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What Works: Effective Recidivism Reduction and Risk-Focused Prevention Programs

NCJ Number
Roger Przybylski
Date Published
May 2008
154 pages

This report identifies and describes interventions that are effective in reducing recidivism and preventing crime with the primary audience the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.


A variety of programs, properly targeted and well-implemented, can reduce recidivism and enhance public safety. Those programs identified in this report as effective in the reduction of recidivism include: educational and vocational programming, substance abuse treatment, drug courts, sex offender treatment, mental health treatment, cognitive behavior programs, and programs for juvenile offenders (family-based programs). In addition, risk-focused prevention programs have been identified as employing various strategies to reduce the influence of risk factors that are associated with criminal conduct. These risk-focused prevention programs should be delivered early in life before law-breaking behavior begins. Those programs identified in this report as effective in preventing the onset of criminal behavior include: nurse home visits during infancy, preschool programs, parent management training, child social skills training, school-based programs, and community-based programs. There are effective prevention programs to counteract risk factors at every stage of a child's development. There are also effective programs for addressing the wide range of criminogenic needs found among offenders already in contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Investing in these evidence-based programs is key to reducing victimization and increasing public safety. This report, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, is based on a comprehensive and systematic review on what works to reduce recidivism or prevent the onset of delinquent and criminal behavior. The primary goal of this compendium is to assist the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice in carrying out its mission and duties, including investigating evidence-based recidivism reduction initiatives and cost effective crime prevention programs. Figures, tables, and references