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Offender Rehabilitation: Effective Correctional Intervention

NCJ Number
F T Cullen, B K Applegate
Date Published
541 pages
Twenty-one papers review studies that challenge the effectiveness of offender rehabilitation and those that reaffirm the value of rehabilitation, as well as describe programs that work, the limits of control, and the future of rehabilitation.
The first paper is Robert Martinson's article based on his 1974 study, which assessed 231 evaluations of treatment programs conducted between 1945 and 1967. It is often cited as playing a critical role in showing that "nothing works" to rehabilitate offenders. Writing 5 years after Martinson's article, Michael Gottfredson (chapter 3) observed that it had become "conventional wisdom in criminology ... that rehabilitation has been found to be ineffective. In fact, the lack of demonstrated effectiveness is agreed upon by criminologists of nearly every persuasion and theoretical orientation." Gottfredson argues, however, that the assumption that "nothing works" became an ideological assumption without a basis in continuous and improved research on particular rehabilitation efforts. Currently, however, physical and social scientists are relying increasingly on a technique called meta-analysis to review evidence. This approach conducts a quantitative synthesis of the research findings of a body of literature. Meta-analysis computes for each study the "effect size" between the treatment and the outcome variable, in this case, recidivism. Papers on the reaffirmation of rehabilitation show that important strides have been taken in building a knowledge base that supports the view that treatment "works." Part III includes five studies that evaluate the effectiveness of specific programs; four pertain to the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency, and one assesses a prison therapeutic community for substance abuse. The papers in Part IV provide examples of evaluations of control-oriented programs, including intensive supervision, drug testing, home confinement, and boot camps. These evaluations consistently show that such interventions have few, if any, effects on recidivism. Part V contains two papers on the future of rehabilitation, with one noting the impediment of strong public preferences for punishment and the second paper discussing whether intensive rehabilitation supervision may be the next generation in community corrections. Chapter references and tabular data, as well as a name index