U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Cognitive Behavioral Theory, Young Adults, and Community Corrections: Pathways for Innovation

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2018
16 pages

One in a series of papers from the Harvard Kennedy School Executive Session on Community Corrections (2013-2017), this paper reviews a collaborative effort to address one of community corrections' most troublesome challenges, i.e., the shortage of effective tools for reducing high recidivism rates among young adults.


This paper focuses on a case study of this challenge, which involved a community-based organization in Massachusetts that serves high-risk, young male offenders ages 17 to 24. This organization, named Boca, partnered with Community Psychiatry PRIDE, an implementation and dissemination clinical research center affiliated with Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. This organization focuses on reducing mental health disparities in racially and ethnically diverse communities. The collaboration focused on designing a curriculum that would meet the needs of high-risk young adults in a community corrections setting. A description of the curriculum- development process focuses on the literature review, needs assessment and model review, curriculum development, and piloting. The curriculum developed is a new cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) curriculum that focuses on improving emotion regulation and interpersonal problem-solving skills, It narrowed the key concepts of CBT to 10 core skills. The process also included tailoring the curriculum to the specific behavioral and emotional needs of the young men served by Boca. The intervention was adapted so that it could be delivered by paraprofessionals. An evidence-based implementation strategy was developed to ensure that the curriculum is delivered with a high level of fidelity, competency, and frequency (dosage). To date, Boca is implementing the final curriculum and testing its effectiveness in preparation for broader use by other programs and community corrections agencies. Lessons learned thus far from this effort in innovation are discussed. 1 figure, 1 table, and 25 references

Date Published: April 1, 2018