Second Chance Act in Action: A Case Study of Evidence-Based Approaches and a Researcher-Practitioner Partnership

clean-slate-2nd-chance
  • 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.

Report

A large majority of the more than 2 million people currently incarcerated in the United States will be released at some point, joining nearly 5 million individuals under some form of correctional supervision in the community. Clients involved with the criminal justice system exhibit a variety of risk factors known to reduce the likelihood of behavioral success, and opportunities exist throughout the system to address client risks and needs. During the past decade, efforts to measure client risks and needs, provide evidenced-based services to target assessed risks and needs, and enhance the likelihood of behavioral success have been facilitated by the Second Chance Act (SCA). 

In April 2008, Congress passed the SCA, initially authorizing up to $165 million in federal grants to state, local, and tribal government agencies and nonprofit organizations (Council of State Governments Justice Center & Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2016). This legislation represented a strong federal investment in evidence-based strategies to reduce recidivism and increase public safety, along with lowering correctional costs. Since 2009, more than 700 SCA awards have been provided, totaling over $500 million, with approximately 150,000 individuals participating in funded programs.

Several large-scale evaluation projects recently have illustrated both the successes and challenges of SCA programs (Carey et al., 2018; D’Amico, Geckeler, & Kim, 2017; Lindquist, Ayoub, & Carey, 2018; Lindquist, Willison, Walters, & Lattimore, 2017a; Lindquist, Willison, Walters, & Lattimore, 2017b; Rossman, Willison, Lindquist, Walters, & Lattimore, 2016a; Rossman, Willison, Lindquist, Walters, & Lattimore, 2016b). In general, SCA initiatives focus on factors known to contribute to the likelihood of behavioral failure, including such challenges as substance abuse, mental health disorders, unstable housing and homelessness, lack or education and employment, and family disfunction. Furthermore, SCA programs emphasize evidence-based practices and principles that have been shown to increase the probability of behavioral success, such as:

  • Assessing client risk and needs
  • Enhancing client intrinsic motivation
  • Targeting interventions based on risk, needs, and responsivity of clients, and focusing evidence-based services on medium and higher risk clients
  • Facilitating skill building with directed practice, particularly through cognitive-behavioral treatment
  • Increasing positive reinforcement of client behavior
  • Providing ongoing client support in natural settings
  • Measuring and monitoring processes and outcomes
  • Producing data-driven feedback and disseminating evaluation findings.

Research to date on SCA funded projects has uncovered a number of characteristics associated with successful implementation, effective client services, and sustained organizational change  (Carey et al., 2018; D’Amico, Geckeler, & Kim, 2017; Lindquist, Ayoub, & Carey, 2018; Lindquist, Willison, Walters, & Lattimore, 2017a; Lindquist, Willison, Walters, & Lattimore, 2017b; Rossman, Willison, Lindquist, Walters, & Lattimore, 2016a; Rossman, Willison, Lindquist, Walters, & Lattimore, 2016b). To illustrate, successful program implementation is facilitated by:

  • Effective planning and data-driven modifications guided by dedicated leadership
  • Buy-in from correctional partners and service providers
  • Political and public support
  • Communication and collaboration among stakeholders
  • Trained and experienced staff

Key aspects of providing effective services to clients include:

  • Accurately assessing risks and needs
  • Being able to motivate clients to enroll and engage in programs
  • Initiating services prior to release and ensuring continuity of care
  • Providing effective case management and positive reinforcement
  • Addressing the identified needs of medium and higher risk clients

Finally, SCA funding has not only benefited clients and communities, but also has contributed to organizational change and success. Examples of organizational development associated with SCA funding include:

  • Increased support for reentry efforts and inmates reentering the community
  • Greater communication, collaboration, and information sharing
  • Improved correctional culture
  • Expanded use of evidence-based approaches
  • Enhanced capacity and professional development of staff and service providers
  • Increased accountability and use of data and research findings

Despite these positive findings, SCA evaluation research also has identified common issues associated with program implementation and outcomes, including:

  • Adequate staffing and staff turnover
  • Ongoing communication among stakeholders
  • Access to appropriate treatment
  • Application of incentives, rewards, and sanctions
  • Responding to non-compliance
  • Generally modest program effects on recidivism and other behavioral outcomes

The SCA Innovations in Supervision Initiative, formerly known as the Smart Supervision Program (SSP), funds community corrections agencies to develop and implement effective and evidence-based probation and parole practices that address client risks and needs, to improve supervision success rates and behavioral outcomes. Through 2015, 24 SSP awards totaling nearly $17 million had been provided nationally, with promising initial research findings (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2016). Somerset County, PA, is an example of a jurisdiction initially funded under SSP. In this case, funds were used to implement a day reporting center for medium and high-risk individuals under probation or parole supervision, particularly those with substance abuse problems and needs.

References

Bureau of Justice Assistance (2016, March). Biannual grantee feedback report: October 2015 – March 2016. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Council of State Governments Justice Center & Bureau of Justice Assistance (2016, January). The Second Chance Act. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Carey, S. M., Rempel, M., Lindquist, C., Cissner, A., Ayoub, L. H., Kralstein, D., Malsch, A. (2018). Reentry court research: Overview of findings from the National Institute of Justice’s evaluation of Second Chance Act adult reentry courts. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/251496.pdf

D’Amico, R., Geckeler, C., & Kim, H. (2017). An evaluation of seven Second Chance Act adult demonstration programs: Impact findings at 18 months. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/251139.pdf 

Lindquist, C., Ayoub, L. H., & Carey, S. M. (2018). The National Institute of Justice’s evaluation of Second Chance Act adult reentry courts: Lessons learned about reentry court program implementation and sustainability. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/251495.pdf   

Lindquist, C., Willison, J. B., Walters, J. H., & Lattimore, P. K. (2017a). Second Chance Act offender reentry demonstration projects: Final implementation lessons learned: Factors that facilitate successful program implementation and positive client outcomes. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/250613.pdf  

Lindquist, C., Willison, J. B., Walters, J. H., & Lattimore, P. K. (2017b). Second Chance Act offender reentry demonstration projects: Perceived successes and sustainability strategies. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/250614.pdf

Rossman, S. B., Willison, J. B., Lindquist, C., Walters, J. H., & Lattimore, P. K. (2016a). Second Chance Act offender reentry demonstration projects: Evidence-based practices: Case management. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/250470.pdf  

Rossman, S. B., Willison, J. B., Lindquist, C., Walters, J. H., & Lattimore, P. K. (2016b). Second Chance Act offender reentry demonstration projects: Evidence-based practices: Screening and assessment. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/250469.pdf

Appendices

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Photo by Martha Dominguez on Unsplash

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