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Compendium 2000 on Effective Correctional Programming

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Implementation of Effective Correctional Programs


This chapter presents current findings related to program implementation and the replication of successful programs. It provides major findings from the meta-analyses in the context of their significance to implementation issues. Meta-analyses have assisted in developing a science of criminal conduct. Such a science draws not only linking factors that help in the understanding of criminogenic risk levels of certain individuals -- nature and strength -- but also on the literature regarding treatments or systems of service delivery that can promote effective outcomes in correctional practice.

Also outlined are the six organizational requirements that are necessary to support successful implementation efforts. These requirements include: sincere motivation at implementation; support at the top of leadership and each group whose co-operation is required for implementation and use; staff competence; a cost-benefit surplus; clarity of goals and procedures; and, clear lines of authority.

This chapter provides examples of measures of treatment adherence and program compliance, as well as four examples of innovations in communication, and discusses the policy relevance in corrections of successful implementation and the future research efforts in this area.


The transfer of knowledge in the social and human services from what has largely been an academic-based knowledge to applied settings is challenging not only to correctional professionals, but also to practitioners in a variety of human service settings. The literature chronicles numerous examples of programs that were either well conceived or poorly implemented or well implemented but poorly sustained (Bauman, Stein, & Ireys, 1991). Of course, there is also the suspicion that the failure to implement or sustain programs that have demonstrated effectiveness in research may be tied to the more insidious, cynical intentions of some policy and program “experts”. This has more to do with the unwillingness of such administrators to disavow the knowledge base in a given area and indeed purposefully undermine the integrity of that knowledge. Andrews and Bonta (1998) refer to this intentional undermining as knowledge destruction, a fact identified in both the young offender (Leschied, Jaffe, Andrews, & Gendreau, 1995) and substance abuse literature (Gendreau, 1996). Techniques of knowledge destruction are characterized by the seeming sophistication of argument in using scientific principles to negate scientific fact. Erstwhile, the use of such techniques belays the negative beliefs and attitudes on the part of these commentators. Reductionism is the essence and dismissal is the intent. In the beginning, a careful reading of what is known about successful programs is paramount to success-fully planned program implementation.

In an excellent review of the lessons learned from the literature on successful program implementation, Shore (1988) noted that the implementation of programs is “shaped by powerful forces” that are not easily modified even by “new knowledge”. Indeed, Shore's summary include the necessity of a climate that is “created by skilled, committed professionals respectful and trusting of the clients they serve, regardless of the precepts; demands and boundaries set by professionalism and bureaucracies”. The necessity of providing caring programs, that are coherent and easy to use, providing continuity and circumventing the traditions of limiting professional and bureaucratic limitations were absolutely the prerogative of such effective programs. Gendreau (1996) would add that a senior advocate in an organization who is willing to champion the cause of such a program is an essential ingredient as well.

Powerful forces as Shore calls them are certainly at work in the correction field when it comes to transferring knowledge to practice on a broad scale. Political beliefs that have shaped correctional practice have in many cases been antagonistic to the lessons learned from the literature on effective corrections. Deterrence, sanctions and punishment-based correctional practices and policies have been pre-eminent in the last two decades. This is despite what Palmer (1996) amongst others indicates has been a failure of such programs to demonstrate reductions in offending. Yet, juxtaposed to this emphasis on punishment reflected in correctional policy has been the extraordinary growth in knowledge in the area of effective treatment.


Cullen et al. (1998) cite data suggesting that there continue to be many both within and without the corrections profession who have failed to recognize the growing literature on effective treatment with offender populations. Despite this disappointing lack of awareness, the literature continues to grow, documenting not only progress in regards to the accumulation of evidence of effective interventions, but also the summaries from numerous meta-analyses that now speak to the patterns of effectiveness being documented across studies. Several researchers and practitioners now speak about the need for examining technology transfer; the application of what research has suggested can be effective and translating that knowledge into routine correctional practice.

Coupled with the move to monitor and measure adherence, is the growing emphasis on dissemination of information regarding effective programs. Training is pivotal, combining both the communication of program findings along with the kinds of support and consultation required to insure the effective replication of those programs. Some of the more well articulated interventions such as Multi-Systemic Therapy (Henggeler et al., 1998) are currently developing, along with field input and support, detailed practitioner and supervisor manuals that can assist successful dissemination. Although it must be acknowledged that such higher-level dissemination efforts that are also being evaluated are still relatively rare in the human services and correction field.


In mid and latter 1970s, reviews of the program literature in corrections contributed to an extraordinary discussion that became the touchstone to a generation of corrections professionals. The nothing works debate as it is been popularly known, not only became a matter for social scientists to consider, but also played into the hands of policy makers and politicians in criminal justice. Depending upon their particular political leaning, decision makers used the results of such reviews to either proclaim the failure of rehabilitation, thereby perhaps unwittingly heralding the expanded use of get tough measures, or used them to develop the growing science of prediction and treatment in the corrections field. Followers of the debate will now be familiar with the names of Martinson (1976) in the United States and in Canada, Shamsie (1981) whose titles of qualitative reviews of the literature so provocatively proclaimed that “Nothing Worked” and that “Our Treatments Do Not Work: Where Do We Go From Here”. And with each provocation, there was a Paul Gendreau, Robert Ross (1979) or Ted Palmer (1996) who suggested that a more careful reading of the outcome literature would provide “Bibliotherapy for Cynics”.

Two decades have now passed, and with more sophistication in providing quantitative reviews of the prediction and outcome literature, meta-analyses have assisted in developing a science of criminal conduct. Such a science draws not only on linking factors that help in the understanding of criminogenic risk levels of certain individuals -- nature and strength -- but also on the literature regarding treatments or systems of service delivery that can promote effective outcomes in correctional practice.

Contributions from the meta-analyses

There have been a number of contributions to the meta-analysis on correction treatment. Perhaps the most well known are those authored by Andrews and his colleagues (1990) and by Lipsey (Lipsey & Wilson, 1995; Lipsey, 1995). Technical under-standing of the approach taken by these authors will not be provided here. Suffice to say that the quality and nature of the meta-analyses that are reported reflect the quality and number of the studies in the field. Hence, the nature and quality of knowledge could not have been achieved and reported on by Andrews and Lipsey were it not for the efforts of so many who contributed to that knowledge base. Indeed, Leschied and Cunningham (1999) report that the accumulation of published accounts of outcome studies in the youth corrections field has more than tripled in the past ten years when compared to the years prior to 1988.

Major assessment issues

Both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have identified factors that link past or current conditions with individuals that place them at increasing risk for criminogenic involvement. Andrews and Bonta (1998) summarize that these studies sup-port a social-psychological understanding of criminogenic risk. That is, individuals may cognitively process certain conditions in their environment that develop or reward certain styles or content of thinking that are reflected in anti-social behaviour. Those system variables that influence risk to a greater extent includes families of origin, peer associates and school or working conditions. Data has also supported the link between anti-social behaviour with substance use in the understanding of crime cycles (Huizinga, Menard, & Elliott, 1989). Measures of those factors that contribute most significantly and seem to be attracting the greatest attention in the literature include multi-factored indicators as measured by the Level of Service Inventory (Andrews & Bonta, 1998), criminal sentiments (Simourd & Van de Ven, 1999) and psychopathy (Hare, 1991).

Accurate and relevant assessment of criminogenic risk is tied to the major outcomes from the meta-analysis on effective treatment. While Lipsey has identified the major general contributors to successful correctional programs, Andrews et al.'s principle contribution rests in the refining of understanding regarding the appropriate target of intervention. While Lipsey's results were encouraging regarding the average effect sizes supporting reductions of 10 to 30 per cent in reoffending within particular types of programming (i.e., behavioural over psychodynamic), Andrews' findings that certain program components targeted to specific criminogenic risk factors -- referred to as clinical relevance -- could improve outcomes by an even greater extent. Hence, Andrews articulated the risk principle of case classification as a critical component of effective service thereby linking assessment with service delivery in the overall approach to effective correctional treatment. These findings therefore suggest that assessment of appropriate risk relevant to criminal justice involvement is a necessary and fundamental part of successful program implementation.


As with any change of strategy in human service, the complexities of factors that need to be addressed in promoting a shift in correctional practice may seem daunting if not absolutely overwhelming to an initiator of program change. Ellickson and Petersilia (1983) identified six principle organizational considerations that were necessary in initiating program implementation in corrections. They included:

  • sincere motivation at implementation;
  • support at the top of leadership and each group whose co-operation is required for implementation and use;
  • staff competence;
  • a cost-benefit surplus;
  • clarity of goals and procedures;
  • clear lines of authority.

In addition, program shifts for implementation in corrections requires the support of both legal and non-legal stakeholders in the community. The courts, as in conflict with the rule of law, may see what may make sense from a program perspective. For example, if justice is seen as too individualized, i.e., sanctions are not seen as proportionate given the nature of the offending, the rule of law may be perceived as under-mined because of the inequity of the severity and nature of the sanction. Clarity in the purpose and role of the courts and other law-related forums need to be seen as complementary to the role and purpose of correctional programs. We can find a progressive example of this type of thinking in the evolution of the declaration of principle in the Young Offenders Act in Canada. Since revisions in 1989, the Act has considered the goal of community safety as a coincidental pursuit in addressing the needs and circumstances of the young offender.


Experience in North America over the past two decades has reflected the trend towards incarceration as the correctional policy of choice. Trends in support for incarceration, coupled with the legacy of the nothing works conclusions of reviewers of correctional programs in the early and mid 1970s, created considerable challenges to implement programs that were not predicated simply on adding to the incarceration rate. In many respects, findings from program reviews suggesting that the community was the preferred context in which to deliver effective programs. Hence, development of trends such as intensive probation supervision programs was a tough sell, even though evidence suggested their abilities to influence offending rates. There are two important factors to be considered. The first is to have an awareness of the extant literature on effective practice; to be aware of what is possible in delivering a successful program, and to not oversell the effects of even successful programs. While the general outcome literature is now reporting reductions in offending ranging from 20 to 40 per cent (Andrews et al., 1990; Lipsey & Wilson, 1998) there are some areas of correctional practice where data has not supported claims of effectiveness. One such area is related to outcomes with psychopathic individuals.

The second critical consideration in promoting program implementation is knowledge of willingness, and level of acceptance of policy makers, correctional professionals, and the immediate community to accept a shift in policy. Petersilia as cited in Harris and Smith (1996) suggests, “Unless a community recognizes or accepts the premise that a change in corrections is needed, is affordable, and does not conflict with its sentiments regarding just punishment, an innovative project has little hope of surviving much less succeeding”.

Community versus residential context for treatment

While there seems to be some minor variations in interpretation of the effects of the immediate context to support implementation of programs, as a general statement, community contexts seem more able to support effective outcomes when compared to programs delivered in residential contexts (Andrews & Bonta, 1998). Henggeler and his colleagues argue that treating high risk youth in the community is a more ecologically valid approach to assess and treat them since it allows for an increased opportunity to work directly with the systems that are both influencing and being influenced by the behaviour of their families and peers. Hoge, Leschied, and Andrews (1993) in a study on the components in young offender programs found that factors in agreement with items related to effective correctional practice were more likely to be identified in community programs than in residential programs.


The evolution of research development in the correction field has only recently emphasized the importance of providing out-come evaluation as a standard in service delivery. Indeed one of the somewhat surprising findings reported in Andrews et al. is the fact that programs that were being evaluated by those charged with their implementation were actually characterized through their outcomes as more effective than those that were not being as closely monitored. Hence it would seem that evaluation could also be characterized as a factor in successful implementation. Monitoring for program implementation however has not met with the same level of development. This section will highlight two examples of implementation evaluation which serve to assist in understanding programs that are relatively successful in identifying effective implementation strategies.

Treatment adherence

For any experienced corrections professional, it will come as no surprise that implementation, while critical, is only a part of any success story. The real challenge arises in trying to implement a program consistent with the components reflecting an effective strategy -- referred to as program integrity (Andrews & Hill, 1990) and to support those factors that can sustain a program after it has shown itself to be effective.

Multi-systemic therapy

Henggeler and his associates at the Medical University of South Carolina have turned their attention not only to program contents that are effective with high-risk youth, but also to those factors that can sustain an effective program over the longer term.

A brief overview of Multi-systemic therapy (MST) suggests that a therapeutic focus on certain systemic factors within the lives of highly conflicted youth will be rewarded with significant reductions in youth criminal activity. Results from Henggeler et al. (1997) revealed that while some treatment gains were sustained in some youths, others were not. Further analysis by the authors indicated that program sustainability was tied to the presence of certain therapist/program characteristics that in turn characterized specific components of the MST model. The conclusion of this study suggested that to achieve sustainability of positive outcomes from intervention, adequate and on-going training and consultation was necessary. Further, these authors developed the Therapist Adherence Measure (TAM) which consists of 26 items that ask family members to rate their therapist on items that would reflect consistency of the intervention with the principles of MST. Computer scoring with the TAM allows for a relatively short turn around time to provide a quantified summary to the therapist and their supervisor regarding how consistent the intervention was provided on a case by case basis. Data suggests that therapist adherence is positively correlated with client outcomes. The development of similar adherence measures particular to a given intervention is possible given clearly identified and well articulated aspects of the nature of the intervention and type of service delivery.

Program compliance

While studies such as with MST examine treatment adherence at the therapist level, another line of investigation recommends evaluating a program's ability to comply with pre-set conditions that evidence has suggested are consistent with overall components of effective programs.

Correctional Program Assessment Inventory

The Correctional Program Assessment Inventory (CPAI) (Gendreau & Andrews, 1996) is an inventory developed out of the meta-analysis literature on effective programs. It consists of seventy-five items covering eight components critical to the understanding of what constitutes an effective program, along with two areas that are considered integral to effective programs, namely emphasis on evaluation and ethical considerations.

The components consist of: program implementation, client pre-service assessment, program characteristics, staff characteristics, evaluation and other (i.e., ethical consideration). All of the components and the questions asked of programs consist of factors influenced by the reviews of the effective correction literature. Table 7.1 summarizes the eight components of the CPAI.

TABLE 7.1 Summary of the CPAI components

Scale Scale description
Program Implementation Surveys the conditions under which the program was introduced.
Preservice assessment Surveys applications of the principle of risk, need and responsivity.
Program characteristics Assesses targeting of criminogenic factors and the use of cognitive behavioural techniques.
Therapeutic integrity Surveys service delivery, emphasizing intensity and matching conditions.
Relapse prevention Surveys extent to which programs focus on post-release programs.
Staff characteristics Surveys staff and training issues.
Evaluation Examines the extent to which the system emphasizes/encourages research and evaluation activities.
Other Assesses emphasis on ethical concerns and security of program funding.

In a review of young offender programs in one jurisdiction, Hoge, Leschied, and Andrews (1993) examined over one hundred programs measured by the extent and nature of components on the CPAI. Data reflected the range of program components that were available and where they tended to reside suggesting that the presence of programs with higher scores on the important scales from the CPAI tended to be in the community as opposed to custody. Further analysis using a measure such as the CPAI can identify training and staff needs, movement of service from residential to community approaches in capitalizing on the strengths of certain programs. While the authors would defer that measures such as the CPAI should not be held as a “gold standard”, nonetheless, such a measure holds promise in assessing programs on a broad scale.


As programs generally, and correctional programs in particular move to higher levels of accountability, the movement towards standards of practice and compliance reviews will be encouraged. Indeed, in the next two years, Correctional Service Canada will be moving towards adopting a set of standards to guide the content and delivery of programs. The increasing challenge therefore will be to move the developing knowledge to the field in order to implement effective correctional practices, and to look to innovative ways to communicate this knowledge in order to support change at the policy and practitioner level. These four innovations in communication in corrections are worth note as examples:

  • RCJNet is a list serve website that communicates to numerous correction processionals about knowledge in the correction field. The service provides website links, summaries of recent justice documents, or summaries of research that may be of interest. Using latest technology, RCJNet serves as a clearinghouse for current correctional information. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention out of Washington DC serves a similar purpose in the United States in making current documents available on line for wide spread dissemination.
  • The National Institute of Justice has initiated a distance education program providing learning opportunities to correctional professionals through a system of centres connected through satellite-linked communications systems. From a single source, unlimited numbers of practitioners and policy makers across a limitless geographic area can interact with the leaders in the field in hearing of new pro-gram or policy ideas.
  • The London Family Court Clinic, along with Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) Services Incorporated in Charleston, South Carolina, has developed an interactive website that links MST teams across North America and Europe. Practitioners using MST are able to communicate with one another with respect to promising therapeutic approaches or clinical issues that may arise in the course of service delivery. Recently, the development of a MST clinical team in Norway was able to link to the Ontario teams. Collegial supervision takes on new meaning in this.
  • The Toronto-based Institute for Anti-Social and Violent Youth has, for close to twenty-five years, provided an extracting and commentary service on articles of particular interest to the young offender field. Such services help to focus and summarize information of particular currency and relevance to the field by reviewing articles from major journals.


Implementation of programs is a challenging prospect. What correctional professionals have going for them however is a knowledge base that supports certain programs and policies over others with the goal towards increasing community safety. This chapter has highlighted the major issues in implementation as being:

  • An acknowledgement of the literature on what works for effective corrections and policy practices. This literature highlights appropriate assessment strategies that increase the potential for interventions to be clinically relevant to factors that influence criminogenic risk.
  • Identification of contextual factors that can influence the probability that program innovation will be successfully introduced. These factors include leadership support for implementation, staff competence and goal clarification for the reasons behind implementation.
  • Specific contextual factors influence successful implementation. Current knowledge suggests that different factors influence successful community-based implementation versus residential-based implementation.
  • Measures for both treatment adherence and program compliance have been developed to evaluate and monitor the degree of success in program implementation.
  • Training and dissemination is now considered the great challenge facing implementation in the correction field. Arguably what could shape the next generation of corrections professionals is the challenge of communicating the knowledge on effective strategies to practitioners. Using cur-rent technology, clearinghouse extracting services, the inter-net and interactive communication technology are all examples of methods in communicating that knowledge to those who make decisions both for policy and for practice.

And as Shore (1991) cited almost a decade ago, “...It is essential in order to institutionalize these effective interventions, to find better ways of maintaining accountability and achieving credibility by becoming a part of the shift toward outcome accountability, outcome-focussed assessment”. (p. 3).

Once we have the knowledge, choose to implement those things that have shown themselves to be effective, communicate those findings to the field, the obligation remains to evaluate the effects of those interventions towards those we have directed our knowledge.

Lastly, as work continues to document effective strategies in reducing offending, larger scale dissemination efforts need to be evaluated and refined. My experience in supporting MST dissemination and development of programs in Ontario across four geographically diverse sites has supported the belief that large scale efforts with co-operation across sites enlisting the support of the programs' initiators is possible. However, what remains to be evaluated is the potential sustainability of such efforts with what degree of effort in on-going training and consultation. This question will in part be addressed in the National Institute of Justice study that is underway.

1 University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Education, and The Family Court Clinic


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