THE EFFECTIVENESS OF CORRECTIONAL TREATMENT Samuel Crosby II Liberty University Abstract There are many different theories on how to keep recidivism rates from increasing, thus preventing crime. Studies do not show that incarceration can accomplish this task alone; however, there is empirical evidence that supports the idea of implementing effective correctional treatment to reduce the recidivism rates. There are conflicting opinions that show a discrepancy between those that believe that criminals should punished for their crimes or afforded the ability to receive treatment while in the correctional system.
Surveys show that Americans support the idea of offenders being incarcerated while being rehabilitated; however, they are not in favor of a solely punitive justice system. In light of the evidence that incarceration does not reduce the recidivism rates, there are other identified alternatives that have been proven to be more effective. This paper will discuss some of the correctional programs that work, the principles necessary for their success and the barriers and strategies for implementation of these treatment programs. The Effectiveness of Correctional Treatment
In 2003 there were nearly seven million people in the United States under some form of correctional control (Lowenkamp, Latessa and Smith 2006). Other statistics show that in the next year almost five million offenders were on probation or parole (Bonta, Rugge, Scott, Bourgon, & Yessine, 2008). With such great numbers of offenders in the correctional system, one can see how important effective correctional treatment would be in reducing recidivism. However there are conflicting opinions on whether or not treatment should be provided for criminal offenders and whether or not such reatment is actually effective. Some believe that corrections should be utilized as a punishment for offenders and justice for victims; however, others support the idea of punishment and justice in conjunction with rehabilitation to provide for social welfare (Cullen, Smith, Lowenkamp, & Latessa, 2007). The risk principle states that the level of supervision or services be equal to the level of the offender risk. The need principle targets characteristics that are closely related to the likelihood of an offender re-offending. The responsivity principle is based on the social and learning principles.
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Assessing the offenders risk and needs at the beginning of supervision has shown to be an essential part to determine the possibility of the offender re-offending. Treatment should offer a variety of different interventions that will be conducive to the population in which it is intended to serve. One important goal of correctional treatment should be to prevent crime, provide public safety, and rehabilitate offenders, thus reducing recidivism. Research on Incapacitation The theory of incapacitation is that we have the ability to prevent offenders from committing more crimes.
When we incarcerate an offender who commits a crime, they are no longer able to commit any more crimes in the community. Collective incapacitation is one of two basic approaches that suggest that we take all offenders who commit crimes and place them into prison. Selective incapacitation suggests that we identify those individuals who will commit crimes in the future and place them in prison. This approach is less expensive, every criminal is not incarcerated and prison space is not being wasted on offenders who should not be incarcerated for long periods of time.
The effect that confinement has on reducing the crime rated is called the incapacitative effect. Research has not supported recidivism reductions through incarceration. In addition, such excessive use of prison sentences is costly (Smith et al. , 2002). For example, Smith, Goggin, and Gendreau (2002) conducted an investigation on deterrent effects of prison sentence length. Conclusions revealed that there is a correlation between increases in recidivism and an increase in the length of time the offender was incarcerated.
Ultimately, research supported the hypothesis that recidivism reductions should not be expected through incapacitation. Support for Punishment in Corrections There is conflicting research and opinions regarding whether or not criminal offenders should be punished through criminal sanctions or receive treatment while in the correctional system. It proceeds with the belief that prison officials, who should not be referred to as correctional officers, are there to assist criminals in accepting responsibility for past criminal actions and accountability for their current behaviors. Intermediate Sanctions
Intermediate sanctioning is defined as a punishment option that is considered on a continuum to fall between probation and incarceration (Latessa & Smith, 2007). There are some criminal offenses where jail time is not an appropriate sentencing. The punishment should equal the crime committed. These sanctions were originally created to provide a wide variety of alternatives to incarceration and to cut down on the expense of housing an inmate. There are different types of intermediate sanctions: intensive supervision programs, electronic monitoring programs, house arrest, home detention, drug court and boot camps just to name a few.
Intermediate sanctions must be perceived as reasonably safe, they must address the public’s desire for punishment through community control, secure restitution for victims and offer an opportunity for positive change by providing treatment and employment skills. Intensive supervision started back in the 1950's and it is seen as the most commonly used community based intermediate sanction (Latessa & Smith, 2007). Research shows that intensive supervision did not curtail recidivism; it leads to more technical violations, higher failure rates and more revocations (Latessa & Smith 2007).
Electronic Monitoring As a part of intensive supervision, an offender may also be placed on electronic monitoring (EM), which was introduced in 1964 by Schwitzgebel (Latessa & Smith, 2007). Those placed on EM have been classified as high risk based on their risk and need assessment. The goal of EM is to provide a cost-effective tool for offenders outside of being incarcerated in prison. EM does not target nor does it reduce the risk factors that are correlated with offender recidivism (Latessa & Smith 2007).
Boot Camp Boot camps began in 1983 in Georgia and Oklahoma and have since for quite some time flourished throughout the nation. The primary purpose of the program is to manage prison population growth by facilitating early release of low risk offenders (Latessa & Smith, 2007). While in a boot camp offenders are subjected to military drills and discipline, physical exercise, hard physical labor, specialized education and training and counseling and treatment for substance abuse and addiction (Latessa & Smith ,2007).
Research regarding the effects of boot camps shows no reduction in the crime rates. Latessa and Smith, 2007 suggest that boot camps have two fatal flaws: they fail to target criminogenic risk factors and they model aggressive behavior. Therefore, it has been determined that boot camps do not do a good job at reducing recidivism rates. In a study in Texas in 1999 four different types of community facilities were compared, of those four boot camps reported re-arrest rates nearly double the other programs (Latessa & Smith, 2007). Drug Courts
Drug Court is a program that is made up of a team that includes the probation officer, the court, treatment provider and someone who brings everyone together at a particular time to discuss the progress of the offender while in the program. It offers increased offender contacts as well as substance abuse treatment. This program is for those offenders who were under the influence of drugs when they committed their crime. If the drug problem is addressed, the likelihood of the offender committing new crimes can be reduced, this program is cost effective and it reduces recidivism rates a little (Latessa & Smith, 2007). Probation
Probation is a court-ordered period of supervision that is served in the community as an alternative to prison. In some cases, an offender can receive a split sentence where a period of incarceration is served and once completed a period of probation is served in the community. Research shows that probation alone is not very effective in reducing recidivism. However, rehabilitative efforts are most effective when provided in the community in lieu of incarceration. In a 1998 National institute of Justice study of what works, there were a number of intermediate sanctions that were not effective in reducing recidivism rates.
Included were boot camps, probation, home detention with electronic monitoring and wilderness programs for youthful offenders (Latessa & Smith, 2007). Gendreau, Goggin, and Fulton (1996) as cited in Latessa & Smith (2007) conducted a meta- analysis of intermediate sanctions, they examined a total of 44 ISP programs, of those they found no effect of recidivism and in some cases they found an increase in recidivism. Cognitive Behavioral Programs There is growing evidence that cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) methods are among the most effective in reducing offender recidivism rates.
This method targets antisocial attitudes, values, beliefs (Smith, 2007). It attempts to restructure criminal thinking as well as developing appropriate new skills. A meta-analysis of sixty-nine research studies that covered both behavioral and cognitive behavioral programs concluded that CBT were most effective in regards to reducing recidivism (Landenberger & Lipsey, 2005). Lipsey and Landenberger discovered that the treatment of those offenders who are more likely to re-offend, extensive staff training, and CBT being set up for research purpose and not real world purposes, tends to have a larger effect on the recidivism rates.
Ideally in theory, these methods can be used as a preventative measure for victims of domestic abuse and other social issues that are potential gateways to becoming involved in the criminal justice system. Domestic abuse is another unfortunate way that children can become involved with the justice system. A child’s types of maltreatment, gender, age and support systems are all additional factors that affect a child’s response to the exposure of domestic violence (Overlien, 2009).
Children that are younger are more vulnerable to be affected by the abuse because they are more likely to view the abuse in the home visually as opposed to older children (Overlien, 2009). The exposure of domestic violence has been known to be associated with many other problems in children. Some of these problems include: “poor peer relationships, higher loneliness levels during school, less likely to get along with other children, more likely to get into fights, more likely to be disliked by peers and showing more aggression towards the same sex peers” (Hunter, Katz & Klowden, 2008).
There are also children that are exposed to domestic violence that do not react negatively. A study that was done in a battered women’s shelter showed that one third of the children in this particular shelter had no particular outcomes from being exposed to abuse in the home. It was concluded that those children were members of families that avoided from the negative effects of domestic violence (Hunter, Katz & Klowden, 2008). Evidence-Based Corrections Research indicates that criminal justice agencies can reduce offender recidivism rates greatly by implementing a series of evidence-based practices.
To implement these types of programs will require agencies to change the way they think to do their day to day operations. Interventions within corrections are considered effective when they reduce offender risk and recidivism and therefore make a positive long-term contribution towards public safety (Clawson, Bogue, Joplin, 2005). There are eight principles for effective offender interventions. The first step in correctional treatment is evaluating the offender’s predictors of recidivism. The second principle is to enhance intrinsic motivation.
Research strongly suggests that motivational interviewing effectively enhance motivation for initiating and maintaining behavior changes (Clawson, Bogue & Joplin, 2005). The third principle is the responsivity principle. It evaluates the offender’s learning styles and capabilities to match the offender with the appropriate treatment style and treatment provider. The fourth principle is to make sure that the staff is well trained to use cognitive behavioral treatment methods. The fifth principle is to increase positive reinforcement.
Research shows that a ratio of four positive to every one negative reinforcement is optimal for promoting behavioral change (Clawson et al. , 2005). The sixth principle is to engage ongoing support in natural communities. Offenders tend to revert back to their old ways when they return to their communities (Clawson et al. , 2005). The seventh principle is to evaluate related processes and practices by obtaining comprehensive and accurate documentation of case information that is necessary for measuring outcomes of evidence-based practices (Clawson et al. 2005). The final principle is to provide measurable feedback to offenders regarding their progress, which builds accountability and is associated with enhanced motivation to change (Clawson et al. , 2005). There are eight lessons that can be learned from Michael Lewis’s book, Moneyball. This book documents the effective use of evidence-based practices. Moneyball provides useful information through which to assess why many correctional agencies are ineffective in the services they provide.
The first lesson is that correctional treatment programs are not financed properly as resources to effectively implement programs are scarce during an economic crisis (Cullen, Myer & Latessa, 2009). The second lesson is that correction is often based on common sense rather than scientific evidence (Cullen et al. , 2009). The third lesson is that correctional officials are in favor of programs that “look good” rather than programs that are effective based on evidence (Cullen et al. , 2009).
The fourth lesson is that theories that lack empirical evidence lead to ineffective intervention programs (Cullen et al. , 2009). The fifth lesson is that corrections is charged with making an array of different and difficult decisions; who to place in jail, who to place on some type of community supervision and who to provide services to(Cullen et al. , 2009). The sixth lesson is correction knowledge destruction techniques will be used to reject evidence-based approaches. These are attempts to undermine the accomplishments of successful interventions (Cullen et al. , 2009).
The seventh lesson is that in corrections there is a high cost when scientific evidence on what works is ignored. The eighth and final lesson in corrections is that evidence-based practices will eventually be difficult to ignore (Cullen et al. , 2009). There are three challenges that will have to be addressed in order for an evidence-based model to take hold and shape practice (Cullen et al. , 2009). The first challenge is for the new generation of criminologists to engage in knowledge construction, that is, to use evidence to design the interventions that are geared towards offender reform.
The second challenge is that criminologists should be more apt to share the information in regards to how best to assess and reform offenders with other scholars, this is known as knowledge dissemination. The third and final challenge is to make sure that when evidence-based practices are developed and shared, that the programs are implemented and sustained with integrity (Cullen et al. , 2009). Risk Assessments There are two types of risk factors: static and dynamic. Static predictors cannot be changed.
For example, past history of misconduct, criminal history, prior arrest, age of first arrest, or the number of times of incarceration (Smith, 2007). Dynamic predictors are things that are capable of being changed, such as, antisocial values, peer association, substance abuse, criminal thinking and lack of employment. The first generations, also known as clinical assessments, do not use tests or checklists to classify offenders (Gendreau, Goggin & Smith, 1999). Counselors use their own professional judgment and gut feelings to classify offenders.
The second generation of risk assessments uses actuarial risk assessment instruments (Van Voorhis, 2008). This assessment used structured tests to predict whether or not an offender would re-offend. This assessment is a step up from the first generation, but it still lacks the ability to help make treatment decisions and programming decisions (Van Voorhis, 2008). The final generation of risk assessment is not limited to static variable. It takes into account that prior criminal activity in not the only prerequisite for re-offending. An example of this type of risk assessment is the Level of Service Inventory.
It combines the dynamic risk factors and the static risk factors into one instrument that produces one score (Gendreau et al. , 1999). The score shows how likely an offender will commit future criminal activity. It has been determined to be one of the best instruments available in predicting recidivism (Smith, 2007). Strategies for Effective Program Implementation There is evidence that shows a correlation between reductions in recidivism and the quality of implementation. Gendreau, Goggin & Smith (1999) comprised a preliminary list of 32 guiding principles for effective program implementation.
These principles have been categorized under four topics which are general organization factors, program factors, change agent and staffing activities (Gendreau et al. , 1999). General Organization Factors Organizational factors deal with the agency implementing the program (Gendreau et al. , 1999) recommend that agencies have a history of efficient program implementations. These agencies should be decentralized and flexible for better handling of problems that may arise; such issues need to be resolved in a timely manner and on a non-confrontational basis.
Treatment programs should include bi-annual assessments of offenders and include a formal program on instruction. Agencies need professional connections to consultants or educational specialists for assistance when necessary. A major factor to consider is personnel issues within the agency providing treatment. Programs will be more successful when little organizational conflict and low staff turnover exists. Program Factors Treatment programs must be supported by key individuals and the community.
The host agency should be responsible for program funding; however, such funding must not interrupt the already existing programs and should be cost effective. According to (Gendreau et al. , 1999) most programs lack adequate literature review prior to implementation. Therefore, the program should be researched and empirically based. Programs should be transitional and focus on organizational goals. Research shows that a 15 to 30 percent decreases in recidivism is a reasonable goal to reach; programs should be implemented with such reasonable goals (Gendreau et al. , 1999). Conclusion
Empirically based correctional treatment programs are very important. Continued research is necessary to determine what new programs will be effective in reducing crime. While there have been some programs that have been identified and have shown the promise of being effective, more research must to be done to convince policy makers that correctional treatment can be effective and is well worth the money spent to prevent future criminal activity. References Bonta, J. , Rugge, T. , Scott, T. , Bourgon, G. , & Yessine, A. K. (2008). Exploring the Black Box of Community Supervision. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 47, 248-270.
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Smith (2006). Does Correctional Program Quality Really Matter? The Impact of Adhering to the Principles of Effective Intervention. Criminology and Public Policy, 5 (3). Overlien, C. , (2009, December 8). Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: Conclusions from The Literature and Challenges Ahead. Journal of Social Work, 10(80) doi: 10. 1177/1468017309350663 Smith, P. , C. Goggin, & P. Gendreau (2002). The effects of Prison Sentences and Intermediate Sanctions on Recidivism: General Effects and Individual Differences. Van Voorhis, P. , M. Braswell & D. Lester. , (2007). Correctional Counseling & Rehabilitation.
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