U.S. Department of Justice

The Principles of Effective Interventions

Research supports several principles for effective offender interventions. NIC highlights eight principles in its "Evidence-Based Policy and Practice" initiative. They are listed below in developmental sequence. Resources for implementing program interventions are also listed below.
  1. Assess Actuarial Risk/Needs - Assessing offenders' risk and needs (focusing on dynamic and static risk factors and criminogenic needs) at the individual and aggregate levels is essential for implementating the principles of best practice.
  2. Enhance Intrinsic Motivation - Research strongly suggests that "motivational interviewing" techniques, rather than persuasion tactics, effectively enhance motivation for initiating and maintaining behavior changes
  3. Target Interventions
    1. Risk Principle - Prioritize supervision and treatment resources for higher risk offenders.
    2. Need Principle - Target interventions to criminogenic needs.
    3. Responsivity Principle - Be responsive to temperament, learning style, motivation, gender, and culture when assigning to programs.
    4. Dosage - Structure 40% to 70% of high-risk offenders' time for 3 to 9 months.
    5. Treatment Principle - Integrate treatment into full sentence/sanctions requirements.
  4. Skill Train with Directed Practice - Provide evidence-based programming that emphasizes cognitive-behavior strategies and is delivered by well-trained staff.
  5. Increase Positive Reinforcement - Apply four positive reinforcements for every one negative reinforcement for optimal behavior change results.
  6. Engage Ongoing Support in Natural Communities - Realign and actively engage pro-social support for offenders in their communities for positive reinforcement of desired new behaviors.
  7. Measure Relevant Processes/Practices - An accurate and detailed documentation of case information and staff performance, along with a formal and valid mechanism for measuring outcomes, is the foundation of evidence-based practice.
  8. Provide Measurement Feedback - Providing feedback builds accountability and maintains integrity, ultimately improving outcomes.

Recommended Reading

Date Title Type
Document 019342
Implementing Evidence-Based Practice in Community Corrections: The Principles of Effective Intervention
National Institute of Corrections. Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC). National Institute of Corrections. Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC); Crime and Justice Institute (Boston, MA).
Principles of effective evidence-based intervention are presented. Topics discussed include: evidence-based practice (EBP); term clarification; eight principles for effective interventions -- assess actuarial risk/needs, enhance intrinsic motivation, target interventions, skill train with directed practice, increase positive reinforcement, engage ongoing support in natural communities, measure relevant processes/practices, and provide measurement feedback; components of correctional interventio... Read More
19 p.
Document 020095
Tools of the Trade: A Guide to Incorporating Science Into Practice
By Taxman, Faye S., et al.. National Institute of Corrections; MD Division of Parole and Probation; MD Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention; University of Maryland. National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC); Maryland Dept. of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
The application of evidence-based research findings to the practice of offender supervision is explained. Sections of this manual include: introduction -- supervision as a behavioral management process to reduce recidivism; behavior and change; assessment and planning; communication tools; information tools; incentives to shape offender behavior; service tools; offender types; and guiding principles.... Read More
91 p.
Document 021041
Implementing Effective Correctional Management of Offenders in the Community: Outcome and Process Measures
By Bogue, Brad; Woodward, Bill; Campbell, Nancy; Carey, Mark; Clawson, Elyse; Faust, Dorothy; Florio, Kate; Goldberg, Andrew Joplin, Lore Wasson, Billy. National Institute of Corrections. Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC).
Outcome and process measures used to gage the effectiveness of the Integrated Model in reducing offender recidivism are presented. Each component found within a measure has information regarding its definition, tool/data source, description, frequency, and individual who collects the data. Components are organized into the following measures: recidivism; risk; proxy risk; supervision length; dosage; revocation and violation; program effectiveness; assessment; case plan; workload; violations; org... Read More
15 p.
Document 019469
Implementing Effective Correctional Management of Offenders in the Community
  • [Videoconference Held February 25, 2004]
  • National Institute of Corrections Academy (Longmont, CO) National Institute of Corrections. Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC).
    This satellite/Internet broadcast provides information about NIC's initiative on statewide implementation of effective correctional management of offenders in the community. Panelists from the Crime and Justice Institute, Inc., and NIC described the model constructs and processes used to facilitate practical application of the effective intervention principles in the two states serving as project sites. This presentation helps correctional administrators develop plans and processes for organ... Read More
    1 DVD (180 min.)