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Reducing recidivism - an exploration of one county’s effort, Part III
By Aaron M. Henderson and Deb Perry
Published: 02/16/2009

0202puzzlechain713960 Editor’s note: Last week, part two of this three-part series discussed the study’s assessment tools and the Risk/Need Principle. The series concludes this week with a look at the data and individuals of the study and the conclusions reached by the researchers.

Data Sets

The first comparative data set included those individuals who attended and successfully completed the “Thinking for a Change Program” and their activities the following three-year period. A rate of recidivism was established and compared to those who did not receive the programming.

While it is the goal to look at the entire change in programming within the Blackford County Judicial System, the common notable difference in data sets is the Thinking for a Change Program. In most cases, this program was implemented in addition to other previously required programs, (i.e. Counseling, Electronic Home Detention, GED, etc.).

For the purpose of this study recidivism is defined as:
“an individual who, within a three year period of time commits additional criminal acts similar in nature to the originating offense within Blackford County and the contiguous counties of Jay, Grant, Wells and Delaware . “
Lastly a comparative study will further analyze the client’s criminal activities as they pertain to other offenses which are not similar in nature. It is the goal of this study to provide meaningful results based on four years of change and evolution for the Blackford County Community Corrections and Blackford County Probation Departments; the cohesive working environment, and the efforts of the departments to identify and utilize programs that can and do make changes in individual’s behaviors.


Individuals referred to evidence based practice programs within the past four years have been included in this study and tracked for a period of three years to determine the effectiveness of the programming and methods of supervision. The basis of the study included individuals who successfully completed programs to individuals who did not complete similar programming.

Primary areas of concern for this study are to measure the effectiveness of programs which are matched to the offender’s criminogenic needs. This study has measured success based on offenders who do not re-offend with similar offense for which they have received treatment.

For those individuals who commit subsequent offenses different in nature to the initial offense, may not have received programs or treatment matching that particular need.

For the purpose of establishing a baseline of recidivism in Blackford County a random draw of 100 clients was pulled and evaluated on a one and three year interval. This baseline can then be compared to the current statistics of those individuals (55) who have been ordered to participate in evidence-based programming, specifically the Thinking for a Change Program.

An additional 55 clients were then selected based on similar offenses and similar risks assessment scores who were not required to participate in the programming. It was necessary to develop these three groups of individuals to further examine the impact of new policies and individualized case planning regardless of evidence based practice programs.


At the local level, comparisons have been made with current evidence based practices compared to those prior to the implementation of these practices. For the purpose of understanding the outlying impact of the programs, data has been collected and measured to include cross comparisons for offenses of any type as well as offenses committed that are similar in nature.

As noted the data has been closely matched based on offense and risk and whether or not they completed the Thinking for a Change Program, an identified Evidence Based Program.

This is independent of any additional Court sanctions and is the leading differentiating practice at this time relative to the Evidence Based Practice programming changes. The initial set of comparison data represents those clients served prior to the implementation of any Evidence Based Programming and individualized service programming.

Committed new offense regardless of type:

Prior to Implementation (100 random clients):
Within 1 year: 34.4% committed a new criminal offense.
Within 3 years: 50.5% committed a new criminal offense.
Since Implementation (55 clients):
Within 1 year w/o evidence based programs: 29.1% Committed new offense.
Within 1 year with evidence based programs: 14.5%
Within 3 years w/o EBP: 45.5%
Within 3 years with EBP: 20.0%

Committed new offense of like kind:

Prior to Implementation (100 random clients):

Within 1 year: 21.5% committed a new criminal offense.
Within 3 years: 32.25% committed a new criminal offense.
Since Implementation (55 clients):
Within 1 year w/o evidence based programs: 16.4% Committed new offense.
Within 1 year with evidence based programs: 5.45%
Within 3 years w/o EBP: 18.1%
Within 3 years with EBP: 9.1%

In short, the programs and tools implemented within the Blackford County Judicial System are working. The results noted above speak for themselves and are now a solid basis and justification for continued work in the area of Evidence Based Programming.

Ensuring that programs meet the need of the individual is critical to the continued success of the judicial system.

The potential exists to decrease expenses associated with incarceration of these individuals over a substantial period of time due to their decreased patterns of criminal behavior. These results also show that the mere changes of individualized case management for these individuals can slightly reduce the likelihood that they will reoffend, but not to the significance of implementing evidence based practices.

Efforts continue to be made in the area of additional program implementation. At the time of this writing, steps are being made to implement Prime for Life as well as other individualized case management programs to ensure that the dynamic risk factors are being addressed to further support and reduce the rates of recidivism.

Clients are now being evaluated utilizing the LSI-R assessment tool to prepare and utilize individualized case management protocol in an effort to identify the most critical areas of need for the individual. Addressing these critical needs first is now a top priority in an effort to continue the reduction of recidivism rates for Blackford County.

Works Cited

(2007). 2007 Annual Report . Indianapolis: Indiana Department of Correction.

Andrews, D., & Bonta, J. (1994). The Psychology of Criminal Conduct. Cincinnatti, OH: Anderson.

Andrews, D., Zinger, I., Hoge, R., Bonta, J., Gendreau, P., & Cullen, F. (1990). Does Correctional Treatment Work? A Clinical Relevant and Psychologically Informed Meta-Analysis. Criminology, 28(3) , 369-404.

Andrews, D., Zinger, I., Hoge, R., Bonta, J., Gendreau, P., & Cullen, F. (1990). Does Correctional Treatment Work? A clinically relevant and psychologically informed meta-analysis. Criminology, 28(3) , 369-404.

Aos, S., Miller, M., & Drake, E. (January, 2006). Evidence-Based Adult Corrections Programs: What Works and What Does Not. Washington State Institute for Public Policy , 1-19.

Dennehy, K. M. (2006, December). Offender Programming: A Smart Investment for Society. Corrections Today , 8.

Garner, A. (2008). Recidivism Rates Compared 2005-2007. Indianapolis: Indiana Department of Correction.

Menken, A. D. (1924). The Rehabilitation of the Morally Handicapped. Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law & Criminology , 147-154.

Moll, R. (2006). Rx for recidivism. Christianty Today, 50(11) , 70-74.

Rhine, E. (2002). Why 'What Works' Matters Under the 'Broken Windows Model' of Supervision. Federal Probation, 66(2) , 38.

Stephan, J. J. (June 2004). State Prison Expenditures, 2001. Bureau od Justice Statistics , 1-9.

Aaron M. Henderson is the Chief Probation Officer for the Blackford County Courts in Hartford City, Indiana


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