Culture, Risk, and Reentry in Colombia: Identifying Culturally Competent Risk Factors to Predict Reincarceration

Daniela Barberi

Advisor: Cesar J. Rebellon, PhD, Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Committee Members: Yasemin Irvin-Erickson, Danielle Rudes, Faye Taxman, Andres Rengifo

Online Location, Online
November 22, 2022, 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM


Culture and context can influence the decision-making process of a person when deciding or not to engage in criminal behavior (Hart, 2016). Risk and Needs Assessment (RNA) tools, which are used to identify risk factors to predict recidivism, are based on the Central Eight paradigm by Andrews and Bonta (2017) which were developed from a Euro-American context. Translating international RNA tools to a Latin American country can result in a partial or not well adapted result given that the risks and needs of the populations from different countries can be different given that the Central Eight are not necessarily universal. 

Following an emic cross-cultural approach and a mixed-methods strategy this study aimed to identify key factors that could predict reoffending in this Latino population and that could translate into a risk score to predict reincarceration of the Colombian reentry population. To do so, this research conducted 1) a quantitative analysis of a secondary dataset from the only governmental reentry program in Colombia, and 2) a qualitative analysis from data of a panel of Colombian experts who explained the risk factors to recidivate and semi-structured interviews with formerly incarcerated Colombians. 

As a result of the quantitative analysis a risk score of five key risk factors proved to predict recidivism in the Colombian reentry population. Compared to the Central Eight, this risk score did not reflect the findings from Andrews and Bonta (2017) which points to a risk score that is culturally competent to the Colombian context. Simultaneously, the results from the qualitative data showed that the experts and the formerly incarcerated Colombians mentioned as an essential risk factor to reincarceration “the necessity” and lack of access to basic resources (e.g., food, shelter, afford utilities).  Considering the risk factors to reincarceration of the Colombian reentry population do not match the Central Eight paradigm, the findings from this study suggest that any RNA tool that wants to be translated into this country, should began by examining which are the culturally relevant factors that must be included in a tool to truly predict to desired outcome.