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Practical Perspective: Leaders Get Paid to Think Outside the Box
By Major Clifford G. Tebbitt, Jail Administrator, Scott County Sheriff's Office
Published: 08/08/2011

County jail The literature suggests public policy makers across the United States are realizing that without education, job skills, and other basic services, offenders are likely to repeat the same steps that brought them to jail in the first place (“Pew Center on the States,” 2011). A new perspective seeing criminal justice corrections outcome failures have motivated leaders to call for the problem to be addressed head-on. This perspective identifies the essence of prevailing corrections theory and an expanding public policy viewpoint influencing many jurisdictions throughout the United States today.

The literature indicates that throughout the United States while many jurisdictions contemplate reforms to their criminal justice system, a growing assumption within strategies to improve the system’s performance centers on attitudes surrounding corrections methodology has become clear; as the need for correctional reforms from punitive approaches to behavior change has become apparent (Gatotoh, Omulema & Nassiuma, 2011; Stinchcomb, 2002). Past practices such as confinement, punishment, and/or rehabilitation are currently primary strategies under debate for their assumed public policy merits and achieved outcomes (Samaha, 2006). The literature consistently calls for public policy makers for a shift in practices that would align strategies with empirically validated results and on evidence base conclusions, and to abandon failed practices of the past (Gatotoh, Omulema & Nassiuma, 2011; Stinchcomb, 2002).

Concepts, as abstractions in reality, play a key role in the development and testing of assumptions (Zikmund, Babin, Carr & Griffin, 2010). From a practical standpoint for the jail administrator to understand, concepts are the building blocks that form theories. Hypotheses connect specific concept values by their relationships between a set of concepts (Zikmund, Babin, Carr & Griffin, 2010). For example, crime and punishment concepts form generalized ideas that research has found comprehensive ideas about a class of programs, attributions, occurrences, and processes that have been identified to reduce crime (Zikmund, Babin, Carr & Griffin, 2010).

The concept of “what works” in corrections is theoretically translated from evidence based best practice into inmate programming, with the primary motivation of corrections practitioners to reduce recidivism (Shrum, 2004; Ismailova, 2007). This is a term used by Andrews et al., (1990) in a study on correctional treatment. Andrews et al. (1990) reported after examining the literature on the topic that “what works” is the delivery of appropriate correctional service, and appropriate service reflects three psychological principles, is the delivery of service to higher risk cases, is the targeting of criminogenic needs, and uses styles and modes of treatment (e.g., cognitive and behavioral) that are matched with client need and learning styles (p. 369). The term “what works” evolved from these premises and continues to be used today (Eaton, 2008). The literature suggests current practices supporting what works theory in recidivism reduction is a process of integrating theory and individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research (Sackett, William, Rosenberg, Gray, Brian & Richardson, 1996; Crayton, Ressler, Mukamal, Jannetta & Warwick, 2010).

Perspective on the science of theory provides phenomenological investigating lens that enables the jail administrator to focus on aspects of the field of study (Venable, 2006; Zikmund, Babin, Carr & Griffin, 2010). Moreover, research conducted in the area reports abstraction of theory enables predicting behavior characteristics of one phenomenon from the knowledge of another phenomenon (Zikmund, Babin, Carr & Griffin, 2010). Theory can be viewed, for example, as a set of statements describing relationships among variables (Creswell, 2009), as “attempts to answer the `why' questions in social science” (de Vaus, 2001, p. 5), or as an interpretive framework for making sense of and analyzing a phenomenon.

Crime and punishment theories allows the jail administrator to generalize beyond individual facts or isolated situations, and provide a framework that can guide managerial strategy by providing insights into general rules of behavior (Zikmund, Babin, Carr & Griffin, 2010). The knowledge gained from an understanding of theory, practice will help jail administrators, and practitioners put into practice general facts and/or patterns comparative to crime and punishment into predicable practical value (Zikmund, Babin, Carr & Griffin, 2010). Relative to the following crime and punishment related theories, this information is often used to guide research and the practitioner by providing a starting place and by providing insights into general rules of behavior, indicating what things should be observed, and showing how these things should relate (Zikmund, Babin, Carr & Griffin, 2010).

Practitioners in the field of corrections have embraced the challenge of rethinking their core functions in pursuit of identifying what works in the reduction of recidivism with new re-entry theory model (Visher & Weisburd, 1997; Wilkinson & Rhine, 2005; Wilkinson, Rhine & Henderson-Hurley, 2005; Wilson & Draine, 2006; Visher, 2006; Travis, 2007). Measured by its ability to rehabilitate prisoners and facilitate their successful reentry to society, it has been assessed within one recent study by all accounts a past failure (Earley, 2005). The underlying assumption operating in this article is the premise that “leaders get paid to think outside the box”, and understanding our profession’s literature, as well as embracing a good understanding of our businesses concepts enables momentum within our team’s action toward fulfilling the corrections mission. An impressive body of literature providing considerable empirical evidence that rehabilitation efforts can and do work to reduce offender recidivism embodies corrections evidence-based practices (Rhine, Mawhorr & Parks, 2006).


Andrews, D. A., Zinger, I., Hoge, R. D., Bonta, J., Gendreau, P., & Cullen, F. T. (1990). Does correctional treatment work? A clinically relevant and psychologically informed meta-analysis. Criminology, 28(3), 369. Retrieved from http://heinonline.org /HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/crim28&div=24&g_sent=1&collection=journals.

Crayton, A., Ressler, L., Mukamal, D. A., Jannetta, J., & Warwick, K. (2010). Partnering with Jails to Improve Reentry: A Guidebook for Community-Based Organizations. Urban Institute, U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance-Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved from the National Institute of Corrections website: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/ 412211-partner-with-jails.pdf.

Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN: 9781412965576.

de Vaus, D. A. (2001). Research Design in Social Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN: 076153477.

Earley, M. L. (2005). The role of nonprofits in the rehabilitation of prisoners. Institute for Criminal Justice Ethics (Wntr-Spring ed.) Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/ p/articles/mi_hb3009/is_1_24/ai_n29223820/.

Eaton, K. M. (2008). A case study of a county-managed day reporting center (DRC). Ph.D. dissertation, Walden University, United States -- Minnesota. Retrieved from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text. (Publication No. AAT 3325351).

Gatotoh, A. M., Omulema, B. E. E., & Nassiuma, D. (2011). Correctional Attitudes: An Impetus for a Paradigm Shift in Inmate Rehabilitation. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. Vol. 1 No. 4. Retrieved from http://www.ijhssnet.com/journals/Vol._1_No._4;_April_2011/31.pdf.

Ismailova, Z. (2007). Prison Education Program Participation and Recidivism. M.A. dissertation, Duquesne University, United States -- Pennsylvania. Retrieved from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text.(Publication No. AAT 1441269).

Pew Center on the States. State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons. Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts, April 2011. Retrieved from www.pew centeronthestates.org.

Rhine, E. E., Mawhorr, T. L., & Parks, E. C. (2006). Implementation: The bane of effective correctional programs. Criminology & Public Policy, 5(2), 347-357. Retrieved from Research Library. (Document ID: 1072403961).

Sackett, D. L., William M. C., Rosenberg, J. A., Gray, M., Brian, H. R., & Richardson, W. S. (1996). Evidence-Based Medicine: What It Is and What It Isn’t. British Medical Journal 312: 71-2. Retrieved from http://www.chiro.org/ChiroZine/FULL/Evidence_Based_ Medicine_What_it_is.shtml.

Samaha, J. B. (2006). Criminal Justice. (7th ed.). Thomson/Wadsworth. ISBN: 0534645577.

Shrum, H. (2004). No Longer Theory: Correctional Practices That Work. Journal of Correctional Education, 55(3), 225-235. Retrieved from Research Library. (Document ID: 726738701).

Stinchcomb, J. B. (2002). From rehabilitation to retribution: Examining public policy paradigms and personnel education patterns in corrections. American Journal of Criminal Justice. Volume 27, Number 1, 1-17, DOI: 10.1007/BF02898967. Retrieved from http://www.springerlink.com/content/x325p6v0644225l2/.

Travis, J. (2007). Reflections on the Reentry Movement. Federal Sentencing Reporter, 20(2), 84- 87. Retrieved from Research Library. (Document ID: 1412277181).

Venable, J. R. (2006). The Role of Theory and Theorising in Design Science Research. School of Information Systems. Curtin University of Technology. Perth, Western Australia. Retrieved from http://espace.lis.curtin.edu.au/secure/00001671/01/1581_ The_Role_of_Theory_and_Theorising_in_IS_Design_Science_Research.doc.

Visher, C. A., & Weisburd, D. (1997). Identifying what works: Recent trends in crime prevention strategies. Crime, Law and Social Change, 28(3-4), 223-242. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 977878111).

Visher, C. A. (2006). Effective Reentry Programs. Criminology & Public Policy, 5(2), 299- 303. Retrieved from Research Library. (Document ID: 1072403581).

Wilkinson, R. A., & Rhine, E. E. (2005). The International Association of Reentry Mission and Future. Journal of Correctional Education, 56(2), 139-145. Retrieved from Research Library. (Document ID: 863904371).

Wilkinson, R. A., Rhine, E. E., & Henderson-Hurley, M. (2005). Reentry in Ohio Corrections: A Catalyst for Change. Journal of Correctional Education, 56(2), 158-172. Retrieved from Research Library. (Document ID: 863904411).

Wilson, A. B., & Draine, J. (2006). Collaborations Between Criminal Justice and Mental Health Systems for Prisoner Reentry. Psychiatric Services, 57(6), 875-8. Retrieved from Research Library. (Document ID: 1157315401).

Zikmund, W. G., Babin, B. J., Carr, J. C., & Griffin, M. (2010). Business research methods (8th ed.). Pgs 38-49. Thousand Oaks, CA: Thomson/South-Western. ISBN-13: 978-0-324-32062-6.

Editors note: Major Clifford G. Tebbitt, of the Scott County Iowa Sheriff's Office. Mr. Tebbitt is a Jail Administrator and a PhD candidate. The series includes: contemporary issues with jail/corrections administration. The series uses the fictitious County name of Acme County.

Other articles by Tebbitt:


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