Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Friday, February 08, 2008

New Report On Recidivism by NIC

This is a 67 page report but I think it's worth the read.

Evidence-Based Practices to Reduce Recidivism: Implications for State Judiciaries

National crime rates skyrocketed during the 1970s, and efforts to control crime through
well-intentioned offender-treatment programs appeared to be patently ineffective. As a
result, new state sentencing policies were enacted—policies which eschewed any effort to
get offenders to accept responsibility for their own behaviors and sought to control crime
by locking up many more offenders for longer periods of time.

Those policies, still ineffect in most states today, have resulted in overcrowded prisons, the highest incarceration rates in the world, skyrocketing corrections costs, and extreme racial and
ethnic disparities. Although initially effective in locking up serious and dangerous
offenders, overreliance on incarceration is today of limited and diminishing effectiveness
as a crime-control strategy. Offender recidivism rates have increased. Three quarters of
state prison commitments are for nonviolent offenses, resulting in overcrowded prisons
and shorter prison terms for more dangerous offenders. We over-incarcerate some
offenders, and under-incarcerate others.

Most important, unlike 30 years ago, there is today an enormous body of sophisticated
research proving that unlike incarceration, which actually increases offender recidivism,
properly designed and operated recidivism-reduction programs can significantly reduce
offender recidivism. Such programs are more effective, and more cost-effective, than
incarceration in reducing crime rates.
In this article we review this body of research about “what works” and the principles of
Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) to reduce recidivism, which are based on that research.

Among the conclusions reached by applying these principles of EBP to current state
felony-sentencing practices are the following:

Effective recidivism-reduction programs must target moderate- and high-risk
offenders, i.e., those more likely to reoffend.

Recidivism among low-risk offenders increases when they are included in
programs with higher-risk offenders.

Effective programs must also target “criminogenic needs,” i.e., those values,
attitudes, or behaviors of the offender that are most closely associated with the
likelihood of committing crime.

An accurate assessment of an offender’s level of risk and criminogenic needs
requires both sound professional judgment and an actuarial tool that includes
assessment of static and dynamic risk and criminogenic need factors—dynamic
factors being those that are subject to change.

An accurate assessment of an offender’s level of risk and criminogenic needs is
important in determining the offender’s suitability for diversion or probation,
the kind of treatment and behavioral controls to be provided, and appropriate
conditions of probation to be imposed. Imposing additional conditions of
probation beyond those directly related to the offender’s risk level or needs only
distracts and impedes the offender and probation officer and undermines the
ability of both the court and the probation officer to hold the defendant
accountable for compliance with essential conditions.

An accurate assessment of the offender’s level of risk and needs is also
important in determining the nature of any sanction to be imposed upon
violation of probation.

Cognitive-behavioral programs rooted in social learning theory are the most
effective in reducing recidivism.

Boot camps and wilderness programs typically do not reduce recidivism, and
“scared straight” and shock-type programs actually increase recidivism.

With continued exposure to clear rules, consistently and immediately enforced
with appropriate consequences, offenders will tend to behave in ways that result
in the most rewards and the fewest punishments.

Positive reinforcement is more effective than sanctions. Offenders respond
better, and maintain newly learned behaviors longer, when approached with
“carrots” rather than “sticks,” rewards rather than punishments.

Treatment programs must provide a continuity of care. Offenders in treatment
also require positive support, especially from the persons closest to them: family
members, friends, religious institutions, and supportive others in their

Treatment style and methods of communication must also be matched to the
offender’s personal characteristics and stage of change readiness.......