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Evidence-Based Adult Corrections Programs: What Works and What Does Not

NCJ Number
Steve Aos; Marna Miller; Elizabeth Drake
Date Published
20 pages

This preliminary report provides a comprehensive review of evidence-based programs for adult offenders with the aim of lowering criminal recidivism rates.


This report to the Washington State Legislature summarizes the authors’ review of evidence-based adult corrections programs, updating a similar study from 2001. The authors systematically reviewed evidence from 291 rigorous evaluations of adult corrections programs, conducted through the U.S. and other English-speaking countries during the last 35 years, to determine methods for reducing recidivism rates in Washington. The overall goal of this report is to provide policymakers with a comprehensive assessment of adult corrections programs and policies that have a proven ability to affect crime rates. The findings from the authors’ systematic review of the adult corrections evaluation literature are summarized in a chart to accompany the text. The authors organized their review into eight categories of correctional programming: programs for drug-involved offenders; for offenders with co-occurring disorders; for the general offender population; for domestic violence offenders; for sex offenders; intermediate sanctions; work and education programs for the general offender population; and program areas in need of additional research and development. The four appendices include: meta-analysis coding criteria; procedures for calculating effect sizes; Institute adjustments to effect sizes for methodological quality, outcome-measure relevance, and researcher involvement; and meta-analytic results—estimated effect sizes and citations to studies used in the analyses.