Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $456,230)
An important function of criminal justice systems is to provide rehabilitation programs that can reduce recidivism and improve other key outcomes for the offenders they supervise. Such programs vary in effectiveness and the first purpose of this project is to synthesize the existing research on the impacts of a wide range of programs on these outcomes. The results of that synthesis will then be used to develop program practice guidelines and an assessment scheme for criminal justice agencies that assesses the match between the characteristics of the programs they use and those of effective programs found in the research.
The first step in this project is to complete a comprehensive meta-analysis of all available research on the effects of intervention programs for adult offenders. Most of that work is already done. A thorough literature search has identified 603 eligible controlled studies reported through 2005. Variables describing the intervention, the participating offender samples, the research methods, and effects found on such outcomes as recidivism, mental health, employment, and social functioning have been coded into a database. All that remains for completing the meta-analysis is to locate and code more recent studies to update the database through 2014, tasks to be accomplished mainly during the first year of this two-year project.
The resulting data will then be analyzed to estimate the mean statistical effect sizes that represent the impact of different types of programs on recidivism and other outcomes. Further analysis with meta-regression that controls for extraneous factors will identify the characteristics of the interventions and the participants most strongly associated with positive outcomes.
The results of these analyses will be of general interest in criminology and will be reported in appropriate publications. Equally important, are the practice guidelines and assessment scheme for different types of intervention programs that will be based on these results. These will allow criminal justice practitioners to assess the extent to which the programs they use align with supportive research evidence and diagnose shortcomings that can be addressed through program improvement initiatives.
In the last phase of this project, feedback will be obtained about the applicability, utility, and ease of implementation of the guidelines and assessment scheme from representatives from a selection of community corrections and prison programs. These pilot tests will be conducted in consultation with the Tennessee Department of Corrections, which manages probation and parole services as well as the state prisons in Tennessee. ca/ncf