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QUESTION

Paper Overview:  Since the 1970’s the debate has raged over the effectiveness of correctional treatment programs in reducing recidivism.  On the one hand we have those who argue that “nothing works” and that the best solution is incarceration and long sentences.  Getting tough on crime is the battle cry of politicians and others who advocate that public safety is best served through punitive policies.  Conversely, many researchers have taken the position that the most effect way to ensure public safety is to design and deliver effective correctional treatment programs based on empirically derived principles.

Paper Topic and Question:  The topic for your paper is correctional treatment.  The specific questions you will be addressing are: 1) what do we know about the effectiveness of correctional treatment in reducing recidivism? And, 2) how can we improve the effectiveness of these efforts?  Included in your paper should be a discussion of what works in reducing recidivism and what doesn’t.  You should add a discussion of some of impediments to implementing effective programs and ways that they can be overcome.  Finally, I want you to add a section on what is going on in your state with regard to evidenced based programs in corrections.  This may require a little digging, but I would like you to describe some of the activities that are occurring in corrections in your state, be it probation, parole, institutional or juvenile corrections (or all of them).

In writing your paper you should structure your thinking around the following issues.

  • What does the research tell us about the effects of criminal sanctions (punishment) versus treatment?
  • What are the major predictors of criminal conduct and why is this research important in designing effective programs?
  • What are the risk, need, treatment and responsivity principles, and why are they important?

In reviewing the research on many of the widely used “treatment” approaches used in corrections it is clear that many have not demonstrated effectiveness in changing offender behavior.  Why are some more effective than others?

  • Implementing effective programs requires an agency to overcome a number of obstacles.  What are some of these obstacles and what strategies would you use to deal with them?
  • How has the correctional system in your state attempted to implement evidence based programs or practices?

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