most appropriate and how can barriers to using them (i.e. implementation, security, or ethics issues) be addressed and overcome?


The new work that confirms long-standing research findings on the high rates of recidivism and the risk of death in the first weeks and months after release from prison lead the committee to make a recommendation regarding policies and programs for parolees and other releasees.

The committee recommends that parole authorities and administrators of both in-prison and postrelease programs redesign their activities and programs to provide major support to parolees and other releasees at the time of release. These interventions should be subjected to rigorous evaluation.

Given the paucity of rigorous evidence about the effectiveness of many intervention programs or the motivation underlying individual change, the committee can offer only limited advice about what specific form some of these programs should take. Cognitive-behavioral approaches have strong scientific support and the committee believes that they should be widely implemented and continually evaluated, especially taking account of program implementation issues. Drug treatment coupled with frequent testing for drug use also shows evidence of lowering recidivism. Several other programs and approaches show promise in reducing violations of community supervision requirements, arrests for new crimes, and drug use. Included here are programs that focus on individual change and motivation, and comprehensive, multiservice employment and training initiatives.

“Nothing works” is no longer a defensible conclusion from assessments of program effects on reentry outcomes. When a person leaves prison it is clear that he or she has needs an immediate place to live, a person such as a case manager to facilitate the immediate transition from prison to the community, and a program to guide postrelease life. However, we cannot identify with confidence other best practices for reducing recidivism and enhancing desistance among people returning to local communities from prison. Because so few reentry service programs are accompanied by rigorous evaluations, a scientific review panel, such as this committee, has very little to draw on with confidence (see National Research Council, 1979, for a history of this problem). Yet there is a great deal of experiential and practitioner knowledge with regard to the apparent efficacy of various programs (Wilkinson, 2004). The challenge over the next decade, as prisoner reentry, parole, and desistance from crime become even more important, is to subject these promising practices to rigorously designed evaluations.

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