Running Head

Running Head: Effectiveness of Criminal Rehabilitation
Effectiveness of Criminal Rehabilitation
Charles Ahearn
William Paterson University
Effectiveness of Criminal Rehabilitation
The effectiveness of criminal rehabilitation programs is an important topic to study because it impacts the safety of law abiding citizens. Further, if criminals are rehabilitated and become productive citizens who obey the law, they will not return to prison reducing the economic cost to taxpayers. My research paper will begin by presenting data that establishes the dire state of the United States prison system. Next, I will review the history of criminal correction and argue that the current emphasis on utilizing punitive measures to deter unlawful behavior is not working. In order to lower crime rates and decrease the prison population the criminal justice system needs to adopt rehabilitation strategies that have proven to have a positive effect on recidivism. This paper will discuss two successful endeavors, cognitive behavioral therapies and faith based criminal rehabilitation programs. To conclude, I will argue that in addition to CBT and treatments where inmates participate in religious programs to address criminal behavior, it is critical that prison systems sponsor events that foster relationships between the offender and family members in to ensure a smooth transition to life after release.
The U.S. prison system is in crisis. As of 2017, 2 million men and women were occupying our nations’ correctional institutions (Seigafo, 2017). How did these numbers get so high? Simply put, incarceration is not deterring offenders from committing criminal acts upon release. A 5 year follow up to the Data on Recidivism report published by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics documents 67.8 percent of the 404,638 prisoners that were released from prison in 2005, were rearrested after 3 years and 76.6 were rearrested after 5 years of release (Durose, Cooper, ; Snyder, 2014). Recidivism rates remain at all-time high. The current hard line approach of punishing offenders for their acts without addressing the root causes of their criminal behavior has led to an increase in crime rates and overpopulation in the nation’s prisons. Many criminologists
Effectiveness of Criminal Rehabilitation
and social scientists have expressed the urgent need to incorporate rehabilitation programs into the prison system to reduce criminal behavior.
Advocacy for criminal rehabilitation is not a new idea. In the late 1800’s due to prison overcrowding, the U.S. prison system shifted adopted rehabilitation over punishment as a means to discourage criminal conduct and thereby decrease the numbers of individuals incarcerated (Steiner, B., Wada, J., Hemmens, C., ; Burton, V. S., 2005). Often referred to as the progressive era, during this period prisons were no longer solely institutions that confined criminal offenders but they began to implement criminal rehabilitation strategies to ensure that upon release inmates would not reoffend. The length of time criminals were sentenced to prison was not as finite as offenses were reviewed on a case by case basis applying an individualized approach to correcting criminal behavior (Rothman, 1980). The progressive era continued until the late 1960’s and early 1970’s until reports of increasing crime rates led the prison community to support what is known as the justice model; which rejected criminal rehabilitation and punished all offenders equally (Steiner et al., 2005). This shift in correctional philosophy from rehabilitation to punishment was validated when in 1974 Robert Martinson published a review of correctional treatment programs which concluded that most rehabilitation programs did not effectively reduce recidivism (Martinson, 1974). However, it is now being realized that the usage of the justice model in America’s correctional facilities is primarily responsible for the dramatic increase in the prison population. As documented in Its about time: America’s imprisonment binge, incarceration rates have climbed by more than 4 times of the previous rate between 1980-1995 (Irwin ; Austin, 1997). In the later years of the 1990’s incarceration rates continued to climb (Harrison & Beck, 2003). Federal and state correctional institutions with their punitive approach were not rectifying
Effectiveness of Criminal Rehabilitation
criminal behavior. By punishing offenders, exposing them to harsh conditions, and not implementing criminal rehabilitation programs, America’s penitentiaries created more dangerous offenders who when released have a higher probability of committing crimes and as a result returning to prison.
In response to the alarmingly incarceration rates in the United States, a “what works” movement emerged critical of the Martinson study advocating for a return to rehabilitation methods (Cullen ; Gendreau, 2001). While proponents of the “what works movement” acknowledged that certain rehabilitation programs do not have an impact on recidivism they argued that many programs have great track records for correcting criminal behavior. One example is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The cognition aspect of CBT attempts to remedy the faulty thinking of inmates. The behavioral element of CBT concentrates on modifying the unlawful and anti-social conduct of inmates substituting negative behaviors with positive ones (Milkman ; Wanberg, 2007). It is critical that both the criminal mind and behavior are both addressed to ensure that upon release offenders will obey the law and not return to a life a crime. An analysis of 69 cognitive-behavioral studies by Pearson, Lipton, Cleland, and Yee showed that cognitive-behavioral therapy used in prisoner rehabilitation programs had a direct effect on decreasing rates of recidivism (Pearson, Lipton, Cleland, ; Yee, 2002; Milkman ; Wanberg, 2007).
Another type of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy which has been successful is Aggression Replacement Training(ART). ART, a program designed to remedy violent and aggressive behavior, first demonstrated positive study results when made available to juvenile offenders resulting in 46 percent reduction in recidivism (Milkman ; Wanberg, 2007). The effectiveness of
Effectiveness of Criminal Rehabilitation
ART in decreasing re-offense rates for juveniles prompted the correctional community to implement the training in some adult prisons and ART has proven to be an effective criminal rehabilitation tool. (Milkman ; Wanberg, 2007).
A third form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Criminal Conduct and Substance Abuse Treatment: Strategies for Self-Improvement and Change (SSC). This therapy recognizes that many
individuals that are incarcerated suffer from drug and alcohol abuse and if left untreated offenders will abuse upon release and are at risk to reoffend particularly to support their habit. In fact, many in the criminal justice community support the usage of prisons to address substance abuse issues. A study which surveyed local criminal justice leaders in Orange County Florida revealed that the most favored goal of prisons was to address the needs of inmates that suffer from substance abuse (Applegate, Davis, Otto, Surette, ; Mccarthy, 2003) Additional studies have revealed that 80 percent of inmates who received treatment under SSC programs reported that their addiction to drugs has subsided and they have abstained from committing criminal acts (Milkman ; Wanberg, 2007).
One of the most commonly used CBT programs is called Thinking for a Change (T4C). T4C focuses on an offender’s cognition and at the same time works with inmates to acquire problem solving and collective skills (Milkman & Wanberg, 2007). Studies conducted by Lowenkamp, Hubbard, Makarios, and Latessa (2009), demonstrated that offenders who participated in T4C experienced a 25% reduction in recidivism than inmates that did not take part in T4C. An additional study of T4C criminal participants reflected a 33 percent lower recidivism rate (Milkman & Wanberg, 2007; Lowenkamp, Hubbard, Makarios, & Latessa, 2009). No matter what Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used according to Withrow (2002) years of
Effectiveness of Criminal Rehabilitation
research has determined several key components that are critical to achieving reduced recidivism rates:
Treatment involves addressing behavior based on accepted social and psychological theories
Treatment is accessible to the offender
A wide range of methodologies are used based on offender needs
The program is intensive encompassing many hours of therapy over several months
Positive reinforcement is critical
Programs are designed to accommodate inmates needs
Follow up care is furnished
Program administrators are well trained, qualified and monitored
Correctional institutions are supportive of any programs implemented
While Cognitive Based Therapy has received high marks for it impact on recidivism rates the implementation of CBT programs require substantial economic and staffing resources. As an alternative, faith-based rehabilitation programs are inexpensive and show promise in decreasing the chance that inmates will reoffend upon release. Many researchers have examined the connection between religiosity and rejection of criminal behavior (Kerley, K. R., Matthews, T. L., & Schulz, J. T., 2005). One study of juvenile delinquency conducted by Johnson, Jang, Larson & De Li revealed that religious worship deterred individuals from committing criminal acts such as use and selling of illegal drugs (Johnson, Larson, De Li, and Jang 2000) The effects of religiosity in action in a prison environment has also been analyzed. An extensive study was conducted by Johnson, Larson, & Pitts (1997) and Johnson (2004) of Prison Fellowship Programs (Johnson,
Effectiveness of Criminal Rehabilitation
Larson, & Pitts, 1997; Johnson, 2004). The participants in PFP were incarcerated at four adult male prisons in New York. PFP members took part in Bible studies, in prison seminars and life plan seminars. The study found that that those offenders who participated the most in Bible studies transitioned better to life after release and had a reduced rate of recidivism than the control group (who were not enrolled in PFP at all). (Kerley, K. R., Matthews, T. L., & Schulz, J. T., 2005). Another study was conducted by Kerley, Matthews, & Schulz (2005) evaluating a faith based
criminal rehabilitation event implemented in at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi called Operation Starting Line. OSL states its objective as, “through OSL prisoners learn to come under a new “coach” -the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ- who can alone transform their hearts and set them free from bondage of sin and crime” (OSL, 2002). Kerley, Matthews and Schulz distributed questionnaires to 268 participants the year following an OSL event that took place in August 2001. The data compiled from these surveys concluded that inmates who
attended the OSL event experienced less feelings of anger and resentment and engaged in less disputes with other inmates (Kerley, K. R., Matthews, T. L., & Schulz, J. T. , 2005) While these results cannot be linked to reducing recidivism, preliminary results offer promise that if there was more widespread use of faith based programs like OSL inmates changed outlook could prevent the likelihood of future criminal behavior (Kerley, K. R., Matthews, T. L., & Schulz, J. T. , 2005)
A final point that needs to be made is that CBT therapies and religious based programs do not hold the entire answer to ensuring that criminals do not reoffend. Correctional institutions need to additionally address the roadblocks offenders face when they are released to their community. Two key barriers that can derail any criminal rehabilitation and leave offenders vulnerable to committing criminal acts upon release are the inability to reconnect with their family and to secure
Effectiveness of Criminal Rehabilitation
employment. Nassar and Visher in their 2007 study of recidivism discusses the need for the inmates to establish a strong connection with family since it is linked to a lower recidivism rates. Therefore, criminal rehabilitation programs need to incorporate family visitations so that relationships can be restored and bonds can be made stronger in order that the family can assist the offender when he/she is released (Seigafo, 2017). As far as the offender’s work opportunities when they are released, studies show that stable employment can significantly lower recidivism rates (Seigafo, 2017). It is very important that criminal rehabilitation include vocational and educational programs that will enable the inmate, upon release, to obtain a job with a steady income and as a result prevent the offender from falling prey to criminal activities such as burglary or selling drugs.
Effectiveness of Criminal Rehabilitation
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