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Book Summary of What Works in Corrections: Reducing the Criminal Activities of Offenders and Delinqu

0 August 11 2014, 20:16 in Book Summary

Book Summary of What Works in Corrections: Reducing the Criminal Activities of Offenders and Delinquents

In the first part of the book, What Works in Corrections: Reducing the Criminal Activities of Offenders and Delinquents,MacKenzie described the situation of corrections in the United States. The US holds about 25% of the world’s prison population with more than 2 million prisoners in jails and prisons. More than 650,000 are released every year; yet, more than 430,000 will be re-incarcerated within three years. Through the years, we have witnessed philosophical changes in corrections management in the country. Today, the dominant law and order philosophy is incapacitation and deterrence. This led to the tremendous increase in population in US prisons. Nevertheless, it cannot be safe to say that this efficiently and effectively reduced crime rates in the country. Hence, the authorities are seeking for evidence-based ways to improve the situation of corrections in the United States.

In the book, there are two methods for determining "what works.” These are the Maryland Crime Prevention Report and meta-analyses. The Maryland Crime Prevention Report is for the comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of the Department of Justice Grants. The report determined seven possible settings for effective crime prevention: families, police, community, place, labor markets, schools, and courts and corrections. The report concludes that drug courts are effective because majority of settlements in the courts are drug-related. On the other hand, meta-analyses target the dynamic criminogenic factors of the high risk groups, therapeutic integrity, learning styles and abilities of offenders, and theoretical models. The target assessment focus includes policy relevance of focused areas like drug courts, education, and intensive supervision.

MacKenzie also identified the following as effective programs: adult education, vocational education, cognitive and behavioral treatments, sex offender treatment, drug courts, drug treatment, and multi-systemic therapy. She also argued that programs that emphasize punishment, deterrence, and control only are ineffective. The author also supports the Theory of Cognitive Transformation which pursues individual transformation first before seeking environmental opportunities. This theory has important implication for re-entry programs. Current interventions tend to focus on providing environmental opportunities such as housing, reunion with family, social integration, etc. However, MacKenzie argues that individual transformation must occur first. In this way, the individual shall have the capacity to make use of the environmental opportunities in a more sustainable way. In this way, re-incarceration possibilities will be lessened.

In the later parts of the book, MacKenzie identified the following as the future needs of US corrections system in order to achieve the desired outcomes of its interventions and programs: more details about program components should be analyzed; details about the characteristics of participants should be identified; and the overall quality of research should be improved. The author also emphasized the strong association of work and crime that has led many people to hypothesize whether employment opportunities of offenders could be enhanced through programming, and if their future criminal activities would decline. While this may be effective in some type of vocational education program, studies could not conclude that work programs could really be successful in reducing recidivism. However, little evidence could support if prison industry and other work-related intervention programs are really effective to reduce recidivism.

In sum, the book, What Works in Corrections: Reducing the Criminal Activities of Offenders and Delinquents, rejects the "nothing works” theory of Martinson. MacKenzie argues that through evidence-based research, the necessary improvements of US prisons and corrections could be achieved. Secondly, the author also supports the human service and rehabilitation programs over deterrence, incapacitation, and control programs. She discourages the use of intensive supervision in crime prevention programs. Lastly, she supports the wider application of cognitive transformation, through which individual transformation is prioritized first before providing environmental opportunities in order to avoid re-incarceration of released

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