Cont: Evidence-Based Practices Point the Way

March 8th: Part II

The most succinct definition, taken from perhaps the best and most cogent publication on “Evidence Based Practices (EBP) in the Reentry Field, is as follows, ” Evidence Based Practices: The application of empirical research to professional practice” (p.7). This is an important definition to keep in mind, because it opens the door to  new concepts and applications, based on scientific research that will enhance, ground, and even empower your reentry court (or other reentry program).

The monograph from which the definition is taken, written by Mark Carey and Frank Domurad of the Carey Group, and described in an earlier post, deserves a second reference. “Implementing Evidence-Based Practices (Revised, January 2010), published by the Center for Effective Public Policy, under a grant from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, is the best publication I have found on the application of EBP to Prisoner Reentry. As opposed to the many conceptual and intellectual descriptions of what EBP is or may be, this document breaks the concepts down to their basic elements (and can be read in  less than an hour). Though part of an eleven “coaching packet” series, put out by the Center for Effective Public Policy, in my opinion this monograph is the most useful and grounded of the series. (The following eight principles are fully described on pages 10-16 of the monograph)

Eight Evidence-Based Principles for Effective Interventions

1. Assess actuarial risk/needs.

2. Enhance intrinsic motivation.

3. Target Interventions.

a. Risk Principle: Prioritize supervision and treatment resources for higher risk offenders.

b. Need Principle: Target interventions to criminogenic needs.

c. Responsivity Principle: Be responsive to temperament, learning style, motivation, culture,

and gender when assigning offenders to programs.

d. Dosage: Structure 40-70% of high-risk offenders’ time for 3-9 months.

e. Treatment: Integrate treatment into sentence/sanction requirements.

4. Skill train with directed practice (use cognitive behavioral treatment methods).

5. Increase positive reinforcement.

6. Engage ongoing support in natural communities.

7. Measure relevant processes/practices.

8. Provide measurement feedback.

Second Chance Grant Targets Co-ocurring Disorders

Deadline: June 3, 2010

BJA has announced a solicitation that will distribute $13 million under Sec. 201 of the “Second Chance Act” for offenders with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. Up to $600,000 in matching grants will be available to states and local governments to “establish or enhance residential substance abuse treatment programs in correctional facilities, including aftercare and recovery supportive services”.

Under the BJA Solicitation, priority will be given to applicants that (p.5-6):

Target higher-risk offenders who have been dually diagnosed with serious mental health disorders and alcohol or substance addictions at the same time using validated assessment tools.

• Demonstrate a high degree of collaboration among a variety of public, private, and faith-based organizations, to include at a minimum the State Substance Abuse Authority, the State Mental Health Authority, and a provider organization for direct client integrated substance abuse and mental health treatment services appropriate to the proposed project.

• Demonstrate effective case assessment and management abilities to provide a comprehensive and continuous reentry process, including the following:

o Using an actuarial-based assessment instrument for reentry planning that targets the criminogenic needs of the offender that affect recidivism, and provide sustained case management and services during incarceration and for at least 6 months in the community;

o Access to affordable and appropriate housing;

o Establishing pre-release planning procedures to ensure that the eligibility of an individual for federal or state benefits is established before release and that individuals will obtain all necessary referrals for reentry services; and

o Delivery of continuous and appropriate integrated drug and mental health treatment, medical care, job training and placement, housing, educational services, or any other service or support needed for successful reentry.

• Focus their program on geographic areas with high rates of offenders returning from prisons, jails, or juvenile detention facilities.

[Note: This solicitation is available to both prison and jail-based Reentry Courts and their community and correctional partners]

Reentry Court RFP: A New “Evidence-Base” Standard

Note: Deadline for applications; June 3, 2010

This is the second of several articles  on the “Second Chance Act” Reentry Court Solicitation. In this analysis,  I will review the RFP from a Evidence Based Sentencing (EBS) Perspective.

The new BJA Rentry Court Solicitation clearly differs from those for previous Problem-Solving Courts. In some ways it is the first of its kind. At an initial reading, one notes the lack of any reference to the “Drug Court Ten Key Components”. As recently as February of this year, Drug Courts, along with, DUI, Mental Health, Veterans, and Community Court applicants were required to show how thir programs complied with the Ten Key components. So while Reentry Courts emerged from the drug court court field, there appears to be some recognition that they are substantially different from them.

Under this solicitaiton, reentry court applicants   must adhere to the “Six Core Components” (see p.3), as described in the 2003 publication, Reentry Courts Process Evaluation (Phase 1), reflecting the research and experience of nine reentry court research sites that were  part of  a previous, short lived Reentry Court Initiative  (RCI: 2000). A review of that document, as well as other historical documents, would be a good place to begin this application process (NCJR Reentry Court Documents)

More importantly, the entire focus of this RFP takes us in a new direction.  While problem solving court applicants must follow the statutory prohibition against violent offenders as participants, found in the drug court solicitation (42 U.S.C. 3797u-2; found at p1,f1), there is no such prohibition for reentry courts. The perceived intent of the reentry court solicitiaition is to reduce recidicism of serious offenders through the application of  Evidence Based Sentencing Practices (referred euphemisticaly  in the RFP as “evidence based activities”).

Importantly, this is the first BJA problem-solving court RFP that requires the identification of high risk offenders through the application of a validated risk/needs assessment tool, a key component of any EBP based sentencing strategy (note: high risk in this context refers to the risk to reoffend). While EBP began in the medical and treatment fields (and is a part of some BJA RFPs as they relate to treatment programs), this Reentry Court Solicitation breaks new ground, in prioritizing those applications that will apply evidence-based practices to problem-solving court components.

Inquiries about this “Request For Proposal” should be directed to Dr. Gary Dennis, Senior Policy Advisor For Corrections, at (202) 305-9059 or gary.dennis@usdoj.gov.