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Why are Evidence-Based Practices Necessary for Jails?


Latest research efforts based on meta-analysis provided vital information to the criminal justice on how to reduce lawbreakers’ recidivism in the best way. The brought forward research results show that if certain methods, interventions and programs are adhered to, the rate of recidivism would reduce sustainably. (Clawson, E., Bogue, B & Joplin, L. 2005) Latest researches came up with a working program that could be implemented by various correctional facilities to reduce recidivism. The program is known as evidence-based program/practice.

Petersilia (2005) defines evidence-based programs as approaches that help people make well-informed decisions about policies and programs by putting the best available evidence from research at the heart of policy development and implementation.

As per Vetter, W. (2008) an evidence-based program has the following characteristics: firstly, the program is standardized and documented thoroughly. Secondly, it is tested by the use of thorough research. Thirdly, it has guidelines on how to implement it and, lastly, previous demonstrations reveal that it has positive outcomes.  


Evidence based programs are effective for jails because the following: they use available resources effectively; heighten chances of achieving the set goals; the program generally improves the quality of service. An economic benefit of the program is that it lowers criminal justice expenses not excluding use of the jail. (Vetter, 2008) For instance, the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Statistics show that about 67% of offenders released from correctional facilities are arrested again within 3 years from their release date. The statistics further indicates that about 30% of probationers who supervised in the community were convicted again for a new crime. (Domurad, F. & Carey, M. 2009). This fact is supported by (Mease, T. n.d) who says: “…state budget deficits bring enormous prison expenditures to light as social injustices in the system persist.”

Research conducted over the past two decades indicates that the rate of recidivism can be reduced by more than 30% if evidence based practices were implemented. Adopting the program is simply changing the way things are run in probations, jails, prisons and among prosecutors, judges etc. This is so as to lay an organizational culture and structure that allows rather than blocks implementation of services/programs that actually work as far as reducing criminal behavior is concerned.

Evidence based programs are hence necessary for jails because for one, as noted above, they actually work. The program also reduces the rate of offenders being arrested again. This further saves the state funds which could have been used to expand the facilities and to employ policies that won’t bear fruits. Clawson, Bogue, & Joplin, (2005) tell that the cost incurred by the criminal justice of the U.S. have increased significantly over the last decade due to creation of new policies, jails and prisons’ construction.  

For better implementation of the evidence-based program there are 8 basic principles per Pettway, C (2008), that have to be realized in order for the program to work. These are the principles that guide the correctional facility or jail when using the program. The principles and how they are put into work during the program are discussed below.

The first principle Pettway provides is to target highest risk offenders. This principle recommends providing the treatment program to the prisoners and parolees that have the highest risk to reoffend. High risk offenders are to be prioritized to the Low risk offenders which can follow the program. The second principle is to assess the offender’s needs. The agencies in the correctional facility should aim to identify the criminological needs of the offender via use of research-based tools. After this they should aim to diminish those needs. The third principle is for the correctional facility to implement responsiveness into the program. This principle requires that each offender was accounted for their characteristics which interfere with his/her ability and motivation to study.

The fourth principle states that a behavior management plan should be developed. Despite the larger behavior management plan an individual plan should be developed for each offender. The plan includes the sequence and priority of the program for evaluating treatment objectives for a crimeless life and treatment gains. The fifth principle requires that programs were delivered using cognitive-based strategies. This is because they have been proved to be effective since they use behaviors and criminal thinking in offenders. An example of a highly effective cognitive-based method employed before for treating alcohol is the therapeutic community treatment model. The sixth principle is to motivate and shape the behavior of the offender. This principle also requires correctional facilities to punish negative behavior.

The last two principles include: making the community a protective factor against recidivism and subsequently using the community to help the offender re-enter and re-integrate into the community. This is done by involving the offender’s members of family and the social service agencies out there, the offender’s home community. The government should empower families, cultural and religious institutions, neighbours etc. through deliberate efforts to cut down on crime rates by assisting offenders who are under correctional monitoring and support them. The eighth and last principle is to identify outcomes and to weigh progress. The program should have an identified method of identified progress in the attainment of the set objectives. Performance measures are highly recommended for evaluation and informing on improvements.


Evidence-based practice is a superb way to reduce recidivism rate. If the eight principles are put into place and adhered well, crime would be reduced and it would also save the nation a lot of expenses. However, it is unfortunate that despite the proved working method of evidence-based practice only a few criminal justice agencies are embracing and using the effective principles and programs.

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