Evidence-Based Practices in Corrections: From On-Paper to the Front-Line

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Kristi L. Greenberg, University of New Haven

Evidence-based practices are accepted as the gold standard within criminal justice agencies. In some instances, what works on paper is carried out effectively in the field, whereas in others, barriers are met by the realities of the front line. In corrections, there are eight accepted principles believed to reduce recidivism of offenders: the use of risk assessments, the need to enhance motivation, targeting interventions, matching offender traits with interventions, use of cognitive behavioral therapy, strengthening pro-social influences, adhering to program principles, and the use of data to guide actions (NCSC, 2018). These principles and the challenges perceived to their implementation are discussed below, from the point of view of a practitioner working in an institutional correctional setting.

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Community Policing

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Marquita D. Higgins, Walden University

Community policing exists to enhance public trust in law enforcement officers. In contrast to the focus of traditional policing, community-oriented policing focuses on the community’s involvement in law enforcement’s efforts to prevent crime (Gill, Weisburd, Telep, Vitter, & Bennett, 2017). Community policing policy is always in progress. It was first implemented in the United States in the 1980s, and since then, the policy has changed very little (Adegbile, 2017). The focus remains on strengthening community-policing relationships. Community policing units are designed to respond to minor problems in the community, whereas the patrol officers are free to respond to calls regarding crimes. One of the objectives of the community policing approach is to make neighborhoods safer through cooperation with the public.

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A Critique of Current Youth Drug Addiction Policy

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Timothy Daty, University of New Haven

Substance abuse among adolescents is a growing public health concern within the United States. While adolescents account for roughly 8% of all substance abuse treatment admissions (SAMHSA, 2016), Winters and colleagues (2013) assert that only 10% of adolescents in need of drug therapy are actually receiving treatment. While illicit drug use extends across multiple age groups, initiation during adolescence can prove especially harmful to these youth. For adolescents, early substance use makes them more susceptible to drug addiction and dependence (Hurd, Michaelides, Miller, & Jutras-Aswad, 2013). In addressing this issue, national policies often center around two principle facets: drug education and applying standard treatment for teenage abusers. Unfortunately, current policies for these two facets are proving to be inferior and even ineffective when applied to this issue. Policymakers should reevaluate these policies and explore new avenues, particularly those in drug prevention and treatment. For adolescent substance abuse, superior policy alternatives exist that are better suited for adolescent substance abuse.  

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Fear of Crime: A Problem Oriented Solution

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Joseph Dule, University of New Haven

Since the late 1960’s, fear of crime has become one of the most heavily politicized issues in American society.  Research consistently shows that personal fear of crime is associated with increased levels of anxiety, withdrawal from social activities, decline in social integration, and changes to daily personal behaviors (Zhao, Lawton, & Longmire, 2015).  Consequently, cities have become increasingly proactive in trying to improve their attractiveness, livability, and overall vitality.  Reducing fear of crime has become an integral part of this strategy, as it is believed that the creation of safe and enjoyable city centers and downtown areas will also attract more visitors and boost consumer spending (Brands, Schwanen, & Aalst, 2013). 

What remains widely undisputed is that high fear of crime in society is not healthy, and generates negative personal and neighborhood consequences. What remains less clear, however, is an understanding of which policies actually reduce fear of crime, have no impact, or make the problem worse.  The most common governmental approach to reduce fear of crime has been to increase surveillance and policing efforts (Brands, Schwanen, & Aalst, 2013).  This paper will attempt to elucidate the impact policing measures have on fear of crime, as well as some of their more general crime reduction benefits.

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Inmate Furlough and Beyond—A Question of Punishment or Rehabilitation

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Mengbei Wang, University of New Haven

In recent years, prison overcrowding has become a highly visible issue in the field of criminal justice.  Although the costs of imprisoning offenders are high, the majority view in American society is that greater incarceration protects the public.  In reality, however, most criminals cannot be locked up in prison forever.  Every year, a large number of individuals finish serving their time and are released to the community; more than half of these released prisoners return to prison (Alahdadi, 2016).  Inmates experience difficulties in re-entering the community and are more likely to engage in criminal activities, resulting in a return to prison.  All of these problems (prison overcrowding, failures of the prison system, and the associated high costs) result in a great interest in finding alternatives to incarceration.  Policymakers, therefore, realize they should pay greater attention to a wide range of remedies by which to reduce crime, instead of relying exclusively on incarceration. 

Temporary release for prisoners has become one of the pathways to eventual prisoner reintegration and is becoming more popular in the political arena.  The provision of prisoner “furloughs” consists of an authorized temporary release from prison, allowing incarcerated individuals to readjust gradually to life on the outside.  Empirical studies on prison furlough programs initially yielded positive results (Jeffery & Woolpert, 1974; LeClair, 1978; LeClair & Guarino-Ghezzi, 1991; Turner & Petersilia, 1996; Visher &Travis, 2003; Cheliotis, 2008; Cheliotis, 2009, Bales et al., 2015).  Furlough programs have both advantages and disadvantages, however.  After the Willie Horton incident in 1988, such studies and programs faded away.  This paper discusses the pros and cons of furlough programs, comparing and contrasting them to similar programs in China.  The aim is to make policy recommendations that attract policymakers’ attention and to realize a successful future for furlough programs.

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3 New BJA Solicitations

Here are 3 solicitations from the DOJ that may interest you

  • Justice Accountability Initiative (JAI): Pilot Projects Using Data-driven Systems To Reduce Crime and Recidivism
    https://www.bja.gov/JAI18
    Applications Due: July 30, 2018
  • Justice Accountability Initiative: National Training and Technical Assistance to support pilot projects using data-driven systems to reduce crime and recidivism
    https://www.bja.gov/JAITTA18
    Applications Due: July 30, 2018
  • Supporting Innovation: Field-Initiated Programs to Improve Officer and Public Safety
    https://www.bja.gov/Field18
    Applications Due: July 30, 2018
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Second Chance Act in Action: A Case Study of Evidence-Based Approaches and a Researcher-Practitioner Partnership

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  • David L. Myers, PhD, University of New Haven
  • Daniel R. Lee, PhD, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  • Dennis M. Giever, PhD, New Mexico State University 

Introduction

This issue of EBP Quarterly presents a second-year implementation and evaluation report for the Somerset County Day Reporting Center. This report, and the corresponding appendices, present a case study of an SCA funded initiative that is utilizing various evidence-based approaches and evaluating process and behavioral outcomes through a researcher-practitioner partnership. This report illustrates many of the key findings uncovered in larger-scale SCA research, but also provides practical examples of program policies and procedures, strategic and action planning, organizational assessment, use of motivational interviewing, monitoring implementation, and assessing program performance. The importance of prior research findings, collaborative leadership, program fidelity, and data-driven decision-making also is presented in this report.

We hope you find this report and the corresponding documents useful as you consider the use of evidence-based approaches in your own agency. Links to the appendices follow below.

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Incorporating Surveys to Improve Police-Community Partnerships

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George M. Froggé, Austin Peay State University 

Abstract

In some cities, there is a strain on the relationships between the police and the communities they serve.  The use of effective communication is one key to improving police-community rapport.  These partnerships are the foundation for community policing. The implementation of police-community surveys are productive research tools for creating stronger partnerships. This paper will discuss several types of survey methods to improve police-community partnerships.

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Sex Offender Risk, Recidivism, and Policy

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Kristi L. Greenberg University of New Haven

Sex offenders and their rates of recidivism are often at the center of media and legislators’ attention, in efforts to maintain public safety from what are perceived by many to be the most heinous of offenders. As a result, sex offender management, civil confinement, community notification, and registration laws have been enacted in many jurisdictions across the globe. These policies stem from “good intentions to enhance public safety, [but] current punitive-oriented policies targeting sex offenders have been shown to yield null effects on sex offender recidivism” (Manchak and Fisher, 2017, p. 2). This, coupled with the myriad of challenges registered sex offenders (RSOs) face because of their public label, amounts to a disservice for offenders and victims. Socia (2014) highlights this by noting that “criminal justice scholars have been skeptical of the utility of residence restrictions for some time because study after study has suggested that these policies are ineffective and may be resulting in collateral consequences for both RSOs and community members” (p. 179). It therefore becomes imperative to examine what is known about sex offender recidivism, risk assessment, and the factors influencing sex offender policies.

This paper discusses the employment and housing barriers faced by RSOs, and how those barriers impact public safety. Current research that examines RSO risk levels, how they are obtained, and how they are managed is reviewed. The position that research indicates current sex offender policy, albeit effective at identifying high-risk individuals, is highly ineffective at aiding successful reintegration is supported. These policy gaps create unsafe communities and force some RSOs to commit non-sexual crimes to survive their new environments.

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Reentry Courts: A Critique of Implementation and Theoretical Design

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Jacob Hasson University of New Haven

The United States’ criminal justice system is in the process of rebounding from punitive policies, known as the “get tough movement,” which led to unprecedented growth in prison populations and associated fiscal costs. As of 2015, 2.2 million people were housed in US prisons and jails (The Sentencing Project, 2015). With the average inmate costing approximately $31,000 per year, states are looking to relieve themselves of these excessive costs and are attempting to find cost-effective alternatives to incarceration (Vera Institute of Justice, 2012).

One such approach garnering much attention by researchers and practitioners alike is the utilization of reentry courts for inmates returning to the community after incarceration. Reentry courts began in 1999, through funding by the US Department of Justice and were modeled after drug courts. Their purpose is to reduce recidivism and technical violations by providing oversight and assistance to inmates as they transition into the community (Ndrecka et al., 2017). If implemented correctly, reentry courts can work with clients and mitigate their risk of recidivism during a time when they are at the highest risk of reoffending. This, in turn, could decrease recidivism rates and overall prison populations.

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