Applying the Principles of Effective Intervention to Juvenile Correctional Programs

By Pealer, Jennifer A.; Latessa, Edward J. | Corrections Today, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Applying the Principles of Effective Intervention to Juvenile Correctional Programs


Pealer, Jennifer A., Latessa, Edward J., Corrections Today


In 1989, Gendreau and Andrews developed the Correctional Program Assessment Inventory (CPAI). This tool is designed to evaluate the integrity of a correctional program to determine the degree to which it meets certain principles. Over the years, the authors along with researchers from the University of Cincinnati have used the CPAI to assess hundreds of correctional programs. A total of 107 juvenile correctional programs in 17 states were assessed beginning May 1997 to June 2004. A large portion of the programs (56 percent) served males and females, 38.5 percent served only males, and 5.5 percent, only females.

A wide range of programs were assessed, including those operated by both government and private agencies, institutional and community-based programs (both residential and nonresidential), programs serving specific offender populations, such as sex offenders, as well as those serving a more general cross section of delinquent offenders. The programs ranged in size from a group home with eight beds to a diversion program serving more than 350 youths at one time. The programs also covered a wide geographic area and included those located in small towns, as well as urban and rural areas. The 107 programs also offered a wide array of services, including, but not limited to: drug and alcohol, mental health, school and education, sexual behavior, family counseling, individual counseling, anger management, domestic violence, life skills and antisocial thinking/attitudes. While the juvenile programs were not randomly selected, there is no reason to believe that the results are not reflective of the juvenile programs across the United States.

The Principles of Effective Intervention

During the past two decades, there has been renewed interest in examining correctional research. These efforts have been led by researchers such as Gendreau, Andrews, Cullen, Lipsey and others. (1) Much evidence has been generated, leading to the conclusion that many rehabilitation programs have, in fact, produced significant reductions in recidivism. The next critical issue became the identification of those characteristics most commonly associated with effective programs. Through the work of numerous scholars (Andrews et al., 1990; Cullen and Gendreau, 2000; Lipsey 1999), several "principles of effective intervention" have been identified. These principles can be briefly categorized as the following:

* Risk principle -- Treatment interventions should be used primarily with higher risk offenders;

* Need principle -- Target the known criminogenic predictors of crime and recidivism;

* Treatment principle -- Treatment and services should be behavioral in nature; and

* Fidelity principle -- Program integrity should be maintained throughout the delivery of services.

Examining Program Quality

Few would argue that the quality of a correctional intervention program has no effect on outcome. Nonetheless, correctional researchers have largely ignored the measurement of program quality. Traditionally, quality has been measured through process evaluations. This approach can provide useful information about a program's operations; however, these types of evaluations often lack the "quantifiability" of outcome studies. Previously, researchers' primary issue has been the development of criteria or indicators by which a treatment program can be measured. While traditional audits and accreditation processes are one step in this direction, thus far, they have proved to be inadequate. For example, audits can be an important means to ensure if a program is meeting contractual obligations or a set of prescribed standards; however, these conditions may not have any relationship to reductions in recidivism. It is also important to note that outcome studies and assessment of program quality are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Combining outcome indicators with assessments of program quality can provide a more complete picture of an intervention's effectiveness (Latessa and Holsinger, 1998).

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Applying the Principles of Effective Intervention to Juvenile Correctional Programs
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