In This Article Rehabilitation

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Risk Assessment
  • Cognitive Behavioral Programming
  • Substance-Abuse Treatment
  • Medical and Mental-Health Treatment
  • Education, Employment, and Skills Development
  • Reentry Programming
  • Specialty Courts for Community Treatment
  • Sex-Offender Treatment
  • Treatment for Female Offenders

Criminology Rehabilitation
Beth M. Huebner
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 August 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0046


Rehabilitation is a central goal of the correctional system. This goal rests on the assumption that individuals can be treated and can return to a crime free lifestyle. Rehabilitation was a central feature of corrections in the first half of the twentieth century. The favorability of rehabilitation programming declined in the 1970s and 1980s but has regained favor in recent years. Rehabilitation includes a broad array of programs including mental health, substance abuse, and educational services. In addition, specialty programs have been developed for women, sex offenders, and parolees. Rehabilitation has also been introduced in the court system. The following literature summarizes the prominent works in this area and provides sources of reliable data on a range of treatment and rehabilitation programs.

General Overviews

As noted, the popularity of rehabilitative programs has varied over time. Although rehabilitation has always been a part of correctional programming, the “nothing works” conclusions of Martinson 1974 brought down the rehabilitative ideal that had gained prominence in the preceding decades. Cullen and Gendreau 2000 presents an excellent summary of the historical trends in treatment and describe the principle elements of modern treatment services. More recently, researchers have focused instead on what works for which offenders and under what circumstances. MacKenzie 2006 provides an excellent description of model treatment and rehabilitation programs for juveniles and adults. Gaes, et al. 1999 presents a similar summary of best practices in correctional treatment, and describes some of the challenges in conducting evaluation studies of treatment programming. A number of meta-analyses have also been conducted that provide a statistical summary of the efficacy of treatment programs. Andrews 1990 evaluates the components of effective treatment with adult offenders. Lipsey 1992 presents a similar analysis with juvenile offenders; both researchers highlight the efficacy of cognitive programming. Students interested in a general overview of treatment modalities for juvenile offenders should look to Howell 2008. Most recently, researchers on behalf of the National Research Council detail the extant literature on institutional and community treatment for offenders (Committee on Community Supervision and Desistance from Crime 2008). Much of the program evaluation literature is conducted on the local level. The National Institute of Corrections provides a superb resource for local research studies.

  • Andrews, D. A., Ivan Zinger, Robert D. Hoge, James Bonta, Paul Gendreau, and Francis T. Cullen. 1990. Does correctional treatment work? A clinically relevant and psychologically informed meta-analysis. Criminology 28:369–404.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1990.tb01330.xE-mail Citation »

    Meta-analysis of juvenile and adult correctional treatment programs administered over the past two decades. Results suggest that programs that deliver treatment to higher risk cases, target criminogenic needs, and match with client learning styles are most likely to achieve positive results.

  • Cullen, Francis T., and Paul Gendreau. 2000. Assessing correctional rehabilitation: Policy, practice, and prospects” In Criminal Justice 2000. Vol. 3, Policies, processes, and decisions of the criminal justice system. Edited by Julie Horney, 109–175. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

    E-mail Citation »

    Extensive, theoretically rich discussion of the history and practice of correctional treatment. Denotes principle elements of effective rehabilitation programs and describes model programs. Includes numerous citations of relevant research; an excellent bibliographic tool for researchers, students, and practitioners.

  • Gaes, Gerald G., Timothy J. Flanagan, Laurence L. Motiuk, and Lynn Stewart. 1999. Adult correctional treatment. In Crime and justice: A review of research. Vol. 26, Prisons. Edited by Michael Tonry and Joan Petersilia, 361–426. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive analysis and summary of research on adult correctional treatment. Includes a detailed discussion of extant research on cognitive skills programming, drug treatment, educational and vocational services, and sex offender treatment. Presents a succinct methodological discussion of the challenges of program evaluation.

  • Howell, James C. 2008. Preventing and reducing juvenile delinquency: A comprehensive framework. 2d ed. Los Angeles: Sage.

    E-mail Citation »

    Introductory text outlining the history of the juvenile justice system, the etiology of juvenile delinquency and gang membership, and effective rehabilitative and prevention programming for juveniles. Accessible introduction that could be used as a text for an advanced undergraduate or graduate course.

  • Lipsey, Mark W. 1992. Juvenile delinquency treatment: A meta-analytic inquiry into the variability of effects. In Meta-analysis for explanation: A casebook. Edited by Thomas D. Cook, Harris Cooper, David S. Cordray, Heidi Hartmann, Larry V. Hedges, Richard J. Light, Thomas A. Louis, and Frederick Mosteller, 83–128. New York: Russell Sage.

    E-mail Citation »

    Frequently cited meta-analysis of the literature on juvenile delinquency treatment. Treatment that is multimodal, behavioral, and includes a cognitive component had the most success for juvenile offenders. Services provided in the community had larger effects on delinquency than programs implemented in an institution.

  • MacKenzie, Doris Layton. 2006. What works in corrections: Reducing the criminal activities of offenders and delinquents. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    Evidence-based description of promising programs designed to reduce recidivism. Provides extensive statistical summaries of treatment modalities for different kids of offenders and correctional and therapeutic interventions. Excellent resource for students and correctional personnel.

  • Martinson, Robert. 1974. What works? Questions and answers about prison reform. Public Interest 10:22–54.

    E-mail Citation »

    Statistical summary of twenty years of correctional programming. Analysis suggests that rehabilitative programming does not reduce recidivism. Seminal article that had a large influence on the public policy of the 1970s and 1980s.

  • National Institute of Corrections.

    E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive online resource center for current research on correctional interventions and treatment. Includes an extensive library of scholarly research and state-level technical reports and commentary.

  • National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Community Supervision and Desistance from Crime. 2008. Parole, desistance from crime, and community integration. Washington, DC: National Academies.

    E-mail Citation »

    Designed as a primer on prisoner reentry; includes a detailed summary of the literature on institutional and community treatment for inmates. Argues for the importance of wraparound treatment services for inmates reentering the community.

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