The creation and work of partnerships between corrections professionals and researchers is an oft-cited, important and valuable goal, yet relatively few seem to exist. In an era where correctional agencies recognize the importance of "evidence-based" strategies for programs, policies and budget issues, these partnerships are taking on more importance. Although correctional agencies collect vast amounts of information, taking the step from information to development of data for policy, program planning and evaluation can be a challenging process. This is where practitioner-researcher partnerships can play a significant role in turning information into useful data. Even if some correctional agencies have their own research staff, they sometimes establish partnerships with outside researchers to obtain objective (third-party) evaluations/assessments and to help with the agency's burgeoning research workload.
This article explores ways to develop these partnerships such as building internal research capacities, collaborating with universities and colleges or partnering with nonuniversity-affiliated researchers. The "best" way to form partnerships will vary according to agency/researcher needs. Recognizing those needs can be a key part of developing a successful joint venture. Practitioners generally come to the partnership with a problem in mind. These can range from the effectiveness of programs to human resources issues. For example, a prison administrator may want to know if institutional faith-based programs reduce recidivism after release from incarceration. A jail administrator may question whether a recruit training program is decreasing the turnover rate among officers. Correctional administrators are also interested in research that tells them how their ongoing efforts can be improved and/or enhanced.
Researchers may come to the partnership from a different viewpoint. They may be interested from a theoretical perspective, a personal research interest, because of requirements for tenure/promotion or simply to have the opportunity to get out in the field and "get their hands dirty" in real-world data. For many researchers, having an opportunity to work in a correctional environment is an exciting and professionally rewarding experience.
Why a corrections practitioner partners, with whom a practitioner partners and how a practitioner partners are influenced by the types of problems that need addressing, the resources an agency can offer...