New psychological treatment helps better analyse offenders

CHINA - Sandplay therapy, a new method to analyse problems related to psychologically, is being implemented by staff members at a community correction centre in Ma'anshan city, Anhui province, to better understand the mindset of offenders and enhance treatment and counseling.

The method allows users to choose different objects, representing people, trees, food, furniture and commodities from a shelf and then put them in a sand tray.

This, psychologists say, helps to better analyse their mindset.

"You can see that this particular offender used tables, chairs, pots and food in his 'production', which could indicate he wants a warm family environment," a centre member of staff said.

Sandplay is just one of the therapy tools offered to offenders at the centre.

"Offenders also need to finish set learning tasks and complete community service of no less than eight hours each month," said Liu Xu, the head of the Ma'anshan justice bureau.

China first launched community correction programs in 2003 in Beijing and Shanghai, then extended it to 27 provinces. The correctional programme is used for five types of offenders: people under surveillance, on probation, parole, temporary release from prison and those released but deprived of political rights.

Xia Yuexing, the vice-director of Anhui provincial department of justice said: "The number of offenders who receive community correction is increasing in Anhui province, but the recidivism rate for offenders is lower than the national average".

Xia said there are 90,000 offenders who have received or are receiving the community-based programme.

Authorities announced the abolishment of the reeducation-through-labour system and will boost the mechanism for community correction after the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

According to the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2012-2015) issued in June, China will expand the scope of probation and community-based correction, and reduce terms of imprisonment appropriately and improve community-based therapy