Evidence Based Practices in Corrections

On March 30, 2017, KPEP was honored to have Governor Rick Snyder visit Walnut & Park.  The purpose of his visit was to sign into law a package of bills aimed at modernizing Michigan’s criminal justice system by updating parole and probation policies and implementing new tools to help prevent repeat criminal offenses.  Senate Bill 8 specifically addresses the use of evidence-based practices (EBP), and requires that probation and parole populations are supervised utilizing only EBP.  Any programs that are not evidence based must be eliminated within four years.  Fortunately, KPEP recognized the benefits of trusting research in the field of corrections and embraced the implementation and delivery of evidence-based practices in the early 2000’s.  KPEP programming emulates the words of Governor Snyder, “The best way to make our communities safer is through an evidence-based approach – by analyzing the problem and figuring out where we stand, we are better equipped to make continuous improvements.”

To put it simply, if sentencing an individual to a term of probation, jail or prison was all it took to change offending behaviors, recidivism would not be an issue.  Research has proven that there is far more to changing these behaviors than “locking someone up.”

Additionally, not having a job, not having a place to live, or having low self-esteem are, by themselves, not criminogenic needs. Give an offender a job, a home, and increase their self-esteem without addressing their criminogenic needs, and what you will have is a criminal with a job and a place to live that feels good about him or herself. This would not have an effect on the person’s future risk of committing a crime.  Changing the way an offender thinks is therefore a core principle of reducing recidivism.  Evidence-based practices are designed to identify and address the varying levels of criminal thinking that support criminal behavior.  The following components of KPEP programming support what research has taught us:

Risk/Needs Assessment
KPEP residents undergo an objective risk assessment using the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS), a validated risk assessment instrument.  This objective testing instrument identifies criminogenic needs, defined as those factors in an offender’s life that contributed to their illegal behavior. Examples of criminogenic needs include antisocial peer groups, a substance use disorder, impulsivity and lack of self-control, and/or an antisocial belief system.

Enhance Intrinsic Motivation

KPEP staff members undergo training designed to assist in relating to offenders in inter-personally sensitive and constructive ways with the goal of enhancing intrinsic motivation.  KPEP staff members are trained to understand that motivation to change is dynamic and can be strongly influenced by interpersonal interactions. Utilizing motivational interview-based communication, the staff is trained to understand that feelings of ambivalence can be explored as a method to enhance intrinsic motivation. This supports the research that strongly suggests that motivational interviewing techniques, rather than persuasion tactics, more effectively enhance motivation for initiating and maintaining change behavior.

Target the appropriate intervention
Research says that we will do more harm than good if we put an offender in a treatment program that they don’t need.  KPEP interventions are individualized to each offender. Programming intensity is based on offender risk. Interventions target criminogenic needs and are responsive to temperament, learning style, motivation, cultural diversity and gender.

Skill Train with Directed Practice (using cognitive-behavioral treatment methods)

KPEP delivers evidence-based programming curriculums that emphasize cognitive-behavioral strategies.  Programming is delivered by well-trained staff, with staff training aimed at understanding antisocial thinking, social learning, and appropriate communication techniques. Pro-social attitudes and behaviors are positively reinforced by staff, take time and repetition, and can be viewed as rewiring the brain through repetitive practice of pro-social behaviors.

Increase Positive Reinforcement

KPEP staff members are trained in the approach “carrots rather than sticks,” which involves applying a much higher ratio of positive reinforcements to negative reinforcements.  Training includes an understanding that a ratio of four positive to every one negative reinforcement is optimal for promoting behavior changes. Staff are specifically trained to understand that the increased positive reinforcement is not done at the expense of or undermining the administration of swift, certain, and real responses for negative or unacceptable behavior.  Offenders are given clear rules that are consistently enforced with appropriate and graduated consequences.

Engage On-going Support in Natural Communities

KPEP is committed to assisting offenders in realigning and actively engaging pro-social supports from their communities.  Utilizing family members, spouses, and supportive others in the offender’s immediate environment to positively reinforce desired new behaviors is an identified goal of programming. Activities such as in-house and out-of-house twelve-step program attendance, religious activities, and community service activities are identified on client service/treatment plans with the goal of improving bonds and ties to pro-social community members.

Beyond these six evidence-based components of a successful program, on-going evaluation, feedback, and program adjustment are critical at KPEP and include the following:

Measure Relevant Processes/Practices

The KPEP database system documents accurate and detailed case information that is utilized to measure and evaluate outcomes.  Offender change in cognitive and skill development are routinely assessed and evaluated to ensure services remain effective. Staff performance is also regularly assessed, including periodic evaluations for performance and program delivery to enhance program fidelity.

Provide Measurement Feedback

In concert with ACA and CARF accreditation, KPEP’s quality assurance system was designed to monitor delivery of services and maintain and enhance fidelity and integrity.