Internationally, cognitive behavioral theories form the foundation of work with offenders, because they have proved to be the most effective in bringing about changes and reducing levels of reoffending. As with any theory, the original theory has been consistently modified and adapted in attempts to make it even more effective at bringing about behavioral changes in offenders. This paper first gives an overview of cognitive behavioral theory, seeing how its linear approach has cut it off from wider perspectives that might make it more effective. It also develops an understanding of criminal behavior from a complexity viewpoint. From there it examines from a complexity perspective the work of the Community Probation Service in New Zealand, which uses a cognitive behavioral approach, and the recently completed pilot of the restorative justice system, bringing offender and victim together in a mediated forum. An effective complex adaptive system has strong autonomy and efficient connectivity. If any member of a community violates the autonomy or connectivity of another, a crime is committed. Work with offenders and victims focuses on restoring the autonomy and connectivity of those involved and the whole community, better enabling the dynamics of self-organization to reemerge. Offenders are seen as developing schemas supported by cognitive distortions that allow them to bypass the barriers that keep most of us from offending. If an existing maladaptive schema can be carefully destabilized, it can enable the formation of a new, more effective schema that does not include offending behaviors.
Indigenous tribal groups can operate as complex adaptive systems. Tribal members are then autonomous agents interacting intensely among themselves and with their environment. Technology, social structure, economics, education, and so on develop over time to help the tribe maintain its fitness within its environment. These developments may be due to chance discoveries, the operation of natural selection, and under certain critical conditions the intense interactions may enable the emergence of higher levels of social complexity. At times when the environment becomes less favorable for human habitation, the means of subsistence regresses to earlier forms, which necessitates a similar regression in the social structure binding the society together. This paper examines the three tribes living in the South Island of New Zealand between 1250 and 1800 ad. The three tribes were named Waitaha, Ngati Mamoe, and Kaitahu. They had to cope with changes in climate, food, and resources, as well as intra- and inter-tribal threats. Particularly during the latter stages, there was intense competition for the more productive land and sea areas. On the Chatham Islands, some 800 kilometers to the East of the South Island, the Moriori people formed their own distinctive culture, which will also be examined. The Moriori, who descended from the Maori people of New Zealand, lived in an even more harsh and isolated environment than the Maori, which significantly shaped their distinctive culture.