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Faculty and Senior Research Associates frequently provide technical assistance and consultation to governmental and private entities. Typically these contracts are tailored to the specific needs of the correctional organization. The range of services offered include assistance in program development and implementation, quality assurance, selecting and implementing risk/needs and other assessments, developing/selecting program curricula, and agency, program, and system assessments.
Increasingly, the funding climate for public sector programs demands evidence of performance -- programs must evaluate the quality of their service as well as their effectiveness in changing offender behaviors. Programs or agencies wishing to be evaluated, however, cannot be evaluated until their program procedures are clearly articulated and client goals are specified. Additionally, programs not operating from best practices and effective treatment modalities seldom produce favorable outcomes. Evaluability assessments were developed in the 1960s to respond to increased federal funding of social programs. They are third party assessments of: (a) whether program models are sufficiently clear to lend themselves to measurement and evaluation, (b) whether, from the standpoint of the knowledge base on best practices, they are likely to be successful even if they can be measured, (c) what program developments would need to take place in order to improve the likelihood of successful evaluation results, and (d) what evaluation measures and designs could be used in future evaluations. Simply put, the evaluability assessment is a short assessment of whether programs are ready to be evaluated and what needs to happen in order to improve their readiness. If possible, they also recommend evaluation designs and measures that would fit the program once they are ready to be evaluated. Evaluability assessments also save programs money, by delaying more expensive process and outcome evaluations until a program is ready to be evaluated.
Correctional System Analysis
The University of Cincinnati has conducted numerous correctional systems analyses. These projects provide: a) A profile of the local criminal justice system including programs, agencies and services provided; b) A profile offenders processed through the criminal justice system; c) Identify strengths and weaknesses of the criminal justice system; d) Assessment of programs and services offered by both private and public service providers using the CPAI; e) Make recommendations to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the criminal justice system; and f) Make recommendations and provide detailed information about future programming and detention needs.
Jurisdictions and agencies often have to make decisions regarding funding for various programming, services, and detention facilities. Determining the risk level and most common needs of the offender population can greatly assist in this process. To aid jurisdictions and agencies in this task, The Corrections Institute samples and assesses offenders using standardized risk needs assessments and/or social and legal data contained in offender case files. This information is then used to develop a report that profiles offenders’ risk levels and their most common needs. By comparing this profile with available community and institutional resources, jurisdictions and agencies can make comparisons between offender risk/needs and available resources.
Consultation results in the design of an evaluation for a program or agency. Consultants will meet with staff and administrators to secure an understanding of the program to be evaluated. They will recommend measures, participant selection strategies, procedures for collecting data, and suggestions for comparison groups. Construction of an evaluation design is exclusive of the execution of the evaluation and does not obligate the contracting agency to have the University of Cincinnati conduct such an evaluation.
Classification for Women Offenders
A recent nationwide survey of correctional classification systems for women offenders found that the overwhelming majority of them had not been validated for use with women offenders. As a result, women offenders in most states were assigned to custody and risk levels according to criteria developed for men and applied to women with no tests of their accuracy. The Corrections Institute at the University of Cincinnati offers technical assistance to assess the adequacy of classification procedures for women offenders, and, if necessary to make recommendations for future directions.
Selection of Program Curricula
The foundation of any correctional rehabilitation program is its curriculum. When a program uses a well designed curriculum, it can be confident that facilitators are employing techniques that are the most likely to impact participant characteristics (e.g., attitudes and cognitive skills) that are related to their criminal behaviors. The Corrections Institute advises programs on which existing curriculum best meets their needs. In the event that programs have already adopted a curricula, the Institute reviews those materials in order to determine how well the curricula meets the needs of the correctional agency and the extent to which it is consistent with research on rehabilitation.
Implementation of Evidence Based Practices
The University of Cincinnati provides technical assistance to sites in the design and implementation of evidence based practices (EBP) in corrections. A UC coach is assigned to each site for an average of 12 months as part of the implementation process. Work with sites tends to occur in four phases: 1) curriculum development/program design; 2) training; 3) implementation/coaching; 4) continuous quality improvement. During the design phase, the site is evaluated as to its current consistency with EBP, a multidisciplinary team of program staff are assembled, and UC consults with the team to redesign identified program components. These elements consist of the assessment protocol, group and individual-level programming, contingency management strategies, and quality assurance practices. UC then provides training and hands-on coaching for staff to increase their skill in delivering EBP. Once all adapted program components are implemented, the focus moves to sustainability of the program changes as supervisors and managers are trained on ongoing quality improvement practices.
Consistent with the literature on evidence-based correctional practices, a cognitive-behavioral model with an emphasis on targeting criminogenic needs of offenders is employed. UC has developed several curricula, quality assurance materials, contingency management templates and other resources to assist sites in implementing EBP. UC has worked across the country with nearly 40 juvenile and adult residential, half-way house, day treatment and institutional sites.