Correctional Service Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Compendium 2000 on Effective Correctional Programming

Warning This Web page has been archived on the Web.


Defining Correctional Programs


As a result of the findings of large-scale reviews of offender treatment, presented and discussed in this Compendium, there has recently been a considerable expansion of interest in the use of programs in work with offenders. Using interventions in forms that may be described as programs is not new, and there are examples of this kind of work dating back to the 1940s. The research indicates that the true era of development in this sphere commenced in 1975. This chapter examines what correctional staff and researchers mean when they talk about a program. This is not as straightforward as it sounds, and it is difficult to arrive at a single, clear-cut, unassailable definition of correctional programs that will firmly demarcate them from other forms of activity conducted with individuals sentenced by criminal courts. However, in one sense that does not matter too much. What is much more important is that when any interventions are carried out with offenders, it should be possible to specify what has taken place, in order to direct the work being done, to allow evaluation to occur, and to enable others to learn from the results.


First, it will also be helpful to set the enterprise in a broader context. Correctional programs as we currently observe them being implemented whether in institutional or community settings have a common primary objective. In attempting to accomplish it, correctional programs are just one of a number of endeavours taking place in many agencies and services that share common goals. Those goals revolve around the notion of inducing or supporting some type of change in the people taking part. The desired changes may include imparting knowledge, acquisition of skills, or improved health. But in criminal justice services, this usually hinges upon the concept of correction: the adjustment of behaviour from a pattern that is criminal or anti-social to one that is more law-abiding or pro-social.

To succeed in this requires drawing on methods that overlap, inevitably and sometimes to a considerable extent, with ones employed in other fields. Correctional services form one of a number of public agencies providing a service to the community of which they are a part. Given this role, they have many professional links with other agencies. But in addition, staff with different backgrounds, qualifications and perspectives work within each agency. Prison staff include not only custody or discipline officers dealing with security and management issues. There are also teachers, social workers, probation staff, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, and others. Thus whatever their stated aims and whichever professional group predominates, most public services employ a range of specialist staff. The net effect of this is to blur the boundaries not only between different professional roles, but also between the different activities offered to those who are the consumers of an agency's services.

Also like many other agencies, correctional services attempt to serve (at least) two main “consumers” simultaneously. The publicly declared aim of corrections is to ensure community safety, by detaining or otherwise managing those who have harmed other people's interests. But unless imprisonment is to consist of literal “warehousing”, which few who are familiar with its history would rationally support, it must also then address the needs of prisoners themselves. These two tasks are inextricably inter-related, and this raises fundamental issues for the delivery of correctional programs. For unlike other agencies providing services, the use of coercion and the fact that individuals are (in the vast majority of cases) contained in service settings against their will creates a different dynamic in the manner with which programs have to be delivered. Of course, it is a myth that those who participate on an apparently voluntary basis in school, welfare, or health services always do so willingly. But some framework of restriction of liberty, even if minimal, is integral to virtually all correctional practice, and sets the preconditions for many other aspects of contact between offenders and professional staff, including provision of programs.

Correctional programming has numerous points of contact and degrees of overlap with other types of intervention that have the essential aim of engendering individual change on the basis of personal choice. This includes education, that focuses on helping individuals acquire knowledge and information. It includes training, which is designed to help people acquire manual or cognitive skills for application in the workplace. It also includes therapy, which is intended for alleviation of emotional distress and amelioration of symptoms of mental disorder. All of these processes also instil new modes of thinking and problem-solving that are transferable across situations, and often also new perceptions of and attitudes to the self. Thinking more broadly and considering how this would be viewed in a non Western cultural context, there are also similarities to processes of healing. Each of these domains is virtually impossible to define in any simple, satisfactory and mutually exclusive way.

For some time, the organizations charged with supplying education and training have been accustomed to the idea that there are regular patterns which should be followed in trying to attain the objectives that are set for any given learning task. Those tried-and-tested methods that have successfully secured the objectives in the past become such an established pattern that they have be written down and specified in a manual or hand-book. The concept of a curriculum is founded on this principle.

Recently, in the wake of large-scale reviews of the effectiveness of psychological therapies, there has been a trend towards standardization and manualization of the procedures to be followed (Dobson & Craig, 1998; Nathan & Gorman, 1998). This is partly to allow systematic testing of interventions in carefully controlled research trials. But it is also designed to allow other practitioners to emulate the “best practices” identified in such work. Patterns of individual clinical needs may be such that standardised approaches cannot succeed in tailoring psychotherapeutic interventions to meet everyone's requirements. However, for those types of problems that are experienced by many clients, it has proved possible to develop empirically supported treatments the ingredients of which can be described in detail in accompanying therapist manuals.

Over the last quarter of a century, a similar idea has progressively become implanted in correctional services, and today holds a position of some prominence.


The concept of program is now widely discussed in correctional settings, but evidently still means different things to different people. To refine the concept slightly, a useful starting point is to examine different approaches to crime prevention and to the intervention efforts that might be planned and delivered within each. For this purpose we can borrow a familiar distinction, made by Tolan, Guerra, and Hammond (1994), between primary, secondary, and tertiary crime prevention strategies.

Primary prevention consists of two different types of strategies. Situational prevention is designed to limit crime opportunities, sometimes by increased security measures, police patrols, video surveillance, target hardening, or the re-design of environments in residential or retail zones (Eck, 1997; McGuire, 2000; Pease, 1994). Interventions of this type are sometimes referred to as programs; for example, neighbourhood watch programs (Sherman, 1997).

Developmental prevention entails provision of services to families and children in environments, such as socio-economically deprived neighbourhoods, with the aim of reducing long term difficulties including delinquency but also school dropout, mental health problems and substance abuse. Such developmental prevention programs have shown to be potentially highly effective (Yoshikawa, 1994); and in some instances, such as the Perry Preschool Project, have also been shown to be highly cost-effective over long-term follow-up intervals (Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart, 1993).

Secondary prevention is focused on known at-risk groups. This includes for example individuals who are identified as pre-delinquents, who are playing truant from school, have con-duct disorders, or are residents of child-care facilities (Kaufman, 1985). In some cases there may be evidence of development of delinquent or anti-social tendencies and efforts are directed towards averting subsequent involvement in juvenile offending. In other circumstances prevention may be broadly aimed at averting gang involvement or drug use in the school population as a whole (Gottfredson, 1997).

Tertiary prevention (Gendreau & Andrews, 1991) is addressed to adjudicated offenders, those already convicted of crimes, with the objective of reducing rates of recidivism. This is the domain of correctional services and the subject-matter of this chapter. Note, however, that correctional services need not be exclusively focused on tertiary prevention; for example youth justice teams may be engaged in some multi-agency programs with a secondary prevention focus.


To an extent, the way a correctional program is defined depends in part on what we consider to be the overall function of society's correctional efforts. This raises rather daunting philosophical questions, concerning the nature of justice or social order, which are beyond the scope of this chapter, but the fact that these issues are inter-dependent should be constantly borne in mind.

With reference to the previous section, the global aims customarily given for criminal justice agencies almost always do relate to preserving the safety of the community. Thus when individuals enter the criminal justice system as adjudicated offenders, the prima facie basis for working with them is to return them to society less likely to offend again. It could be argued, on ethical grounds, that such issues are in principle the only ones with which correctional services should be concerned.

On scanning the literature it is possible to discover that the word “program” is used in at least three separate though inter-related ways.

Definition one

The types of interventions known as programs may be employed at any of the levels mentioned above (primary, secondary, or tertiary), but for present purposes discussion will be limited to the tertiary, in which most correctional service agencies usually operate. Within this context, the typical program is a circumscribed set of activities, with an appointed objective, and consisting of a number of elements that are mutually inter-connected. In its first, strictest terms, a correctional program can be defined at its core as a planned sequence of learning opportunities delivered to adjudicated offenders with the general objective of reducing their subsequent criminal recidivism. From a behavioural perspective, it is intrinsic to this that a constructional approach is adopted. This entails the reduction of undesirable behaviour through the application of positive reinforcement procedures and repertoire-building techniques. As Gendreau (1996) has indicated, positive reinforcers should outnumber punishers in a ratio of not less than 4:1.

This definition implies that a program has a specified objective and it should be possible for this to be clearly stated by its designers, users, evaluators and preferably also its participants. There may be intermediate objectives that in practice are only distantly connected to the goal of reducing recidivism; but the nature of any such linkage should be explained in sup-porting program documentation. There should be a planned sequence of activities. This might be called a curriculum: a series of sessions or a timetable. It is the physical representation of what is involved in trying to operationalize the program's objectives. The program should have internal coherence, in the sense that the activities that are planned can be shown to be justifiable for achieving the objectives. This should hold both theoretically (there is a sound model on which the design of the program is based) and empirically (there is evidence concerning its effectiveness, either as a totality or in terms of its components).

At first sight this may appear highly prescriptive. Regrettably, the entire concept of programming alienates some staff who misperceive it as a mechanised attempt to brainwash offenders. Others confuse it with the idea of programmed learning, in which specially prepared texts or interactive computer software is used to guide individuals through a knowledge-acquisition process. Methods designed in this way could form a part of some interventions; but this is distinct from what is usually referred to as correctional programming.

Outside corrections, the closest parallel to this concept is perhaps the curriculum in educational settings. This usually has an objective (e.g., to help students learn a language to a certain standard). It will entail activities, methods and materials designed to achieve this goal. There will be a clear, demonstrable link between the two and some procedures for monitoring and evaluating their achievement.

Definition two

In corrections the word program is also used in a second, broader and more flexible sense. For example, mentoring schemes for young offenders, or therapeutic communities for substance-abusing offenders are also referred to as programs. In the purer sense of definition one, the term is here a misnomer. But it is possible to specify the objectives of both these processes and to define operationally what is intended to happen within them. Thus if the experiences which are to be arranged for participants can be adequately described, to the extent that other practitioners could adopt and replicate them, it is still accurate to use the word program as applicable to these interventions.

Activities such as mentoring, intensive supervision, or physical challenge do not however contain the detailed pre-planning or expectation of measured development that is a central feature of programs in definition one. Individual change may occur, but there is no explicit structure or designated sequence through which participants progress as is the case in, for example, a cognitive skills program.

This flexibility of nomenclature can lead to confusion. Mentoring may be an added element in a juvenile correctional service in which young offenders also participate in structured activities programs that would satisfy the first definition given above. That might similarly occur in the setting of a therapeutic community. Evidently, it is very difficult to delineate the outer limits of what is meant by a correctional program.

Definition three

Taking a far broader perspective, MacKenzie (1997) has classified criminal justice interventions into six separate but overlapping groups, as follows.

  • Incapacitation. Removing the offender's capacity to commit crimes, usually through detention (incarceration).
  • Deterrence. Punitive sanctions which as a result of the infliction of pain or discomfort will deter individual offenders subjected to them (specific deterrence) or other potential offenders and members of the public-at-large (general deterrence). The primary means of accomplishing this is through restriction of liberty but additional sanctions may also be applied as in a correctional boot camp.
  • Rehabilitation. Provision of treatment or allied forms of intervention designed to alter the thoughts, feelings or behaviour of individual offenders.
  • Community restraints. This includes surveillance, supervision, or other methods of closely monitoring an individual's behaviour or sphere of activities such as to preclude engagement with crime opportunities.
  • Structure, discipline and challenge. Physically (and some-times mentally) demanding experiences designed to influence individuals' attitudes in a positive way or to act as a deterrent against further criminality.
  • Combining rehabilitation and restraint. An amalgamation of methods of treatment with methods of surveillance or limitation of liberty that will enforce compliance with requirements.

This constitutes, potentially, a third definition of the word “program”. It may be important however to distinguish between the above aspects which are structures of the criminal justice system and that flow directly from judicial sentencing; and efforts made by other correctional agencies to introduce active change ingredients into the context set by this framework. While it is a widespread public expectation that the sentence of a court will in itself have an impact on offenders, there is little evidence to support this supposition. Examination of data concerning the differential impact of sentencing on recidivism, using official criminal statistics and making comparisons between predicted and actual rates of reoffending amongst large samples, shows that sentencing per se is largely irrelevant to outcome (McGuire, 1998). It is on this basis that Andrews (1995) has argued that the sentence can only ever be the starting condition for programmatic intervention.

We might also question whether punishment and deterrence can be conceptualized as programs. From a layperson's standpoint, the raison d'être of criminal justice is to punish offenders for their wrongdoing (Walker, 1991). Punishment is, metaphorically speaking, the correctional equivalent of cosmic background radiation in physics; pervasive and ever-present. Simultaneously, there are additional punitive sanctions, or enhanced punishments, which can be introduced into the framework of existing sanctions; they may form the experimental conditions in some correctional research studies (Lipsey, 1992; Sherman, 1988). Yet when correctional staff, practitioners or researchers, refer to correctional programming they rarely mean innovations of this type. They are more likely to denote a set of activities with psycho-educational, therapeutic, or skills-training purposes and methods, as in the first definition given above.

Perhaps the focal defining aspect of a program does not reside in the kinds of external, directly observable components described earlier. Rather, the pivotal feature could be the proposed vehicle of change. This is the mechanism within a program which it is presumed (or preferably, firmly demonstrated) will produce the difference in recidivism that is the program designer's and the agency's ultimate goal. For punishment, that would (theoretically) consist of personal discomfort in offenders resulting from loss of liberty, the general privations of prison life, or the physical demands of a correctional boot camp regime. For a cognitive or interpersonal skills program, it would be the acquisition of new capacities for analysing and solving problems or for interacting with others. For a therapeutic community, it would entail the gradual experience of re-socialisation and growth of personal insight as daily interactions with others shape new kinds of behaviours, feelings, or beliefs. But these concepts themselves vary enormously between different types of programs, and the crossovers and exchanges between them are too numerous to permit them to serve as useful definitional markers.


One of the recurrent difficulties of defining programs on the basis of available literature is that descriptions of them are often used in loose, overlapping, and sometimes incompatible ways. The same program can be conceptualized in different terms depending on which aspect of it is highlighted. In addition, reviewers of research (including meta-analysts) invariably develop their own classification or coding systems when grouping programs together to compare effect sizes. Thus, an interpersonal skills program could be defined straightforward by that label. But equally, it could be categorized under the headings skills-training, behavioural, or cognitive depending on which aspect of it a reviewer perceived as most salient. Alternatively, as a function of its location in correctional services, it might instead be subsumed under some other title such as diversion or intensive supervision.

For example, Palmer (1996) reviewed a wide range of studies on the treatment of offenders, including 9 meta-analyses and 23 narrative literature reviews available at that date. This led to a classification of correctional interventions that showed considerable diversity. They included: confrontation; area-wide strategies of delinquency prevention; social casework; social agency, or societal institution approaches to delinquency prevention; diversion; physical challenge; restitution; group counselling or therapy; individual counselling or therapy; family intervention; vocational training; employment; educational training; behavioural approaches; cognitive-behavioural or cognitive approaches; life skills; multimodal approaches; probation or parole enhancement; and intensive super-vision (probation or aftercare/parole) (Palmer, 1996, p. 134-5). As found by Palmer, there were systematic differences in effects between these different categories, even after allowing for sizeable variation within some of the groupings named.

Further, in different programs these elements might be operating singly or in combination. Palmer drew a distinction between categories of program, such as the different types of intervention listed above, and program components. The latter were more basic building blocks of interventions. If a program contained only one such element, it could be called unimodal; however, combined or multimodal programs incorporating several elements are much more common. Given the well-established pattern that a wide range of factors is associated with criminal behaviour (Farrington, 1996), it is scarcely surprising that programs deploying several methods and focusing on several targets emerge consistently well from the meta-analyses (e.g., Lipsey, 1992).

Extending this discussion, Palmer (1996) also sought to distinguish between programmatic and non-programmatic aspects of interventions. The former include all the categories and species of program elements cited earlier. The latter include a range of factors that are widely considered to be prerequisites of program success but are much more difficult to specify. They include staff characteristics; features of staff-client interactions; offender characteristics; and aspects of the settings in which programs are delivered. While not integral components of the definition of most programs, it is recognized that these issues can play a critical part in determining program outcomes. The importance of such factors has been considered in some detail by other authors including Andrews (1995), Gendreau (1996), and Lösel (1995).

Dimensions of variation in programs

The following are some principal dimensions in respect of which correctional programs vary.

Theoretical model

Programs differ according to the models of crime causation or of individual change on which they are based. Whilst the most successful programs to date involve applications of cognitive/ social-learning models, many other approaches exist and have obtained modest and occasionally larger effect sizes.

Treatment targets (criminogenic needs)

It is essential, if programs are to be effective in changing risk of future offending, that they are focused on aspects of individuals' functioning that have been shown to be linked to criminal acts. Programs vary in the number, range, and degree of inter-relatedness of such targets. These are sometimes defined on the basis of established risk factors for offending (Andrews, 1995), such as cognitive or social skills deficits, substance abuse, impulsiveness, or anti-social attitudes. In other instances, they are linked to different types of offence, such as programs for bur-glary, car theft, or violence.


Programs also vary simply in the numbers and duration of staff-client contacts; in their intensity over time; and in their overall time-scale of delivery. Following the risk principle it would be expected that there will be a correspondence between risk levels and assignment to different degrees of program intensity; but this relationship may not be linear. For example highly recidivistic, substance-abusing offenders may require several dimensions of program input.

Criminal justice setting

The most immediately obvious aspect of this is whether programs are delivered in institutions or in the community, with most research reviews showing the latter to yield superior effect sizes. Programs also vary in respect of the kind of agency within which they are run, the point during sentences when programming is carried out, and the amount of access to other services concurrently.

Sentencing context

The nature of the sentence imposed may have a direct influence on program delivery, as it will influence the amount of control in the hands of correctional staff, with potential consequences for the degree of participation by offenders.


There are differences between programs in terms of the specificity of their objectives. Whereas some may have a very precise focus on a single problem area (e.g., anger management), others may have very broad objectives and a wide spectrum of treatment targets. Given the findings from large-scale reviews concerning their superior effectiveness, multimodal programs, using a combination of targets and methods of working, are usually seen as more powerful agents of change.

Program portfolios

Within a single institution there may be a range of program opportunities. Correctional services such as Correctional Service Canada have developed a hierarchy of program types, varying along several of the above dimensions (see below). Correctional planning principles can then suggest the most appropriate array of programs for an inmate, moving for example from generic, broad-ranging and multimodal programs to others with more specific treatment targets. Conceptually, such programs may be arranged in a hierarchy that permits managers and treatment providers to have an overview of the total pattern of services available within the setting.

Programs also differ in other respects; for example, whether they are designed for delivery on an individual or group basis. Both for reasons of economy and for the other advantages gained from joint activity and collaborative learning, a majority of extant programs are based on a group format.


Another important issue is that of who should participate in a program. In one sense that may seem obvious: the offender allocated to take part. However, it can be tentatively suggested that the more support individuals have from different aspects of their social environments, the likelier it is that they will achieve change. Evidence supportive of this comes from the impact of the presence of significant others in the Aggression Replacement Training package development by Goldstein and colleagues (Goldstein, Glick, Carthan, & Blancero, 1994). Effect sizes increased sharply as a function of the inclusion of one person who was part of the offender's own social world, selected by each participant, in program sessions. Such effects may be increased still further as more and more domains of the environment are activated in support of behaviour change. Thus Multi-Systemic Therapy which entails programming simultaneously at the individual, family and school levels (Hengeller, Schoenwald, Borduin, Rowland, & Cunningham, 1998) has yielded some of the highest effect sizes published to date (Borduin, Mann, Cone, & Hengeller, 1995).2


The variety of correctional programs now available is immense and both their number and diversity are steadily increasing. To date, the most extensive range of programs in place are those managed by Correctional Service Canada (CSC) and the world-wide development of interest in correctional programming owes much to initiatives taken within the Service. The Reasoning and Rehabilitation program is probably the best known and most widely applied intervention of its type, now used in a number of countries. It consists of 35 two-hour group-based sessions and has been delivered in both prison and probation settings. Already however, much more intensive programs exist. For example, CSC's Violent Offender Program consists of a total of 120 two-hour sessions. Somewhat different however is the Women's Peer Support Program based in the Edmonton Institution for Women, which consists of provision of on-call support to women inmates, for example to help deal with personal crises. Staff and volunteers attend a 17-session training program prior to becoming available for this purpose.

In the United Kingdom, interest in programs has developed apace in recent years, and a number of cognitive-skills programs have been accredited for application in prisons. They include Reasoning and Rehabilitation; Enhanced Thinking Skills, a 20-session program; and Problem-Solving Training and Offence Behaviour, a 30-session program that engages offenders in analyzing their own criminal actions. These interventions, alongside others focused on communication skills development and substance abuse, have been appraised by an independent Accreditation Panel in terms of an agreed set of criteria. The latter are designed to ensure that programs meet standards derived from the empirical research base afforded by meta-analytic reviews.

A similar process is now occurring in the community-based sector of criminal justice, both in adult probation and juvenile offender services. The Home Office's Probation Unit has designated a number of programs as Pathfinders, which is a preliminary developmental status prior to potentially achieving full accreditation. Programs designated so far cover a wide range of offence problems or modes of delivery, including one-to-one work in probation settings; substance abuse; responsible driving; domestic violence; sex offenders; and women offenders. Additional programs are being developed focused on basic survival skills, inmate resettlement, community service, and for incorporation in sentences of probation with additional requirements.

Correctional services in the United States have implemented a broad spectrum of offender treatment programs. They range from interventions for juveniles, including Aggression Replacement Training (Goldstein et al., 1994) or Multi-Systemic Therapy (Hengeller et al., 1998), to prison-based therapeutic communities and after-care programs for substance-abusing offenders such as Amity and Vista (Wexler, Graham, Koronowski, & Lowe, 1995). Given the scale and diversity of the correctional services and agencies in the United States, there is as yet no integrated national strategy for program implementation as can be found in Canada and more recently in the United Kingdom. For a review of a wide range of correctional service tertiary prevention programs drawing primarily on research work in the United States, MacKenzie (1997) is an invaluable source.


Regardless of precisely how programs are defined and their ingredients assembled together, certain issues are now seen as paramount in ensuring that they are properly delivered. Lipsey (1992) found marked differences in effectiveness between programs that were thoroughly monitored and those that were not. Moncher and Prinz (1991) found that the integrity of delivery of a program has been shown to be vitally important in mental health settings. Similarly Hollin (1995) has explicated its importance when running behavioural programs and in the treatment of offenders in general.

Thus, all commentators in this field now acknowledge that it is vital that programs be delivered as planned. Procedures need to be in place to monitor this process, and to furnish feedback to program managers or external consultants. The maintenance of program integrity is known to be dependent on appropriate training of staff, provision of adequate resources, good communication between designers, managers, tutors of programs, availability of supervision, and use of some means of measuring client level of participation and change over time.

Equally, many of these tasks will be facilitated if clearly presented manuals and other associated materials support the program itself. Both the program as a whole and its constituent sessions should have clearly stipulated objectives. This is a foundation for many other aspects of the work: unless staff involved in delivering a program can visualise the required con-tents of sessions, their quality of delivery is likely to deteriorate. During training, staff should practise delivery and have opportunities to be observed by trainers. There should in addition be a clearly defined set of staff competency criteria to be met by those delivering the program. All of these components are products of the core definition of the program and its objectives by its planners. Whatever the nature of a program, it is crucial that these aspects can be clearly defined, if other aspects of delivery are not to become confused and dysfunctional as a result.


Informed by the steadily accumulating body of treatment-outcome research in work with offenders, correctional services, in several countries, are seeking to establish well-validated intervention programs together with methods of monitoring their application. The optimal route selected by a number of services is the development of procedures for accreditation of programs designed to reduce recidivism.

The model adopted by the United Kingdom involves the recruitment by prison and probation services of an independent, external panel of expert consultants. Programs thought to be suit-able for accreditation and delivery in criminal justice settings are submitted to the panel. A submission should include copies of all relevant materials such as a statement of the program's theoretical rationale; session manuals; staff training manuals; assessment and evaluation measures; and other supporting documentation. These are then judged against a pre-agreed set of accreditation criteria that define the minimal requirements for approval of a program (HM Prison Service, 1999; Home Office, 1999). These require that the following specifications should be met.

  1. Model of change. There should be a clear, evidence-based theoretical model underpinning the program that explains how it is proposed that it will have an impact on factors linked to offending behaviour.
  2. Dynamic risk factors. Program materials should identify factors linked to offending, specified in the model, and which, if changed, will lead to a reduction in risk of reoffending, and the program contents should reflect these objectives.
  3. Range of targets. Multi-modal programs with a range of treatment targets have yielded the largest effect sizes in research reviews. Program manuals specify an appropriate range of targets and the nature of their inter-relationships.
  4. Effective methods. The methods of change utilized in the program should have empirical support concerning effectiveness and be co-ordinated in an appropriate way.
  5. Skills orientated. Programs targeting skills that will enable offenders to avoid criminal activities have yielded higher effect sizes in outcome studies. These skills should have explicit links to risk of reoffending and its reduction.
  6. Intensity, sequencing, duration. The overall amount of programming (numbers of contact hours), the mode of delivery of sessions, and total program duration should be appropriate in the light of available evidence, the program's objectives and contents, and the risk level of the targeted offender groups.
  7. Selection of offenders. The population of offenders for whom the program is designed should be explicitly and clearly specified. There should be agreed and realistic procedures for targeting and selection, and for exclusion of inappropriate referrals.
  8. Engagement and participation. This criterion refers to the principle of responsivity. Information should be provided concerning how this will be addressed, and how offenders will be encouraged and motivated to take part in and adhere to the program.
  9. Case Management. In prison settings, offenders are allocated a personal officer with responsibility for overseeing their individual sentence plans. On probation, a Case Manager supervises them. To be effective, programs should be inter-linked with this process, and guidelines provided for implementation within services.
  10. Ongoing monitoring. In order to safeguard program and treatment integrity, procedures should be in place for collection of monitoring “quality-of-delivery” data, and systems established for its review and for taking action on the basis of it.
  11. Evaluation. Finally, program materials should include assessment and evaluation measures, and a framework for evaluation of the program's overall delivery, short-term, and long-term impact.

With regard to each criterion, a program may score 0 (not met), 1 (partially met), or 2 (fully met). Some of the above criteria (items 1, 2, 7, 9, 10 and 11) are mandatory; in other words it is essential that the requirements be fully met. To be accredited, a program must achieve a minimum score of 19/22 points, including full marks on all mandatory items.

In addition to program accreditation, each location in correctional services (a prison, probation office, or other unit) must also satisfactorily meet criteria for site accreditation. This is part of a process of certifying program and treatment integrity at that site. Systems for collecting monitoring information must be in place, and the data so collected made available for an annual site audit. Audit reports are then scrutinised both by correctional agency staff and by members of the independent accreditation panel.

Lipton, Thornton, McGuire, Porporino, and Hollin (2000) described the introduction of these processes into the prison service in England and Wales from 1996 onwards. As noted above, a number of cognitive-skills programs have been accredited for prison services, and are in use in more than 60 prison establishments. In 1999, a parallel process was launched for probation services under the scrutiny of a new Joint Prison-Probation Accreditation Panel. Analogous practices have been adopted in Scotland (which has a separate prison administration), and at the time of writing, similar practices are in prospect in a number of other countries also.


Clearly, the transformation of correctional services in order to move into an era of extensive delivery of programs is a massive undertaking. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to address the considerable inertia that exists in large organisations and the major issues that must be addressed if constructive change is to occur in the direction of evidence-based practice.

Several authors have provided valuable guidelines for sensibly directing this process. Reflecting on the general context of installing new programs in organisational settings, Bernfeld, Blase, and Fixsen (1990) have advocated the adoption of a multi-level systems perspective. This entails focusing on four separate but related levels of analysis; client; program; organization; and societal. Programs should not be seen in isolation but as parts of an interactive, dynamic and evolving whole. Using different terminology but addressing essentially the same issues and problems, Harris and Smith (1996) have discussed how to implement programmatic developments in community-based correctional services. More recently, Gendreau, Goggin, and Smith (1999) have forwarded a set of systematised principles for guiding the total process of program implementation.

1 University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

2 There is evidence that even amongst situational crime prevention programs, interventions are more effective if they contain elements of community action and participation (McGuire, 2000).


Andrews, D. A. (1995). The psychology of criminal conduct and effective treatment. In J. McGuire (Ed.) What works: Reducing reoffending: Guidelines from research and practice. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Bernfeld, G. A., Blase, K. A., & Fixsen, D. L. (1990). Towards a unified perspective on human service delivery systems: Application of the teaching-family model. In R. J. & R. DeV. Peters (Eds.) Behavioral disorders of adolescence. New York, NY: Plenum Press.

Borduin, C. M., Mann, B. J., Cone, L. T., & Hengeller, S. W. (1995). Multi-systemic treatment of serious juvenile offenders: Long-term prevention of criminality and violence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 63, 569-578.

Dobson, K. S., & Craig, K. (Eds.) (1998). Empirically supported treatments: Best practice in professional psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eck, J. (1997). Preventing crime at places. In L. W. Sherman, D. Gottfredson, D. L. Mackenzie, J. Eck, P. Reuter, & S. Bushway, Preventing crime: What works, what doesn't, what's promising. Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs.

Farrington, D. P. (1996). The explanation and prevention of youthful offending. In J. D. Hawkins (Ed.) Delinquency and crime: Current theories. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gendreau, P. (1996). The principles of effective intervention with offenders. In A. T. Harland (Ed.) Choosing correctional options that work: Defining the demand and evaluating the supply. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Gendreau, P., & Andrews, D. A. (1991). Tertiary prevention: What the meta-analyses of the offender treatment literature tell us about “what works”. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 32, 173-184.

Gendreau, P., & Goggin, C. (1996). Principles of effective correctional programming. Forum on Corrections Research, 8 (3), 38-4 1.

Gendreau, P., Goggin, C., & Smith, P. (1999). The forgotten issue in effective correctional treatment: Program implementation. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 43, 180-187.

Goldstein, A. P., Glick, B., Carthan, W., & Blancero, D. A. (1994). The prosocial gang: Implementing aggression replacement training. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Gottfredson, D. (1997). School-based crime prevention. In L. W. Sherman, D. Gottfredson, D. L. Mackenzie, J. Eck, P. Reuter, & S. Bushway, Preventing crime: What works, what doesn't, what's promising. Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs.

Harris, P., & Smith, S. (1996). Developing community corrections: An implementation perspective. In A. T. Harland (Ed.), Choosing correctional options that work: Defining the demand and evaluating the supply. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Henggeler, S. W., Schoenwald, S. K., Borduin, C. M., Rowland, M. D., & Cunningham, P. B. (1998). Multisystemic treatment of antisocial behavior in children and adolescents. New York NY: Guilford Press.

Her Majesty's Prison Service (1999). Service criteria for accrediting programs 1998-99. London: HM Prison Service, Offending Behaviour Programmes Unit.

Hollin, C. R.(1995). The meaning and implications of program integrity. In J. McGuire (Ed.), What works: Reducing reoffending: Guidelines from research and practice. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Home Office (1999). Criteria for accreditation of programs. London, UK: Home Office Probation Unit.

Kaufman, P. (1985). Meta-analysis of juvenile delinquency prevention programs. Unpublished Master's Thesis, Claremont Graduate School.

Lipsey, M. W. (1992). Juvenile delinquency treatment: A meta-analytic inquiry into the variability of effects. In T. Cook, D. Cooper, H. Corday, H. Hartman, L. Hedges, R. Light, T. Louis, & F. Mosteller (Eds.), Meta-analysis for explanation: A casebook. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

Lipton, D. S., Thornton, D., McGuire, J. , Porporino, F., & Hollin, C. R. (2000). Program accreditation and correctional treatment. Substance Use and Misuse, 35, 1705-1734.

Lösel, F. (1995). The efficacy of correctional treatment: A review and synthesis of meta-evaluations. In J. McGuire (Ed.), What works: Reducing reoffending: Guidelines from research and practice. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Mackenzie, D. L. (1997). Criminal justice and crime prevention. In L. W. Sherman, D. Gottfredson, D. L. Mackenzie, J. Eck, P. Reuter, & S. Bushway, Preventing crime: What works, what doesn't, what's promising. Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs.

McGuire, J. (1998). Memorandum of evidence. In Third report of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee on Alternatives to custodial sentences. London, UK: The Stationery Office.

McGuire, J. (2000). Property offenders. In C. R. Hollin (Ed.), Handbook of offender assessment and treatment. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Moncher, F. J., & Prinz, R. J. (1991). Treatment fidelity in outcome studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 11, 247-266.

Nathan, P. E., & Gorman, J. M. (Eds.) (1998). A guide to treatments that work. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Palmer, T. (1996). Programmatic and non-programmatic aspects of successful intervention. In A. T. Harland (Ed.), Choosing correctional options that work: Defining the demand and evaluating the supply. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Pease, K. (1994). Crime prevention. In M. Maguire, R. Morgan, & R. Reiner (Eds.) The Oxford handbook of criminology. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.

Schweinhart, L. J., Barnes, H. V., & Weikart, D. P. (1993). Significant benefits: The high/scope Perry Preschool Project. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.

Sherman, L. W. (1988). Randomized experiments in criminal sanctions. In H. S. Bloom, D. S. Cordray, & R. J. Light (Eds.), Lessons from selected program and policy areas. New Directions for Program Evaluation, no. 37. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sherman, L. W. (1997). Introduction: The congressional mandate to evaluate. In L. W. Sherman, D. Gottfredson, D. L. Mackenzie, J. Eck, P. Reuter, & S. Bushway, Preventing crime: What works, what doesn't, what's promising. Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs.

Tolan, P. H., Guerra, N. G., & Hammond, W. R. (1994). Prevention and treatment of adolescent violence. In L. D. Eron, J. H. Gentry, & P. Schlegel (Eds.), Reason to hope: A psychosocial perspective on violence and youth. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Walker, N. (1991). Why punish? Theories of punishment reassessed. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Wexler, H. K., Graham, W. F., Koronowski, R., & Lowe, L. (1995). Evaluation of Amity in-prison and post-release substance abuse treatment programs. Washington, DC: National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Yoshikawa, H. (1994). Prevention as cumulative protection: Effects of early family support and education on chronic delinquency and its risks. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 28-54.


Previous PageTop Of Page Table Of ContentsNext Page