Evidence-based practices in corrections rely on scientific research to improve outcomes for offenders and communities. Translating research into utilitarian practices, an evidence-based correctional model only uses programs and tools demonstrated to reduce recidivism and improve public safety. While many evidence-based correctional programs and tools exist, they all fit into broad categories of evidence-based practices.
In evidence-based corrections, correctional officers do not rely on personal or professional judgment to classify prisoners into low or high security categories. Instead, they use objective actuarial assessments. These unbiased assessments often result in lower security classifications.
Evidence-based correctional programs only treat proven causes of criminal behavior, or what correctional professionals call "criminogenic needs." Non-criminogenic needs fall outside the boundaries of evidence-based correctional practices. For example, an evidence-based program may target anti-social attitudes but not low self-esteem because studies do not link the latter to crime, notes the U.S. Department of Justice.
Evidence-based corrections practices don't end when offenders go free on parole. Parole authorities provide an array of correctional programs and services, and evidence-based principles dictate they match the intensity of services to the risk individual offenders pose. High-risk parolees might check in with parole officers more frequently than low-risk ones, for example.
When correctional institutions follow evidence-based practices, they model their programming around cognitive-behavioral therapy. They choose the cognitive-behavior model because research demonstrates it is most effective for high-risk offenders, according to the U.S. DOJ March 2011 guide, "Evidence-Based Policy, Practice, and Decisionmaking: Implications for Paroling Authorities." Cognitive-behavioral therapies help offenders alter negative or harmful thought patterns and behaviors.
- National Institute of Corrections; Evidence-Based Practive: Principles for Enhancing Correctional Results in Prisons; Ralph Serrin; 2005
- United States Department of Justice; National Institute of Corrections; Evidence-Based Policy, Practice, and Decisionmaking: Implications for Paroling Authorities; March 2011
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