The author replies: we still need to demonstrate program effectiveness Essay

The author replies: we still need to demonstrate programeffectiveness It was not my contention that “nothing works when it comes torehabilitating offenders.’ Pamela K.

Lattimore and Ann D. Witterepeatedly state this to be my position. There is an importantdifference between saying nothing works and saying no one rehabilitation strategy has consistently been shown to be successful. Just asProfessors Lattimore and Witte subscribe to the latter view, so do I. They state that I favor abandoning or abolishing employmentprograms for offenders. There was no such recommendation in my article.Rather, the conclusion asks whether “some of the dollars currentlyspent on facilitating the labor market adjustment of offenders could bebetter applied to increasing the education and training of those youngpeople with the least access to these services.

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‘1 Lattimore and Witte argue for stronger interventions. Theycharacterize work release, transitional aid, and some prison trainingprograms as intrinsically weak rehabilitative treatments. Hence,”insignificant effects on behavior are precisely what should havebeen expected.’ Although the plea for stronger rehabilitativetreatments may be correct, it may not always be easy to discern theweaker interventions from the stronger ones. For example, inWitte’s 1977 evaluation of work release (“Work Release inNorth Carolina–A Program That Works!’)2 there was littleindication from the title or the content that work release was a weakintervention from which little could be expected. Although Lattimoreand Witte also use transitional aid as another example of a weakintervention, this strategy is supported in another 1977 articlecoauthored by Witte.3 Lattimore and Witte state that, whenever possible, the evaluationof rehabilitative treatments should involve careful planning, randomassignment, adequate sample size, and measurement of labor marketperformance and recidivism.

When random assignment is not possible,carefully designed quasi-experiments are appropriate. I agree. The record to date Lattimore and Witte suggest that rehabilitative labor programs maynot have performed better because these interventions were not”implemented precisely as planned.’ If the disappointingperformance of some or all of the rehabilitative treatments reviewed inmy article is to be attributed to inadequate implementation, rather thanto the treatments themselves, Lattimore and Witte have missed anexcellent opportunity to be more specific as to which interventions havebeen significantly affected by poor implementation and in what ways.Unsupported generalizations such as “implementation has been aproblem in many manpower programs’ do not substantially advance thedialogue.

More detailed information regarding the difficulties ofimplementing rehabilitative interventions would have been especiallyhelpful in understanding the findings from the “SupportedWork’ program. This approach, with its emphasis on peer groupsupport, close supervision, and gradually accelerating performanceexpectations, was implemented for groups of ex-offenders, welfarerecipients, ex-addicts, and youth. Although the program was judged tobe successful for welfare recipients and ex-addicts, program objectiveswere not achieved for ex-offenders and youth.4 If implementationproblems frustrated the successful application of this program to helpex-offenders, how is it that such problems did not undermine theservices provided to welfare recipients and ex-addicts? This is not to deny, however, that program implementation may notseriously constrain the success of rehabilitative manpower efforts foroffenders. In his review of these programs undertaken in the1960’s and early 1970’s, Robert Taggart analyzes some of theinherent difficulties in administering rehabilitative treatments for theoffender population.

Taggart asserts that implementation is oftenthwarted by hostility toward those programs on the part of offenders,officials of the criminal justice system, and potential employers.Taggart concludes, “This negative attitude can be a greaterimpediment to the success of manpower services than any identifiableproblem in the system or the individual.’5 In discussing the importance of program implementation in their”Promising research directions’ section, Lattimore and Witteindicate that recent progress has been made.

They cite two recentstudies involving innovative approaches to the problem in the educationarea. On the basis of these comments by Lattimore and Witte, it mayappear that because we now know more about program implementation, itshould be a somewhat straightforward matter to implement a givenrehabilitation strategy designed for offenders and then carefullyevaluate the efficacy of the intervention. A review of the two studies suggests that this may not be the case.The implementation technique tested by Ronald G. Tharp and RonaldGallimore was applied in what even the editors of the volume in whichthe article appears concede was a rather unusual environment.

Theapproach relies upon what the authors admit are subjective signals indetermining whether the implementation should continue and whether it isproceeding according to plan. It also relies upon subjective andsomewhat ad hoc methods for correcting any particular perceiveddeviation from the intended implementation.6 The strategy tested by Gary D. Gottfredson is similar to thatdiscussed by Tharp and Gallimore and shares some of the same potentialthreats to successful replicability. Subjective judgments appear todetermine the detection of deviations from an implementation blueprintand the appropriate corrective actions.7 Although these models of improved program implementation have beensuccessful, it remains to be seen if they can be applied in manyorganizational and environmental settings.

This is especially truebecause, as Gottfredson concedes,8 the approaches are very expensive andrequire the services of the relatively small number of researchers withthe requisite skills to apply these models. In sum, implementation is acomplex and unsettled problem. It seems much too early to determine towhat extent the innovations cited by Lattimore and Witte may begeneralized to employment programs for offenders. Rehabilitation as the one program goal Lattimore and Witte raise an interesting and important questionregarding the objectives of prison rehabilitation programs. They arguethat facilitating the labor market adjustment of releases may be justone objective of such program activities. Prison training andrehabilitation services may lower prison costs, facilitate prisonmanagement, and attract less sadistic and authoritarian personnel. Itis correctly argued that if rehabilitation programs efficiently advancethese other objectives, they should be continued even though they maynot be effective in rehabilitating inmates.

Although it may not bepossible to make any conclusive judgments at this time, this positiondeserves additional consideration. With respect to the impact of rehabilitation programs on prisoncosts, a recent examination of costs in 19 institutions by Peter Schmidt and Witte indicates no systematic statistical association betweenrehabilitation programs and either short-run or long-run prison costs.9 It would have been helpful if Lattimore and Witte had explained thehypothesized relationship between rehabilitation programs and prisonmanagement. However, an earlier analysis of this issue, coauthored byWitte, does construct such a relationship: To survive the ordeal of captivity, an offender must hope that hewill emerge from it capable of enjoying life in a free world, and hemust be assured that the portion of his life that is spent in prison wasnot entirely wasted. Without hope and a sense of significance, he ismore likely to become embittered and to view himself as a victim ofsociety’s arbitrary vengeance.

The offender who feels society istrying to help him may accept some of the restrictions imposed on him.The offender who feels that society has no other goal other than topunish him will feel justified in attacking his captors.10 In that same work, Seymor Halleck and Witte also explain howprisons attempting to rehabilitate, rather than warehouse, prisonersattract a higher quality staff: Correctional workers, too, must have hope and a sense ofusefulness.

No one wants to be his brother’s keeper unless he isconvinced that the process of keeping will be helpful. Our correctionalsystem already has too many lethargic, bureaucratically insensitive andeven sadistic employees. A warehousing philosophy attracts more of themand reduces the possibility of creating a benign environment.11 This is a powerful analysis.

However, unless prison training andrehabilitation programs can, at some point, demonstrate that they areeffective in improving post-release outcomes, will not these programseventually risk being viewed by all concerned as a sham or simply asbusy work? In that event, would they not exacerbate rather thanameliorate the alienation and embitterment of the inmates? If prisonrehabilitation programs do not eventually establish a credible record ofeffectiveness, would prisons still succeed in attracting more humanecorrectional personnel? FOOTNOTES ACKNOWLEDGMENT: The author thanks Steven M. Director, ValerieEnglander, and Michael E. Borus for their helpful comments. 1 Frederick Englander, “Helping ex-offenders enter the labormarket,’ Monthly Labor Review, July 1983, pp. 25-30. Mysuggestion that some of the funds now allocated to rehabilitationprograms be diverted to what may be called prevention programs implies,of course, that the remainder of the rehabilitation funds should not betransferred. If it were my position that “nothing works,’ itwould be inconsistent to support the continuation of rehabilitation,even on a smaller scale. 2 Ann D.

Witte, “Work Release in North Carolina–A ProgramThat Works!’ Law and Contemporary Problems, Winter 1977, pp.230-51. 3 Seymor L. Halleck and Ann D. Witte, “Is RehabilitationDead?’ Crime and Delinquency, October 1977, pp.

372-82. Ofcourse, interventions that are weaker need not be less effective orsubject to more modest expectations. Irving Piliavin and RosemaryGartner (“The Impact of Supported Work on Ex-Offenders,’University of Wisconsin, Institute for Research on Poverty, 1981)suggest, following the early success of transitional aid, that thisweaker intervention may have been more successful than earlier, strongerinterventions, because transitional aid encouraged a sense of selfsufficiency, while more comprehensive assistance may fosterinstitutional dependency and perpetuate the stigma of being anex-offender. 4 Board of Directors, Manpower Development Research Corp., Summaryand Findings of the National Supported Work Demonstration (Cambridge,MA, Ballinger Publishing Co.

, 1980). 5 Robert Taggart, The Prison of Unemployment: Manpower Programsfor Offenders (Baltimore, MD, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972). 6 Ronald G. Tharp and Ronald Gallimore, “The Ecology ofProgram Research and Development: A Model of EvaluationSuccession,’ in Lee Sechrest and others, eds., Evaluation StudiesReview Annual, vol. 4 (Beverly Hills, CA, Sage Publications, 1979).

7 Gary D. Gottfredson, ed., The School Action Effectiveness Study: The First Interim Report (Baltimore, MD, The Johns HopkinsUniversity, Center for Social Organization of Schools, 1982); and GaryD. Gottfredson, “A Theory Ridden Approach to ProgramEvaluation,’ American Psychologist, forthcoming. Note thatGottfredson envisions a closer union of the evaluation researcher andprogram implementer who would “collaborate in evaluation design,question formulation, and planning. As a result, researchersextensively intervene in project development–indeed they become part ofthe project.

‘ This would seem to threaten the objectively of theevaluator. 8 Gottfredson, “A Theory Ridden Approach.’ 9 Peter Schmidt and Ann D. Witte, An Economic Analysis of Crimeand Justice (New York, Academic Press, 1984). 10 Halleck and Witte, “Is Rehabilitation Dead?’ p. 379.

11 Ibid.


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