Forty Years After "What Works:" Examining Offender Pogramming in pennsylvania's board of Probation and Parole.

Author:Antonio, Michael E.

Based on a detailed review of empirical findings about the effectiveness of correctional programming, in 1974, Robert Martinson began an earnest discussion and posed a significant challenge for evaluation researchers to determine "what works" with regard to reducing recidivism among criminal offenders. (1) Because of Martinson's work, the topic of community reintegration became an important social issue worthy of further study and spawned 40 years of research to uncover empirically-tested principles about effective correctional interventions. Studies conducted during the past four decades have provided statistically-significant evidence about characteristics of offender programming associated with measureable reductions in recidivism. Many criminal justice agencies throughout the country have integrated these practices into their standard treatment and rehabilitation interventions.

Many offenders who are incarcerated for criminal activities will not be incarcerated for life, but will one day be released back into society. Each day in the U.S., approximately 34,000 offenders are released from jails and returned to their communities. (2) Upon reentering society, these individuals immediately face numerous challenges. Research has shown that the most frequent challenges include education, employment, finances, housing, family reunification, substance-related disorders and physical/ behavioral health issues. (3) These challenges often turn into stumbling blocks and impede successful reintegration and, for many, result in commission of additional crimes and an eventual return to prison.

What Works Much research has been gathered that indicates effective correctional programming that follows a cognitive-behavioral approach has the greatest impact on recidivism rates. (4) These programs, referred to as cognitive-behavioral interventions (CBD, focus on changing offenders' criminal thinking as the first step to changing offenders' criminal behavior. CBI places particular emphasis on role-playing exercises, graduated practices and behavioral rehears-als (5) Other findings about effective correctional programs revealed an emphasis on criminogenic needs and behaviors that can be changed. Specifically, much evidence has been gathered that shows effective correctional intervention programs should target anti-social attitudes, criminal thinking, negative peer influences, poor decision-making and problem-solving skills, and substance-abuse issues. (6)...

To continue reading