The effects of correctional interventions on recidivism have important public safety implications when offenders are released from probation or prison. Hundreds of studies have been conducted on those effects, some investigating punitive approaches and some investigating rehabilitation treatments. Systematic reviews (meta-analyses) of those studies, while varying greatly in coverage and technique, display remarkable consistency in their overall findings. Supervision and sanctions, at best, show modest mean reductions in recidivism and, in some instances, have the opposite effect and increase reoffense rates. The mean recidivism effects found in studies of rehabilitation treatment, by comparison, are consistently positive and relatively large. There is, however, considerable variability in those effects associated with the type of treatment, how well it is implemented, and the nature of the offenders to whom it is applied. The specific sources of that variability have not been well explored, but some principles for effective treatment have emerged. The rehabilitation treatments generally found effective in research do not characterize current correctional practice, and bridging the gap between research and practice remains a significant challenge.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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