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No Longer Theory: Correctional Practices That Work
by Harvey Shrum Ed. D.
Criminologists and politicians have debated the effectiveness of
correctional rehabilitation programs since the mid- 1970s when criminal
justice scholars and policy makers throughout the United States
embraced Robert Martinson's credo of "nothing works. " Programs based
around punishment and surveillance grew. They are being embraced even
stronger today despite the fact that Martinson later admitted that he
was wrong. An ample amount of research exists that suggest that there
are successful programs available to reduce future criminality of not
only offenders but also of potential offenders. This article presents
correctional practices that effectively reduce recidivism rates and
recommends two additional programs, Logotherapy and the Intensive
Journal, proven to be cost-effective in the fields of prevention and
Life is difficult and seemingly unfair. When parents divorce,
when one or both parents die, when we are bullied, or suffer a
catastrophic illness or accident, when a friend is killed in an
accident or war, we know that life is unfair and often very painful.
But, Dr. Viktor Frankl (1997), survivor of the Holocaust, emphasized
that the meaning of life is not what happens to us. It is what we do
with that which happens to us.
When life appears to be unfair and painful many resort to
self-medication. America comprises only five percent of the world's
population, yet it consumes over 60 percent of the world's illicit
drugs. Of those consuming illicit drugs, 77 percent are employed
(Ferrell, 2003). Others attempt to divert pain and grief, usually onto
those closest to them. Still others attempt to bury pain with their
addiction to work, hobbies, or possessions. Often those who attempt to
drug, divert, or bury their pain surround themselves with those of
Sometimes laws are passed in the belief that they will make
life fairer. Prisons are built at $100,000 per cell and $30-50,000 in
annual costs per inmate are added to the tax burden. But, prisons and
harsher laws tend to divert valuable funding away from public schools
and other programs that tend to make our communities much safer.
America has become so focused upon prisons as the answer to its social
ills that today one in every 37 Americans is either in a state or
federal prison or jail, or has been in the past (The Associated Press,
August 18, 2003). The costs to American families are also enormous. The
odds of a child of a recidivist father ending up in jail or prison at
some point in his life are approximately 92 to one when compared to the
general population. Increasing prison sentences do not reduce those
Better ways do exist. Programs that lower recidivism rates
result in less crime, lower costs for incarceration, fewer broken
families, less welfare and social services, less prison overcrowding,
less new prison construction, more funds for schools and alternatives
to incarceration, and ultimately safer communities.
Recidivism and crime rates are readily reducible 16-62 percent
and more by broader use of existing rehabilitation programs - substance
abuse treatment, academic and vocational education, post-secondary
education, intermediate sanctions, and alternatives to incarceration
(Cypser, 1997). Some programs work so well that the rate of recidivism
is as low as five to 15 percent (Manitonquat, 1996).
Addictions and "Will to Meaning"
Over 80 percent of those incarcerated committed their offense
under the influence of drugs, committed their offense to get money for
drugs, or committed their offense under the influence of alcohol
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1993). The majority of inmates with drug
and alcohol problems still do not receive sufficient treatment while in
prison. And the number of drug/alcohol-using arrestees who are probably
in need of treatment exceeds two million (Lipton, 1995). Dr. Frankl
(1997) noted that there tended to be a significant inverse relationship
between drug involvement and meaning in one's life. Ninety percent of
students in high school and college who were addicted to alcohol and
one hundred percent who were addicted to drugs reported that "meaning'
was lacking in their lives. They may have purpose, but they do not have
meaning. When men and women in prison are offered a drug and alcohol
rehabilitation program, it is generally limited to a 12-step program,
the only program generally acceptable to many parole boards, and
12-step programs do not address the lack of meaning in their lives.
Treatment for Addictions
The type of addiction treatment may not matter as much as
whether sufficient treatment has been provided, usually a minimum of
12-24 months combined with education leading to a GED and/or vocational
training. Addiction recovery begins with treatment inside prison. But,
to be most effective, the addict must continue his treatment following
his release to parole. The strongest predictors of outcome for
substance abuse treatment, noted Condelli and Hubbard (1994),
regardless of the type of treatment, are both time of duration and
number of sessions in treatment. One program in Brooklyn (1996) placed
second felony drug offenders into residential drug treatment usually
for 18 to 24 months. After three years, the re-arrest rates for
offenders who completed the program were 6.7-8.2 percent.
A study conducted for the state of California provided the
most comprehensive cost-benefit examination on the effectiveness of
substance abuse treatment. Looking at all treatment programs in the
state, researchers concluded that every dollar spent on treatment
resulted in seven dollars in savings on reduced crime and health care
costs (Mauer & Huling, 1995). Caulkins et al (1997) demonstrated
that treatment of heavy drug users is 15-17 times more effective in
reducing crime than spending the same money on mandatory minimum
sentences. In another study these same researchers noted that spending
money on treatment reduces consumption of cocaine 3.7 times more than
spending that same money on conventional enforcement, and 7.6 times
more than spending it on mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers.
Caulkins et al (1997) noted that spending money to treat heavy
cocaine users was four times more effective in reducing total national
consumption than spending it on conventional enforcement against drug
dealers, and nearly eight times more effective than spending it on
mandatory minimum sentences for the same dealers. Additionally,
treatment reduces about ten times more serious crime than conventional
enforcement and fifteen more than mandatory minimums.
In a joint study by the RAND Corporation, the U.S. Army, and
the Office of National Drug Control Strategy, researchers Rydell and
Everingham (1994) found that drug treatment programs are seven times
more cost-effective in reducing cocaine consumption than other programs
that aim at controlling the supply of drugs. Treatment is eleven times
more effective than border interdiction and twenty-two times more
effective than trying to control foreign production. This study further
concluded that drug treatment could reduce cocaine consumption a third
if extended to all heavy users.
Cognitive Approaches to Addictions Treatment
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, developed by Dr. Albert
Ellis, is a cognitive-behavior therapy approach to addictions (Dryden,
2002). The major reasons for its popularity are its effectiveness,
short-term nature, and low cost. It works best for individuals desiring
a scientific, present-focused, and active treatment for coping with
life's difficulties. It is based on a few simple principles having
profound implications: 1) You are responsible for your own emotions and
actions. 2) Your harmful emotions and dysfunctional behaviors are the
product of your irrational thinking. 3) You can learn more realistic
views and, with practice, make them a part of you. 4) You will
experience a deeper acceptance of yourself and greater satisfactions in
life by developing a reality-based perspective.
Another alternative to the 12-step program is Logotherapy,
developed by Dr. Viktor Frankl (1997). In logotherapy, or "health
through meaning/ emphasis is given to the absence in the "will to
meaning.' When we lack a will to meaning, noted Frankl, we generally
seek to fill the existential vacuum with a "will to pleasure' that
often leads to addictions, or a "will to power' that often leads to
violence. He also noted that "people are most likely to become
aggressive when they are caught in this feeling of emptiness and
meaninglessness (Frankl, 1997). Robert Jay Lifton (1969) appeared to
agree with Frankl when he stated that "men are most apt to kill when
they feel overcome by meaninglessness/
Dr. Viktor Frankl (1984, 1997) noted that the predominant
factor leading to incarceration is the lack of meaning in one's life
and that a first-termer differs from those who have never been in
prison with respect to purpose in life. Criminality and purpose in
life, Frankl noted, are inversely related. The irony is that the more
persistently one offends, the more likely he is to be sentenced to
longer terms of imprisonment and the less likely he is to increase his
sense of purpose in life, and so the more likely he is to continue
offending when released. The spreading existential frustration lies at
the root of this phenomenon.
Frankl (1997) repeatedly emphasized the importance of meaning,
rather than pleasure and power, as essential for the health of the
body, the mind, and the spirit. He believed that the key to a positive
view of life is an awareness that life has meaning under all
circumstances, and that we have the capacity to find meaning in our
life "experientially, creatively, and attitudinally.' We can rise above
ill health and blows of fate if we see meaning in our existence.
Logotherapy helps people say yes to life, whether the suffering they
experience comes from difficult human relations, job dissatisfaction,
life-altering illness, survivor's guilt, or death of a loved one, or
from self-made problems such as hypochondria or an overwhelming hunger
for pleasure and power.
Logotherapy was introduced to inmates at the California
Rehabilitation Center in Norco about 40 years ago as a short-term
project (Crumbaugh, 1972). The program aimed at giving inmates a
purpose and direction in life, and at helping them acquire the
knowledge needed to pursue a new direction during and after their
prison experience. The inmates, who participated in the project learned
to see that their very experiences as criminals gave them a unique
opportunity to help other criminals, thus turning their liabilities
into assets society could use. Only one group of inmates went through
the program before it was terminated. The recidivism rate for those who
completed the program prior to parole was only 5.5 percent.
Furthermore, when utilized as an addictions treatment program, it was
found to be four times as effective as any other program.
I re-introduced Logotherapy to inmates nearing parole at
Folsom State Prison in 1990. In 1998 Drs. Viktor Frankl and Joseph
Fabry were invited to conduct a workshop for men serving life sentences
for violent crimes. Dr. Frankl was too ill and weak at the time, so Dr.
Fabry agreed to conduct two workshops on the principles of Logotherapy.
Nineteen men serving life sentences attended both workshops. I
supplemented these with several followup workshops and correspondence
study assignments. One of the men was assisted in putting together a
fifteen-hour workshop that enabled him to present what he had learned
to his fellow peers. Five of the original group of nineteen men
paroled. Three of those discharged from parole. The rate of recidivism
since 1998 is zero percent.
Drs. Viktor Frankl (1997) and his colleague and friend Joseph
Fabry (1988, 1994, & 1995) attempted to introduce logotherapy to
the inmates at San Quentin and Folsom State Prison. At San Quentin one
group of inmates formed a support group based on the principles of
logotherapy. The group maintained contact following each individual's
release from prison. Only one inmate in the logo-group returned to
prison. Dr. Louis S. Barber (Frankl, 1997) holds that logotherapy is
particularly applicable to the treatment of juvenile delinquents,
noting that "almost always the Aelack of meaning and purpose in their
lives' appeared to be present/ Said Barber, "We have one of the highest
rehabilitation rates in the U.S. working with young people in a
rehabilitation setting), a recidivism rate of less than 17 percent
against an average of some 40 percent.'
The value of writing in alcohol and drug recovery has long
been noted in treatment and twelve-step circles. However, Dr. Ira
Progoff (1992), creator of the Intensive Journal wrote that unguided
journal writing results in decreasing effectiveness over time. He also
noted that whereas unguided journal writing often declines into
behavior analysis and circuitous thinking, the Intensive Journal
process does not. Instead, through its non-judgmental, non-analytical
nature, along with "Journal Feedback,' it gives the writer a mirroring
capability that increases the energy, power, and effectiveness of the
process over time. This experience has an empowering effect upon the
Intensive Journal writer.
First introduced in 1992 at Folsom State Prison, the Intensive
Journal is a practical method of self-development that utilizes writing
exercises through a unique journal writing system. It based on depth
psychology and helps people access and work with their life
experiences, feelings about family relationships, job, health, and
meaning in life. Through a two-day introductory workshop, inmates
discover improvement in job retention (Sealy and Duffy, 1977), in
dealing with the causes of substance abuse and relapse and in
rehabilitation while incarcerated. The first workshop introduces
inmates to the first half of the Intensive Journal process. A second
two-day workshop introduces inmates to the second half of the Intensive
Journal. In the ten years since its introduction at Folsom State
Prison, not one inmate who had completed at least the introductory
Intensive Journal workshop returned to prison. In 2003 the Federal
Bureau of Prisons adopted the Intensive Journal into its comprehensive
re-entry program for inmates nearing parole.
In a related study of the impact on inmates at Folsom State
Prison, 308 men were asked to provide a list of eight to twelve
significant emotional events - ups and downs - that appeared to help
shape their lives. Specifically identified as "Steppingstones/ this
writing exercise is only one segment of the Intensive Journal process.
The lists were provided anonymously over a sixmonth period. They
included important events from childhood to the present education,
relationships, family life, mental, physical and spiritual health,
marriages and divorces, births and deaths, and significant conflicts.
The men were asked not to make any judgment - criticism or praise - for
the actions they took or for the circumstances that were forced upon
them, only to list them in the order that they came to mind.
A pattern appeared to take place. Without positive
intervention following significant emotional events, particularly when
they were traumatic in nature, all resorted to self-medicating,
diverting, and/or burying their childhood pain. Every individual had
been, is, or will be a victim in some way or other to trauma that
causes loss of meaning. One in every two men in this study experienced
the death of a loved one as a significant emotional event. One in every
three listed growing up in a single-parent home; in most cases the
custodial parent was the mother. And one in every five listed
experiencing some form of traumatic physical, emotional and/or sexual
abuse in childhood. When questioned later, four in every five
verbalized acceptance of childhood abuse as "normal' and therefore did
not list it as significant in their list of Steppingstones. Many also
accepted as normal parents self-medicating with illicit drugs in their
presence. Without therapeutic intervention shortly after these events,
they became at greater risk for antisocial behavior, low self-esteem,
depression, low educational attainment, underemployment, substance
abuse, mental illness, and suicidal ideation. The Intensive Journal
enabled them to deal with their issues in a safe, supporting
Education and Recidivism
Nearly 80 percent of state prison inmates have not completed
high school (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1993). Eighty percent of
these may have learning disabilities (Ross, 1987). A RAND study by the
Office of Correctional Education (1994) noted that the cost
effectiveness of graduation incentives, in serious crimes averted per
million dollars spent, was calculated to be five times better than that
of the 3-strikes program. Recidivism of young parolees is also related
to the amount of prior education. Recidivism did not increase despite
the fact that, as an incentive, graduates were released to parole about
10.6 months prior to their court determined minimum period of
incarceration according to a 1996 legislative report by the New York
Department of Correctional Services. Many states are granting early
release to non-violent prisoners, cutting sentences, sending drug
offenders to treatment centers, and revising tough-on-crime laws in
reverse of a 20-year trend as cost-saving measures (McMahon, 2003).
One study found that the recidivism rate for those who
received both the GED certificate and completed a vocational trade was
over 20 percent lower than for those who did not reach either
milestone. The overall recidivism rate for college degree holders was a
low 12 percent, and inversely differentiated by type of degree:
Associate, 13.7%; Baccalaureate, 5.6%; and Masters, 0% (U.S. Department
of Education, 1988-1994). The more educational programs successfully
completed for each six months confined the lower the recidivism rate
(Harer, 1994). In 1983 a study of the Folsom State Prison college
program revealed a zero percent recidivism rate for inmates earning a
bachelors degree, while the average recidivism rate for the state's
parolees was 23.9 percent for the first year, increasing to 55 percent
within three years (Taylor, 1992). College education does reduce the
likelihood of recidivism principally through post-release employment
(Batiuk, Moke, and Rounree, 1997). Employed ex-felons become taxpayers
and reduce the odds of their children eventually ending up in prison.
Recommendations by Judges, Wardens and Police Chiefs
In 2003 Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that
"prison terms are too long and that he favors scrapping the practice of
setting mandatory minimum sentences for some federal crimes' (Cearan,
2003). The American Society of Criminology recommended expanding drug
courts, alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, and
community-based sentencing and treatment for those arrested for drug
crimes. Furthermore, in a survey of prison wardens across America over
90 percent supported greater use of alternatives to incarceration, drug
treatment, vocational training, and literacy and other educational
programs (Sullivan, 1995). In another nationwide survey nearly 60
percent of police chiefs said placing drug users in court-supervised
treatment programs is more effective than sentencing them to jail to
prison. Nearly half of them said that more resources are needed to
improve education, prevention, and treatment (Law Enforcement News,
1996). Finally, the American Correctional Association President, Bobbie
Huskey (Sullivan, 1995), emphasized promoting greater use of sentencing
options for nonviolent crime.
Additional time served in prison has little impact on
recidivism. How can sentencing a child to life in a federal prison for
delivering a small package, containing a small quantity of crack
cocaine, for her uncle make the public safer? This is a child who was
doing well in school and had never been in trouble with the law.
Policies such as "truth-in-sentencing' that lengthen prison terms may
be ineffective in improving public safety. Longer prison terms may
provide some additional incapacitation effects, but they do so at great
cost to our social-economic system and at the expense of more effective
alternatives that make our communities safer. It is time that
correctional educators and the voters reverse the current trend,
emphasizing rehabilitation rather than punishment. When we suspect that
we are not being told the truth, we have a duty to do the research,
educate policy makers and legislators, and take the positive steps that
lead to programs that work, regardless of the prevailing trend.
Summary and Recommendations
The background of this paper is a long-term interest in the
psycho-spiritual nature of proven rehabilitation programs for
offenders. I have focused on "What works?' Some clear conclusions and
cause for recommendations have emerged.
* Rehabilitation does have an impact in reducing recidivism.
* Rehabilitation programs that have a significant impact on
reducing recidivism rates are those which are intense, of 18-24 months
minimum in duration and continue following release to the community.
* Program success depends on the selection of offenders who
have the potential of assuming responsibility. It also depends on the
patience and understanding of the program director in dealing with
prison authorities, prospective employers, and clients, who are often
suspicious, easily discouraged, and respond to negative peer pressure
from fellow inmates.
* Logotherapy holds great promise in restoring the "will to
meaning' to those who have lost it, not only to those in jail, prison,
or drug/alcohol rehabilitation programs, but also to those in grades
K-16. Dr. Fabry's Cuideposts to Meaning (1988) is an excellent resource
for program development.
* The Intensive Journal also hold great promise in
rehabilitating inmates as well as preventing young people from taking
the path that often leads to addictions and incarceration. It is not
only conducive in fostering self-improvement, but also in
fostering/developing vocational interests, in increasing awareness and
healing of health, addictions, and relationships. It also improves
writing and communication skills, enhances relationships with family,
and achieves breakthroughs in issues and decision-making.
Methods of prevention and rehabilitation do work, but
correctional, educational, spiritual and psychiatric staff on both
sides of the prison walls must support these goals if reduction in
recidivism rates is to be achieved. When we embrace rehabilitation as a
goal, we embrace hope. Hopefully, prevention and alternatives to
incarceration will be emphasized to a much greater degree in the
future. In the words of Nietzsche: "When we treat a man as he is, he
only becomes worse. But, when we treat a man as he can be, he will be
that which he can be.”
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Copyright Correctional Education Association Sep 2004
Harvey Shrum, Ed
.D., is a Re-Entry teacher at Folsum State Prison. At the urging of the
late Dr. Fabry, Institute of Logotherapy, Dr. Shrum is nearing
completion of a self-help book entitled seeking Meaning in a Cell.
"Intensive Journal" and "Journal Feedback" are trademarks of Jon Progoff and used under license by Dialogue House.