Evidence-Based Practices in Texas Corrections Today

Once convicted, individuals are taken to the correction facilities to serve their sentence. Examples of correction facilities include jail, prison, or any place used to incarcerate convicted individuals officials. The purpose of such facilities is to confine and rehabilitate people who have committed crimes. In these facilities, inmates usually engage in educational, industrial, and vocational paying programs that aim at transforming their lives and helping them acquire skills that are usually very useful for the inmates upon their release from prison. Convicts have constitutional rights that should not be infringed; therefore, state governments have the responsibility of ensuring that the standard of living in these facilities is not inhumane or abusive. The number of inmates keeps increasing yearly, making it very difficult for the available resources in the correction facilities to sustain and absorb the inmates (Cosmos, 2012). Congestion is a challenge for the prison system since it is very hard to control and instill order behind prison bars. The Justice Department of United States has tried to apply the best practice approach as an addition to the training and technical assistance it gives to the correction facilities. This essay seeks to determine evidence-based practice used in the Texas correction facilities and find how effective they are in the transformation of inmates.

Evidence-Based Practice

This system is adopted so that the initiatives and learning programs offered were effective. The evidence-based practice aims at reducing the risk that occurs due to the offender’s release since its main goal is achieving the needed outcome. Many released offenders end up becoming recidivists; therefore, the risks that arise due to chances of them committing the same crimes after being released from the prison are to be reduced and to ensure public safety. The evidence-based practices are implemented using the integrated model that helps in achieving successful reforms in the correction facilities. The integration model allows the cooperation of different fields like social science, which ensures that a sustainable and effective framework is integrated into the correction system. The integrated model has three sectors that include-evidenced base practices, organizational development, and collaboration. Organization, the internal strategy, and development allow the shift from the traditional supervision to the evidenced-based practice. After the installation of all these programs, there should be a collaboration with all the stakeholders who will ensure that the programs work efficiently and in a holistic system. Collaboration and system change are usually time and resource demanding. Therefore, all the stakeholders involved in the process should be included in the decision-making (Guevara, Crime and Justice Institute, & Solomon, 2009). Collaboration is the external strategy that ensures that every party is involved.

Evidence-based practices must be measurable and they must have defined practical realities; this will ensure that the practice is the most effective one in reforming the behavior of the offender. The evidence-based practices have eight principles used to ensure that the practices are very effective (Crime & Justice Institute, 2004). These principles are as follows.

Assessing Actuarial Risk

This instrument is very accurate and reliable in helping to determine an offender’s risk but it is used in very few courts during sentencing or giving a response to offenders who have not followed the instructions. They can be formal or informal but all the data collected is used during assessment. The assessment of risks gives a clear picture of which program the offender should be involved in (Crime & Justice Institute, 2004).

Enhance Intrinsic Motivation

The staffs have the responsibility to take care of the offenders by being sensitive. This is done to enhance intrinsic motivation among the offenders, which will contribute to their behavioral change. Once the offender has started to change his or her behavior, it is important to keep n motivating them through interviews that will encourage their communication (Crime & Justice Institute, 2004).

Target Interventions

In the correction facilities, the level of risk for each offender varies. Therefore, the high-risk offenders should be involved more in the program to ensure that they do not exhibit recidivism. Offenders may have needs that are linked to their criminal behavior, but if these needs become the main target and they are changed, then the offender’s risk is reduced (Crime & Justice Institute, 2004). The appropriate dose of service and the application of resources greatly depend on the level of risk of the offender. High-risk offenders usually need more internal structure as compared to the low-risk offenders. When offering services, the level of response of the offender should be matched with their characters to ensure that the treatment is most effective in changing the offender. The timely treatment intervention ensures that the change achieved has the greatest long-term benefit not only to the community but also to the offenders.

Skill Train with Directed Practice

The programs offered should focus on the cognitive behavioral strategies that will see a change in the offender’s behavior. The staff should teach and encourage positive attitudes and behavior in offenders, which will reduce their recidivism (Crime & Justice Institute, 2004). The offenders end up acquiring the needed skills that improve their social attitude and behavior.

Increase Positive Reinforcement

To ensure that behavioral change is achieved, positive reinforcement should be encouraged instead of the negative one so that offender acquired a sustained behavior (Crime & Justice Institute, 2004). Positive reinforcement should not be done at the expense of disregarding negative behavior. Negative behavior should be countered by rewarding positive behavior.

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Engage Ongoing Support in Natural Communities

The community has a role of encouraging the offender’s behavior to change; therefore, the immediate environment that the offender lives in should be positive in order to reinforce new behaviors (Crime & Justice Institute, 2004). The immediate environment includes family members and friends.

Measure Relevant Process

The outcome should be measured and accurately documented, which will give a clear indication if the evidence-based practice becomes effective (Crime & Justice Institute, 2004). The change in the offender and the staff performance is assessed regularly and documented, which will help attain the needed results.

Provide Measurement Feedback

For any organization, feedback is most important in ensuring that the system in place works as intended, recording and monitoring the progress of behavioral change. Feedback builds accountability and enhances change and other needed outcomes (Crime & Justice Institute, 2004). These feedbacks help to know which people are not comfortable with the programs and the areas that need to be changed.

Its Implementation in Texas Correction Facilities

Texas correctional facilities have been using the evidence-based practices to ensure that the offender’s risk is evaluated and assessed. The community has tried to achieve the common goal of public safety that cannot be done if the offenders are not transformed after they serve their sentence or probation. This is done with the aim of avoiding recidivism of any inmates released from the prisons and it provides them with the alternative means of punishment to incarceration. The Texas government has allocated funds in its budget for the implementation of all these programs. The most important aspect of these programs is the assessment of the risk caused by the offender. The less risky offenders are usually assessed and sentenced to community supervision, while the riskiest ones are sentenced to imprisonment.

Positive Results Attained

In Texas, the number of felony offenders and probationers has decreased since those taken through the program end up adopting positive behaviors, whicch shows that the evidence-based programs truly effective (Assessment.com, n.d). Improved supervision associated with evidence-based programs has contributed to making the community safe by reducing the occurrence of crimes. Consequently, this proves the effectiveness of these programs. This program has also made it easy to classify adult offenders in the community, which makes it easy to decide which offenders can be given an early discharge. The progress of the offender is documented, including their risk assessment and their profile. The staff’s ability is also evaluated and assessed in order to know how skillful they are in motivating and sustain change. The implementation of these programs has seen a reduction in the number of adult incarcerations in Texas, while also ensuring that the public safety is maintained (Assessment.com, n.d). Despite the costs involved in the implementation and shift into this system of evidence-based practices, in the long term, they become cost saving to the community. This becomes possible because the money that is usually used to chasing down the law offenders, trying them in court, and maintaining prisons is used in the investment of public resources. The research of how effective the evidence-based practice, when applied in the correction facilities, is evaluated if it works in reducing recidivism. Thus, this enhances the research development.

Challenges

The biggest challenge is to reduce the number of offenders who would not turn back from their behaviors and continue to practice their unlawful activities. Recidivism remains a challenge with the number of offenders increasing in the state, which has increased the number of prison and jail population offenders. The implementation of these programs is costly to the government, which, in turn, strains the government and increases the economic distress of Texas. In order to take the offender through the prohibition, the state has to spend significant amount of money to run the programs. This increases the amount of tax paid (Assessment.com, n.d). In addition, the state has to build more prisons, which additionally strains the state budget, affecting the economic stability of Texas. A safe environment is a constitutional right to every citizen; therefore, courts work tirelessly in ensuring that the offenders are removed from the public and the victims are compensated efficiently. However, there has been a need for reforms in the correction facilities due to the inhumane condition and security in prisons. This has prompted the in-cooperation of evidence-based practice in correction facilities. These practices aim at changing and transforming the behavior of the inmates and encouraging their positive behavior. Thus, the staff is trained on how to encourage the offenders’ positive behaviors. The immediate environment that the offender lives in should also be inspected to ensure that they do not go back to their past behavior while trying to avoid committing new crimes. Currently, many of the offenders and victims undertake such programs that encourage healing and forgiveness in the community. The family, spouses, and friends are also to be involved in the programs to ensure that once the offenders are released from prison, they do not become recidivist because that will be a failure in the program and the evidence-based practices.

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Conclusion

The need to control correction facilities has forced state governments to implement evidence-based practices in their correction facilities. Texas is one of the states that use this practice with the aim of reducing the number of offenders in their prisons. Such practices include assessing actual risk, intrinsic motivation, target interventions, skill training and directed practice, positive reinforcement, engaging the natural community, measuring relevant process, and the provision of feedback. The practice has worked in the state well, and there has been a decrease in the number of offenders. However, the implementation of these programs has come at a high cost to the government, and the funds could be utilized and used in other spheres of life.

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