by Harvey Shrum Ed. D.
Criminologists and politicians have debated the effectiveness of correctional rehabilitation programs since the mid- 1970s when criminal justice scholars and policy makers throughout the United States embraced Robert Martinson's credo of "nothing works. " Programs based around punishment and surveillance grew. They are being embraced even stronger today despite the fact that Martinson later admitted that he was wrong. An ample amount of research exists that suggest that there are successful programs available to reduce future criminality of not only offenders but also of potential offenders. This article presents correctional practices that effectively reduce recidivism rates and recommends two additional programs, Logotherapy and the Intensive Journal, proven to be cost-effective in the fields of prevention and rehabilitation.
Life is difficult and seemingly unfair. When parents divorce, when one or both parents die, when we are bullied, or suffer a catastrophic illness or accident, when a friend is killed in an accident or war, we know that life is unfair and often very painful. But, Dr. Viktor Frankl (1997), survivor of the Holocaust, emphasized that the meaning of life is not what happens to us. It is what we do with that which happens to us.
When life appears to be unfair and painful many resort to self-medication. America comprises only five percent of the world's population, yet it consumes over 60 percent of the world's illicit drugs. Of those consuming illicit drugs, 77 percent are employed (Ferrell, 2003). Others attempt to divert pain and grief, usually onto those closest to them. Still others attempt to bury pain with their addiction to work, hobbies, or possessions. Often those who attempt to drug, divert, or bury their pain surround themselves with those of similar beliefs.
Sometimes laws are passed in the belief that they will make life fairer. Prisons are built at $100,000 per cell and $30-50,000 in annual costs per inmate are added to the tax burden. But, prisons and harsher laws tend to divert valuable funding away from public schools and other programs that tend to make our communities much safer. America has become so focused upon prisons as the answer to its social ills that today one in every 37 Americans is either in a state or federal prison or jail, or has been in the past (The Associated Press, August 18, 2003). The costs to American families are also enormous. The odds of a child of a recidivist father ending up in jail or prison at some point in his life are approximately 92 to one when compared to the general population. Increasing prison sentences do not reduce those odds.
Better ways do exist. Programs that lower recidivism rates result in less crime, lower costs for incarceration, fewer broken families, less welfare and social services, less prison overcrowding, less new prison construction, more funds for schools and alternatives to incarceration, and ultimately safer communities.
Recidivism and crime rates are readily reducible 16-62 percent and more by broader use of existing rehabilitation programs - substance abuse treatment, academic and vocational education, post-secondary education, intermediate sanctions, and alternatives to incarceration (Cypser, 1997). Some programs work so well that the rate of recidivism is as low as five to 15 percent (Manitonquat, 1996).
Over 80 percent of those incarcerated committed their offense under the influence of drugs, committed their offense to get money for drugs, or committed their offense under the influence of alcohol (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1993). The majority of inmates with drug and alcohol problems still do not receive sufficient treatment while in prison. And the number of drug/alcohol-using arrestees who are probably in need of treatment exceeds two million (Lipton, 1995). Dr. Frankl (1997) noted that there tended to be a significant inverse relationship between drug involvement and meaning in one's life. Ninety percent of students in high school and college who were addicted to alcohol and one hundred percent who were addicted to drugs reported that "meaning' was lacking in their lives. They may have purpose, but they do not have meaning. When men and women in prison are offered a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, it is generally limited to a 12-step program, the only program generally acceptable to many parole boards, and 12-step programs do not address the lack of meaning in their lives.
The type of addiction treatment may not matter as much as whether sufficient treatment has been provided, usually a minimum of 12-24 months combined with education leading to a GED and/or vocational training. Addiction recovery begins with treatment inside prison. But, to be most effective, the addict must continue his treatment following his release to parole. The strongest predictors of outcome for substance abuse treatment, noted Condelli and Hubbard (1994), regardless of the type of treatment, are both time of duration and number of sessions in treatment. One program in Brooklyn (1996) placed second felony drug offenders into residential drug treatment usually for 18 to 24 months. After three years, the re-arrest rates for offenders who completed the program were 6.7-8.2 percent.
A study conducted for the state of California provided the most comprehensive cost-benefit examination on the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment. Looking at all treatment programs in the state, researchers concluded that every dollar spent on treatment resulted in seven dollars in savings on reduced crime and health care costs (Mauer & Huling, 1995). Caulkins et al (1997) demonstrated that treatment of heavy drug users is 15-17 times more effective in reducing crime than spending the same money on mandatory minimum sentences. In another study these same researchers noted that spending money on treatment reduces consumption of cocaine 3.7 times more than spending that same money on conventional enforcement, and 7.6 times more than spending it on mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers.
Caulkins et al (1997) noted that spending money to treat heavy cocaine users was four times more effective in reducing total national consumption than spending it on conventional enforcement against drug dealers, and nearly eight times more effective than spending it on mandatory minimum sentences for the same dealers. Additionally, treatment reduces about ten times more serious crime than conventional enforcement and fifteen more than mandatory minimums.
In a joint study by the RAND Corporation, the U.S. Army, and the Office of National Drug Control Strategy, researchers Rydell and Everingham (1994) found that drug treatment programs are seven times more cost-effective in reducing cocaine consumption than other programs that aim at controlling the supply of drugs. Treatment is eleven times more effective than border interdiction and twenty-two times more effective than trying to control foreign production. This study further concluded that drug treatment could reduce cocaine consumption a third if extended to all heavy users.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, developed by Dr. Albert Ellis, is a cognitive-behavior therapy approach to addictions (Dryden, 2002). The major reasons for its popularity are its effectiveness, short-term nature, and low cost. It works best for individuals desiring a scientific, present-focused, and active treatment for coping with life's difficulties. It is based on a few simple principles having profound implications: 1) You are responsible for your own emotions and actions. 2) Your harmful emotions and dysfunctional behaviors are the product of your irrational thinking. 3) You can learn more realistic views and, with practice, make them a part of you. 4) You will experience a deeper acceptance of yourself and greater satisfactions in life by developing a reality-based perspective.
Another alternative to the 12-step program is Logotherapy, developed by Dr. Viktor Frankl (1997). In logotherapy, or "health through meaning/ emphasis is given to the absence in the "will to meaning.' When we lack a will to meaning, noted Frankl, we generally seek to fill the existential vacuum with a "will to pleasure' that often leads to addictions, or a "will to power' that often leads to violence. He also noted that "people are most likely to become aggressive when they are caught in this feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness (Frankl, 1997). Robert Jay Lifton (1969) appeared to agree with Frankl when he stated that "men are most apt to kill when they feel overcome by meaninglessness/
Dr. Viktor Frankl (1984, 1997) noted that the predominant factor leading to incarceration is the lack of meaning in one's life and that a first-termer differs from those who have never been in prison with respect to purpose in life. Criminality and purpose in life, Frankl noted, are inversely related. The irony is that the more persistently one offends, the more likely he is to be sentenced to longer terms of imprisonment and the less likely he is to increase his sense of purpose in life, and so the more likely he is to continue offending when released. The spreading existential frustration lies at the root of this phenomenon.
Frankl (1997) repeatedly emphasized the importance of meaning, rather than pleasure and power, as essential for the health of the body, the mind, and the spirit. He believed that the key to a positive view of life is an awareness that life has meaning under all circumstances, and that we have the capacity to find meaning in our life "experientially, creatively, and attitudinally.' We can rise above ill health and blows of fate if we see meaning in our existence. Logotherapy helps people say yes to life, whether the suffering they experience comes from difficult human relations, job dissatisfaction, life-altering illness, survivor's guilt, or death of a loved one, or from self-made problems such as hypochondria or an overwhelming hunger for pleasure and power.
Logotherapy was introduced to inmates at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco about 40 years ago as a short-term project (Crumbaugh, 1972). The program aimed at giving inmates a purpose and direction in life, and at helping them acquire the knowledge needed to pursue a new direction during and after their prison experience. The inmates, who participated in the project learned to see that their very experiences as criminals gave them a unique opportunity to help other criminals, thus turning their liabilities into assets society could use. Only one group of inmates went through the program before it was terminated. The recidivism rate for those who completed the program prior to parole was only 5.5 percent. Furthermore, when utilized as an addictions treatment program, it was found to be four times as effective as any other program.
I re-introduced Logotherapy to inmates nearing parole at Folsom State Prison in 1990. In 1998 Drs. Viktor Frankl and Joseph Fabry were invited to conduct a workshop for men serving life sentences for violent crimes. Dr. Frankl was too ill and weak at the time, so Dr. Fabry agreed to conduct two workshops on the principles of Logotherapy. Nineteen men serving life sentences attended both workshops. I supplemented these with several followup workshops and correspondence study assignments. One of the men was assisted in putting together a fifteen-hour workshop that enabled him to present what he had learned to his fellow peers. Five of the original group of nineteen men paroled. Three of those discharged from parole. The rate of recidivism since 1998 is zero percent.
Drs. Viktor Frankl (1997) and his colleague and friend Joseph Fabry (1988, 1994, & 1995) attempted to introduce logotherapy to the inmates at San Quentin and Folsom State Prison. At San Quentin one group of inmates formed a support group based on the principles of logotherapy. The group maintained contact following each individual's release from prison. Only one inmate in the logo-group returned to prison. Dr. Louis S. Barber (Frankl, 1997) holds that logotherapy is particularly applicable to the treatment of juvenile delinquents, noting that "almost always the Aelack of meaning and purpose in their lives' appeared to be present/ Said Barber, "We have one of the highest rehabilitation rates in the U.S. working with young people in a rehabilitation setting), a recidivism rate of less than 17 percent against an average of some 40 percent.'
The value of writing in alcohol and drug recovery has long been noted in treatment and twelve-step circles. However, Dr. Ira Progoff (1992), creator of the Intensive Journal wrote that unguided journal writing results in decreasing effectiveness over time. He also noted that whereas unguided journal writing often declines into behavior analysis and circuitous thinking, the Intensive Journal process does not. Instead, through its non-judgmental, non-analytical nature, along with "Journal Feedback,' it gives the writer a mirroring capability that increases the energy, power, and effectiveness of the process over time. This experience has an empowering effect upon the Intensive Journal writer.
First introduced in 1992 at Folsom State Prison, the Intensive Journal is a practical method of self-development that utilizes writing exercises through a unique journal writing system. It based on depth psychology and helps people access and work with their life experiences, feelings about family relationships, job, health, and meaning in life. Through a two-day introductory workshop, inmates discover improvement in job retention (Sealy and Duffy, 1977), in dealing with the causes of substance abuse and relapse and in rehabilitation while incarcerated. The first workshop introduces inmates to the first half of the Intensive Journal process. A second two-day workshop introduces inmates to the second half of the Intensive Journal. In the ten years since its introduction at Folsom State Prison, not one inmate who had completed at least the introductory Intensive Journal workshop returned to prison. In 2003 the Federal Bureau of Prisons adopted the Intensive Journal into its comprehensive re-entry program for inmates nearing parole.
In a related study of the impact on inmates at Folsom State Prison, 308 men were asked to provide a list of eight to twelve significant emotional events - ups and downs - that appeared to help shape their lives. Specifically identified as "Steppingstones/ this writing exercise is only one segment of the Intensive Journal process. The lists were provided anonymously over a sixmonth period. They included important events from childhood to the present education, relationships, family life, mental, physical and spiritual health, marriages and divorces, births and deaths, and significant conflicts. The men were asked not to make any judgment - criticism or praise - for the actions they took or for the circumstances that were forced upon them, only to list them in the order that they came to mind.
A pattern appeared to take place. Without positive intervention following significant emotional events, particularly when they were traumatic in nature, all resorted to self-medicating, diverting, and/or burying their childhood pain. Every individual had been, is, or will be a victim in some way or other to trauma that causes loss of meaning. One in every two men in this study experienced the death of a loved one as a significant emotional event. One in every three listed growing up in a single-parent home; in most cases the custodial parent was the mother. And one in every five listed experiencing some form of traumatic physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse in childhood. When questioned later, four in every five verbalized acceptance of childhood abuse as "normal' and therefore did not list it as significant in their list of Steppingstones. Many also accepted as normal parents self-medicating with illicit drugs in their presence. Without therapeutic intervention shortly after these events, they became at greater risk for antisocial behavior, low self-esteem, depression, low educational attainment, underemployment, substance abuse, mental illness, and suicidal ideation. The Intensive Journal enabled them to deal with their issues in a safe, supporting environment.
Nearly 80 percent of state prison inmates have not completed high school (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1993). Eighty percent of these may have learning disabilities (Ross, 1987). A RAND study by the Office of Correctional Education (1994) noted that the cost effectiveness of graduation incentives, in serious crimes averted per million dollars spent, was calculated to be five times better than that of the 3-strikes program. Recidivism of young parolees is also related to the amount of prior education. Recidivism did not increase despite the fact that, as an incentive, graduates were released to parole about 10.6 months prior to their court determined minimum period of incarceration according to a 1996 legislative report by the New York Department of Correctional Services. Many states are granting early release to non-violent prisoners, cutting sentences, sending drug offenders to treatment centers, and revising tough-on-crime laws in reverse of a 20-year trend as cost-saving measures (McMahon, 2003).
One study found that the recidivism rate for those who received both the GED certificate and completed a vocational trade was over 20 percent lower than for those who did not reach either milestone. The overall recidivism rate for college degree holders was a low 12 percent, and inversely differentiated by type of degree: Associate, 13.7%; Baccalaureate, 5.6%; and Masters, 0% (U.S. Department of Education, 1988-1994). The more educational programs successfully completed for each six months confined the lower the recidivism rate (Harer, 1994). In 1983 a study of the Folsom State Prison college program revealed a zero percent recidivism rate for inmates earning a bachelors degree, while the average recidivism rate for the state's parolees was 23.9 percent for the first year, increasing to 55 percent within three years (Taylor, 1992). College education does reduce the likelihood of recidivism principally through post-release employment (Batiuk, Moke, and Rounree, 1997). Employed ex-felons become taxpayers and reduce the odds of their children eventually ending up in prison.
In 2003 Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that "prison terms are too long and that he favors scrapping the practice of setting mandatory minimum sentences for some federal crimes' (Cearan, 2003). The American Society of Criminology recommended expanding drug courts, alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, and community-based sentencing and treatment for those arrested for drug crimes. Furthermore, in a survey of prison wardens across America over 90 percent supported greater use of alternatives to incarceration, drug treatment, vocational training, and literacy and other educational programs (Sullivan, 1995). In another nationwide survey nearly 60 percent of police chiefs said placing drug users in court-supervised treatment programs is more effective than sentencing them to jail to prison. Nearly half of them said that more resources are needed to improve education, prevention, and treatment (Law Enforcement News, 1996). Finally, the American Correctional Association President, Bobbie Huskey (Sullivan, 1995), emphasized promoting greater use of sentencing options for nonviolent crime.
Additional time served in prison has little impact on recidivism. How can sentencing a child to life in a federal prison for delivering a small package, containing a small quantity of crack cocaine, for her uncle make the public safer? This is a child who was doing well in school and had never been in trouble with the law. Policies such as "truth-in-sentencing' that lengthen prison terms may be ineffective in improving public safety. Longer prison terms may provide some additional incapacitation effects, but they do so at great cost to our social-economic system and at the expense of more effective alternatives that make our communities safer. It is time that correctional educators and the voters reverse the current trend, emphasizing rehabilitation rather than punishment. When we suspect that we are not being told the truth, we have a duty to do the research, educate policy makers and legislators, and take the positive steps that lead to programs that work, regardless of the prevailing trend.
The background of this paper is a long-term interest in the psycho-spiritual nature of proven rehabilitation programs for offenders. I have focused on "What works?' Some clear conclusions and cause for recommendations have emerged.
* Rehabilitation does have an impact in reducing recidivism.
* Rehabilitation programs that have a significant impact on reducing recidivism rates are those which are intense, of 18-24 months minimum in duration and continue following release to the community.
* Program success depends on the selection of offenders who have the potential of assuming responsibility. It also depends on the patience and understanding of the program director in dealing with prison authorities, prospective employers, and clients, who are often suspicious, easily discouraged, and respond to negative peer pressure from fellow inmates.
* Logotherapy holds great promise in restoring the "will to meaning' to those who have lost it, not only to those in jail, prison, or drug/alcohol rehabilitation programs, but also to those in grades K-16. Dr. Fabry's Cuideposts to Meaning (1988) is an excellent resource for program development.
* The Intensive Journal also hold great promise in rehabilitating inmates as well as preventing young people from taking the path that often leads to addictions and incarceration. It is not only conducive in fostering self-improvement, but also in fostering/developing vocational interests, in increasing awareness and healing of health, addictions, and relationships. It also improves writing and communication skills, enhances relationships with family, and achieves breakthroughs in issues and decision-making.
Methods of prevention and rehabilitation do work, but correctional, educational, spiritual and psychiatric staff on both sides of the prison walls must support these goals if reduction in recidivism rates is to be achieved. When we embrace rehabilitation as a goal, we embrace hope. Hopefully, prevention and alternatives to incarceration will be emphasized to a much greater degree in the future. In the words of Nietzsche: "When we treat a man as he is, he only becomes worse. But, when we treat a man as he can be, he will be that which he can be.”
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Copyright Correctional Education Association Sep 2004
Harvey Shrum, Ed .D., is a Re-Entry teacher at Folsum State Prison. At the urging of the late Dr. Fabry, Institute of Logotherapy, Dr. Shrum is nearing completion of a self-help book entitled seeking Meaning in a Cell.
"Intensive Journal" and "Journal Feedback" are trademarks of Jon Progoff and used under license by Dialogue House.