Sunday, January 4, 2009

Evaluation of Reentry Programs

As the problem with recidivism increases and criminals continue to return to prison at about a 70% rate nationally, new reentry programs (many of which we have posted on) keep getting spun out—or old ones retuned—to address the problem; but virtually all of them fail to establish a good evaluation process (control group, third party oversight, adequate after-program research time span) that can determine if the program is effective or not.

Consequently most programs use the story approach—tell a couple of stories of people who have made it, maybe even get them to tell their own story—and floating on the good will and sympathy generated by these anecdotal incidents, continue to receive funding.

But as we have noted before, in this earlier blog for one, the real history of rehabilitative programs nationally, after a good evaluation has been done, is another story, and it is one of failure, wasted money, wasted resources, and ultimately, wasted lives.

I was very fortunate in being employed with a criminal justice evaluation project early in my career and it has helped me to keep the necessity to establish the facts through a proper evaluation, before passing judgment or money on a program with good stories to tell.