – both with family, friends and colleagues. Personal values are important in all human relations; but we do not talk about them often enough,” concludes Birger Sjöberg.