Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

EBP Publications

An Example of a Practice/Policy that was Demonstrated Not to Work via Research

One evidence-based principle suggests using research to inform policy and practice in the field. Sometimes that means finding out a program does not perform as well as originally intended. An example would be the Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) model. HOPE is based on a model to reinforce a strong and immediate relationship between probationers’ actions and their consequences, sending consistent messages to probationers about personal accountability and responsibility, while directly involving the judge. HOPE conducts frequent and random drug tests for high-risk probationers, and responds to detected violations (including failed drug tests and missed appointments) with swift, certain and short stays in jail. HOPE also rewards probationers for negative drug tests and other compliant behavior and mandates treatment upon request for probationers who do not abstain from drug use while in the program.

After the model was initially implemented in Hawaii, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded a research study to determine its effectiveness on supervision outcomes among probationers (see Hawken & Kleiman, 2009). The researchers found that HOPE probationers were 55% less likely to use drugs, 72% less likely to skip appointments, and 53% less likely to have their probation be revoked, as compared to the control group. The study provided early evidence of the benefit in applying swift and certain graduated, proportional punishment to improve the outcomes of drug use and crime.

Several years later, as the HOPE model became more well-known across the country and in the field, NIJ funded an additional research study to evaluate the model in multiple demonstration field sites across the continental United States (see Lattimore et al., 2016). The results of this study found no significant differences among supervision outcomes―arrests, probation revocations, or new convictions―between probationers who underwent the HOPE model approach and those who underwent probation as usual. Both research studies used the same rigorous, randomized control trial methodological design as well.

Such a research process does not necessarily mean that the HOPE model, in this case, isn’t effective at all. What it does tell us is where there are limitations to the model and what efforts should be made to modify it to become the most effective model in a community supervision setting.


Brad Bogue Bill Woodward Nancy M. Campbell Elyse Clawson Dorothy Faust. “Implementing Evidence-Based Practice in Community Corrections: The Principles of Effective Intervention.” National Institute of Corrections, 2004.
Principles of effective evidence-based intervention are presented. Topics discussed include: 

  • Evidence-based practice (EBP)
  • Term clarification
  • Eight principles for effective interventions—(1) assess actuarial risk/needs, (2) enhance intrinsic motivation, (3) target interventions, (4) skill train with directed practice, (5) increase positive reinforcement, (6) engage ongoing support in natural communities, (7) measure relevant processes/practices, and (8) provide measurement feedback
  • Components of correctional interventions
  • Implementation of EBP principles
  • Application of the principles of EBP at the case, agency, and system levels
  • Seven recommended strategies for implementing effective interventions
  • Levels of research evidence

“Toward Evidence-Based Decision Making in Community Corrections: Research and Strategies for Successful Implementation.” National Institute of Corrections. Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA) (Washington DC), November 1, 2013.
This special issue of Justice Research and Policy contains invited articles on community corrections, with special emphasis on successful implementation strategies. A common thread that runs through these articles relates to what is needed to better ensure fidelity to evidence[1]based practices in community supervision and treatment. The research and implementation strategies shared by the authors should provide greater guidance to agency and program administrators working to assimilate evidence[1]based practices into their organizations.

Rempel, Michael. “Evidence-Based Strategies for Working with Offenders.” Innovating Justice. Center for Court Innovation, Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2014.
Findings from academic and program evaluation literatures in the fields of psychology, criminal justice, sociology, and public policy suggest that evidence-based interventions, which effectively combine the core principles of rehabilitation (risk-need-responsivity), deterrence, procedural justice, and collaboration, can significantly reduce recidivism. 

The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Legislating Evidence-Based Policymaking.” The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Pew Charitable Trusts, March 3, 2015.
To examine this trend, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative reviewed more than 100 state statutes passed between 2004 and 2014 and identified five different approaches to promoting data-driven program choices.

Orchowsky, Stan, and Roger Przybylski. “Promoting and Sustaining the Use of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices by State Administering Agencies.” Justice Research and Statistics Association, Justice Research and Statistics Association, National Criminal Justice Association, 2016,
These toolkits comprise "a series on promoting the use of evidence-based practices in State Administering Agencies (SAAs) [in understanding and implementing evidence-based practices (EBPs) in their states]. These toolkits include a briefing paper, an executive summary, and a slideshow."

“JTC Resource Bulletin Using Technology to Improve Pretrial Release Decision-Making.” Joint Technology Committee, 17 Feb. 2016. 
"Properly validated evidence-based pretrial risk assessment tools are better predictors of pretrial success than money bail or professional discretion alone. Jurisdictions can implement a pretrial risk assessment tool using data collected manually from local, state and federal databases, but a pretrial risk assessment tool would ideally be automated and integrated with existing systems that house relevant data. Implementing an automated pretrial release tool is a relatively small project with the potential for significant judicial, social and fiscal benefits" (p. ii). Sections following an executive summary cover pretrial detention decisionmaking, pretrial risk assessment tools, technology considerations, data considerations, implementation considerations, and an overall summary. 

“Evidence-Based Practices in the Criminal Justice System: An Annotated Bibliography.” National Institute of Corrections. National Institute of Corrections. Information Center (NICIC), 2017.
This bibliography is not a complete list of “EBP” citations, but a mere selection based on questions we receive at the Information Center. 

“Implementation of Evidence-Based Practices in Corrections.” National Institute of Corrections. NIC Information Center, July 2017. 
Implementation of Evidence-Based Practices in Corrections Bibliography PDF 
This annotated bibliography was developed to provide current and useful information to professionals on implementation of evidence-based programs in the criminal justice system. Topics covered include implementation science, community services, fidelity, health, juvenile justice, and local and state efforts. 

James, Nathan. “Risk and Needs Assessment in the Federal Prison System.” Congressional Research Service Reports. Congressional Research Service, July 10, 2018.
The Risk-Needs-Responsivity (RNR) model has become the dominant paradigm in risk and needs assessment. The risk principle states that convicted offenders need to be placed in programs that are commensurate with their risk level; in other words, provide more intensive treatment and services to high-risk offenders while low-risk offenders should receive minimal or even no intervention. The need principle states that effective treatment should also focus on addressing the criminogenic needs that contribute to criminal behavior. The responsivity principle states that rehabilitative programming should be delivered in a style and mode that is consistent with the ability and learning style of the offender.

Cunningham, Mary. "Mental Health & Trauma among Incarcerated Persons: Development of a Training Curriculum for Correctional Officers." ResearchGate. February 1, 2019.
With probation officers providing services to nearly five million people on community supervision in the United States, they play a critical role in the criminal justice system. Finding proven, effective ways to enhance probation and parole practices is important in keeping people from returning to the correctional system, which will improve lives and reduce costs. Evidenced-based research exists to help probation/parole officers improve their practice; however, the research can be difficult for probation/parole agencies to implement.

Box Set: Evidence-Based Principles for Reducing Offender Risk 
Since 2002, NIC and the Crime and Justice Institute have worked to develop processes and tools to assist state and local jurisdictions implement successful practices to reduce offender risk. Efforts at four project sites (Maine; Illinois; Orange County, CA; and Maricopa County, AZ) have resulted in an implementation framework that applies evidence-based principles for corrections, as well as other components and stakeholders of the justice system. Experiences at these project sites has made it clear that officials from all system components and stakeholders involved with offenders as they move through the system need practical information regarding the basic research principles of risk reduction.

Crime and Justice Institute EBP Integrated Model 
The Vision: To build learning organizations that reduce recidivism through systemic integration of evidence-based principles in collaboration with community and justice partners. 
Through this cooperative agreement established in the fall of 2002, NIC joined with the Crime and Justice Institute to assist two pilot states (Illinois and Maine) in applying an integrated approach to the implementation of evidence-based principles in community corrections. The project model maintains an equal and integrated focus on three domains: the implementation of evidence-based principles, organizational development, and collaboration.

Suggestions to Enhance University-Practitioner Relations

There are several ways that universities and practitioners can work together. One way is for universities to encourage faculty to engage in applied research projects with practitioner agencies or jurisdictions. For example, the Department of Justice offers external funding opportunities for such partnerships to occur by pairing agencies with research partners, which could be academics. University faculty, particularly young tenure-track professors, often seek opportunities to conduct research to increase publications; whereas, agencies often need researchers to help them evaluate programs or policies. So, it can be a win-win for both parties. A second way is for universities to hire adjunct faculty who have direct experience working in the community corrections field. Such faculty members can teach directly to the course topic and provide insight not always available to undergraduate students.

Core Correctional Practice Articles

Dowden, C., & Andrews, D. A. (2004). "The Importance of Staff Practice in Delivering Effective Correctional Treatment: A Meta-Analytic Review of Core Correctional Practice." International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 48(2), 203–214.
Several meta-analyses have rendered strong support for the clinically relevant and psychologically informed principles of human service, risk, need, and general responsivity. However, each of these reviews has focused on specific program components and not on the characteristics of the staff or the specific techniques used to deliver the program. This meta-analytic review examines the role of core correctional practices in reducing recidivism and provides strong preliminary evidence regarding their effectiveness. Staff characteristics and training in core skills must be addressed to ensure the maximum therapeutic impact of correctional treatment programs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Haas, S. M., Spence, D. H. (2016). Use of core correctional practice and inmate preparedness for release. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. Available Online First. doi: 10.1177/0306624X15625992