Policy in Corrections and Reentry
“Evidence-based programs” are an important part of contemporary corrections work. Generally, “evidence-based” means that a program has a clear design, has been implemented somewhere, and that at least one study has evaluated in a rigorous way whether the program achieved its goals. Far too often in corrections, we see programs that don’t have any research evidence backing them up, and these can be at best a waste of resources and at worst can be counterproductive. On the other hand, the “evidence” available does not mean an exhaustive or comprehensive validation of a given program. Usually, studies try to determine whether a specific intervention had an influence on a narrow set of outcomes. Such a study can miss other possible effects of a program. Also, a study may or may not critically assess the assumptions or ideologies that underlie the design of the program or whether these are appropriate for a given context.
For this assignment, the main task is to look at an evidence-based policy in corrections and reentry and do some of this critical thinking about the design, implementation, and evidence base. One clearinghouse for criminal justice programs that have some research evidence is run by the federal government: CrimeSolutions.gov. This website categorizes programs by sector and gives them a “rating” in terms of quality of evidence. For each program, there is a summary of the program and available research.
Please choose one program from the Corrections and Reentry category of CrimeSolutions.gov. (Link: https://crimesolutions.ojp.gov/topics/corrections-reentry ). If you see several initiatives that are very similar, you can look at a few. Feel free to email me if you want to talk about your options or if you have trouble navigating the website.
In your paper, please cover the following:
Explanation of the program and the context where it was implemented, by which organization, for which ‘target’ population. (Make sure to use your own words; do not quote CrimeSolutions.gov or the program site verbatim except for short phrases). Explain if it happens inside prison or jail, under community corrections, after full release, or something else.
Explain the goals and main activities of the program.
Unpack the assumptions and theory in the program, such as:
What problem is this program trying to solve? How does it define the problem and the expected outcomes?
What “flaw” or “deficiency” does the program focus on for individual people who are in conflict with the law? What “flaw” in policy or structural issues does it focus on, if any? How does it try to improve or fix these?
Which of the aims of imprisonment/corrections does this program most emphasize? (deterrence, incapacitation, retribution, rehabilitation, restoration) Explain why and how.
Why does it focus on a given type/group of people, location/context, or behavior?
Summarize and critically assess the available research on this program. What have these studies found “works” or not? What are the advantages and limitations of the methods these studies used? What do we not yet know? If there is only one study listed on CrimeSolutions.gov, look elsewhere for studies on a similar type of program that is relevant.
Give your own critical assessment, based on what you’ve written above. Do you think the assumptions and design of the program are valid and would actually help to reduce crime and/or harm? Do you think this program is worth implementing? Why or why not? Under what conditions? What further research is needed? What would make the program better, in design or implementation?
Your policy brief should have the following sections:
Explanation of the program
Analysis of the assumptions and design of the program
Analysis of existing research on the program
Critical assessment of the program
You should cite sources throughout, and your paper should include at least:
1 source to explain the program (this can be the source linked on crimesolutions.gov)
3 sources of available research on the program (or similar programs) (these can be linked on crimesolutions.gov or from other places)
3 sources as more general references (about theory, assumptions, or other aspects)
You can use readings from the course if they are relevant or other readings. Try to include at least a couple that are academic articles.