Correctional administrators are feeling increasing pressure to demonstrate the effectiveness of their programs in reducing crime, and to begin shifting more of their efforts toward "evidence-based approaches" that have been shown to be more effective than traditional practices. All administrators face similar issues in attempting to assimilate and then put into practice the complex body of scientific knowledge that is now available for use in their field. The most effective programs in corrections and delinquency prevention today draw on techniques and methods that were first developed in such fields as medicine, statistics and management. Some of this knowledge only became available in the past few years. The process of acquiring the best scientific information for appraising current programs, and then using that information to improve the overall effectiveness of the organization can appear to be a daunting task. It does not have to be.
Shifting toward a more evidence-based approach in any correctional organization can be described as a process consisting of seven basic steps or phases: recognizing the value in this approach; acquisition of the relevant scientific knowledge; assessment of current programs against that knowledge; identifying appropriate areas for program realignment or replacement; arranging funding for the proposed realignment; implementation of the changes; and reporting on the outcome of these efforts to key constituents. Each step can be completed in just a few days and the whole process can be completed in less than a year.
Recognizing the value in this approach. Recognize the fact that some approaches, methods and programs are more effective than others, and that there are scientifically proven methods for identifying the best ones. A widely used program known as Functional Family Therapy has been shown to reduce recidivism rates by more than 30 percent and save more than $7 in future corrections costs for every dollar invested in the program. The most cost-effective approaches to crime prevention will prevent the greatest amount of crime possible for the available resources. The process of change begins when an administrator recognizes these facts.
Acquisition of the relevant scientific knowledge. Due diligence is doing whatever it takes to provide an organization with appropriate input regarding the scientific evidence about what works, and what does not, for the kinds of individuals with whom that agency deals...