Training Offers Tools to Deliver Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions to Reduce Recidivism

By The Council of State Governments Justice Center Staff



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A growing body of research has shown that cognitive-behavioral interventions (CBIs) can significantly reduce recidivism by helping people understand and change the thinking patterns that can lead to criminal behavior.

To expand the use of CBIs for people involved in the criminal justice system, The University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute (UCCI) developed the Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions – Core Adult (CBI-CA) curriculum, with support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance as part of the National Reentry Resource Center.

The 55-session curriculum is a thorough and highly adaptable intervention that addresses topics such as conflict resolution, problem solving, emotional regulation, and how to sustain positive relationships. Participants are guided through exercises that put these skills into practice, with the ultimate goal of creating individualized plans to help them effectively navigate challenging situations in the future. Research has shown that programs that use a cognitive-behavioral approach that also involves skills-building have the greatest impact on reducing future criminal behavior; such programs have the potential to reduce recidivism by as much as 26 percent.

“We have just finished the first module of the course and can see the commitment and determination mounting as the women in our class advance through each session,” said Deborah Simmons, founder of The Reentry Initiative, which is delivering CBI-CA to participants in the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility in Colorado.

CBI-CA is designed to be flexible for use in both institutional and community settings, for different lengths of time, and by different types of staff. The curriculum may be implemented as a standalone program or as a part of a more comprehensive treatment package, and it also includes modifications for participants who have mental illnesses. To ensure fidelity, a four-day facilitator training is required to help staff effectively deliver the curriculum modules.

“The strength of our partnership with UCCI, the evidence-based nature of the curriculum, and the quality of the facilitator training provided convinced us that CBI-CA should be the core of our daily reporting center,” said Kris Hoyer, probation division director in Sonoma County, California, one of the four sites that piloted the CBI-CA before its fieldwide release.

Since its launch, CBI-CA has been used by more than 50 sites across the country, including Heartland Alliance; Harris County, Texas; Hawaii Department of Public Safety; the Nebraska Board of Parole; and the New York State Office of Mental Health, among others. Building on the success of the curriculum, UCCI has created additional CBI group interventions that focus on specific populations and needs including youth (CBI-CY), employment (CBI-EMP), sexual offenses (CBI-SO), and substance abuse (CBI-SA). UCCI is also conducting a five-year study to examine the effectiveness of CBI-CA for people involved in the criminal justice system who have mental illnesses. Findings from the study will help inform additional modifications and adaptations of the model.