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UC Researchers to Present at International Congress on Law and Mental Health


Seven research presentations by UC criminal justice faculty at a prestigious international conference includes one that looks at the best rehabilitation programming and practices for women in correctional settings. Another will focus on the effectiveness of drug courts.

Date: 7/12/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: Pamela DeCoste
Phone: (513) 556-2021
Photos By: Dottie Stover

UC ingot  
University of Cincinnati criminal justice research will be presented on July 14-19 at the 33rd International Congress on Law and Mental Health in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 

Six UC criminal justice faculty and staff members from the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services will give seven different presentations. Important issues being explored range from gender responsive treatment in correctional settings to the effectiveness of Community-Based Correctional Facilities. 

Ed Latessa
UC researcher Ed Latessa

Edward Latessa, professor and director of UC’s School of Criminal Justice, will share the findings of two different studies: one on the effects of gender responsive treatment in correctional settings, and the other on the impact of incentivizing counties for serving youth locally rather than sending them to a state institution. 

Gender Responsive Treatment
Latessa’s research, “Separate but Equal? Understanding the Impact of Gender Responsive Treatment in Correctional Settings,” made use of a larger, three-year study he conducted on Ohio’s Halfway Houses (HWHs) and Community-Based Correctional Facilities (CBCFs) to examine the characteristics of effective programs and the role that gender plays, asking “what program elements are important to women – and what should be different for them?”

His findings indicate that the most-powerful programming elements leading to successful rehabilitation of women in correctional settings were:

  • The percentage of family involvement in treatment;
  • Working with whole family on problem solving; 
  • Including some trauma and PTSD treatment as part of programming.

Latessa studied 138 programs and 27,000 adult offenders along with program elements that were central to successful outcomes. Among them: leadership and implementation; staff; offender assessment; treatment components; and quality assurance. He found that for three-quarters of the program elements, the characteristics of effective programs were very similar across genders. 

“The differences in effective program characteristics for males and females are more subtle and nuanced,” Latessa added. 

Community-Based Alternatives for Youth
Latessa’s other presentation will focus on research he co-authored with Paula Smith, UC associate professor of criminal justice,: “A Unique Approach to Incentivizing the Implementation of Evidence-Based Practices in the Community.” This research addresses the challenges that state and local governments are facing in dwindling resources and examines Targeted RECLAIM. Targeted RECLAIM is a funding initiative of the Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS) that was designed to promote the use of model and evidence-based programs to divert appropriate felony youth from ODYS institutions and into effective community-based alternatives.

According to ODYS, each year more than 100,000 youth are served by programs funded through RECLAIM Ohio and/or the Youth Services Grant. The top program areas utilized are probation and intensive probation; residential treatment; mental health counseling; monitoring and surveillance; restitution, community service and work detail; and diversion. 

“UC’s Corrections Institute (UCCI) has provided training and coaching for these programs, along with monitoring their quality and effectiveness,” Latessa said. 

Latessa’s presentation will include UCCI’s model for providing training, coaching, and quality assurance. Thanks to the success of these programs and RECLAIM Ohio, more youth today are being served locally, where their families can participate more fully in their treatment. Importantly, the ODYS average daily population has decreased from an average of 1,430 youth in FY 2009 to 649 in FY 2012, according to ODYS. Also, the Department is focusing its treatment and rehabilitative efforts on the more serious, repetitive felony-level youth.

Informing Drug Court Effectiveness
Another researcher, Carrie Sullivan, associate director of UCCI, will share her examination of juvenile drug court effectiveness for juvenile offenders. Sullivan collaborated on this research with Latessa, Sarah Manchak, UC assistant professor of criminal justice, Christopher Sullivan, UC associate professor of criminal justice, Lesli Blair, UC graduate assistant in criminal justice, and Smith. 

Their study, “A Comparison of Juvenile Drug Court Effectiveness for Youth with Co-Occurring or Substance Use Only Disorders,” focused on a sample of 386 youth who have co-occurring mental and substance disorders (COD) and 300 youth with only substance use disorders (SUD) to determine if COD youth receive more services than SUD youth and if COD youth are less likely to succeed in drug court. 

Sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the results of the study found:

  • COD youth are referred to more treatment than SUD youth, indicating that drug courts recognize the greater complexity of issues for which COD youth require services.
  • COD youth are less likely to succeed in drug court than SUD youth. COD youth are significantly more likely to have violations of probation. Their research also found that one’s status as COD significantly increases the risk for number of violations received in drug court, even after controlling for key demographic variables. The number of treatment referrals received also increased one’s risk for violations. 

“Although future research would need to tease apart the direct effects of increased court/probation conditions on supervision failure for youth in drug courts, it is possible that added requirements for COD youth may actually be contributing to their decreased likelihood of success in drug courts,” said Sullivan. “These results have important policy implications for decision making concerning what youth to admit into drug courts and how best to manage them when they have multiple, complex issues.”

Affecting Offender Outcomes
Manchak will also present research on which she collaborated with Smith. Part of a larger panel discussion, Manchak’s presentation is titled “Examining the Relative Effectiveness of Community-Based Correctional Facilities for Offenders With and Without Mental Illness.”

This study covered a portion of the much larger, three-year study that Latessa ran previously to examine the effectiveness of HWHs and CBCFs. Often, offenders will go to these facilities upon release to the community on parole, and the facilities provide programming to help with the transition from incarceration. In 2008, The Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (ODRC) tapped UC’s Center for Criminal Justice Research (CCJR) to conduct the research project that evaluated these programs to determine if they are effective at reducing offenders’ recidivism. 

Focusing on a segment of this larger study, Manchak’s presentation will center on what programmatic features may be contributing to the failure of people with mental health problems in CBCFs. Manchak and Smith found that offenders with mental illness were actually more likely to be involved in programs that should theoretically improve their outcomes. Both groups (those with and without mental illness) were similarly likely to receive programming that targeted other criminogenic needs. These findings run counter to policy recommendations on “what works” in reducing recidivism. Programming that had solid features, such as staff trained in cognitive-behavioral techniques, were among the elements that most strongly predicted offenders’ success in CBCFs. 

“Collectively, these findings indicate that CBCFs could improve in several key areas known to be important to predicting outcomes for offenders with and without mental health problems, said Manchak. “Namely, more emphasis on general responsiveness and core correctional practices is needed.”

The following UC criminal justice researchers will also present their research at the conference:
  • Jennifer Luther, research associate: “Effective Practices in Community Supervision (EPICS) for Families.”
  • Christopher Sullivan, associate professor: “Genetic Markers and Behavioral Risk Measures as Predictors of Trajectories of Adolescent Antisocial Behavior: Relative Utility and Potential for Integration.”
  • Eva Kishimoto, research associate: “Ménage à Trois: The Braiding of Cognitive Behavioral Interventions, Implementation Science and Adult Learning Systematically Applied in a Correctional System: An Analysis on a Multifaceted Approach of Bridging Science to Service.”

UC’s nationally-ranked School of Criminal Justice holds a number one ranking for research productivity, and recognition in U.S. News & World Report as one of the top three doctoral programs in the nation.