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Program Profile: Cognitive Skills Training (Georgia)

Evidence Rating: No Effects - More than one study No Effects - More than one study

Date: This profile was posted on September 25, 2017

Program Summary

Implemented by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, this is a cognitive–behavioral program for male parolees that aims to build psychosocial skills in areas such as self-control, interpersonal problem-solving, and critical reasoning. The program is rated No Effects. The authors found no statistically significant effect of program participation on recidivism and employment measures.

Program Description

Program Goals            
Implemented by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, Cognitive Skills Training (CST) is a cognitive–behavioral program for individuals on parole, which is intended to improve interpersonal problem-solving, consequential thinking, means-end reasoning, social perspective-taking, critical and abstract reasoning, and creative thinking. The program is adapted from the Reasoning and Rehabilitation Program (Ross, Fabiano, and Ross 1988).

Target Population/Eligibility                                                                                             
Male parolees are ineligible to participate if their IQ scores are lower than 80, if they have a history of sexual offending, and/or if they have a history of severe substance abuse.
 
Program Components                                                                                                        
CST is composed of 35, 2-hour lessons which span seven key components: problem solving, creative thinking, social skills, management of emotions, negotiation skills, values enhancement, and critical reasoning. Each component focuses on practicing certain skills. For example, during the problem-solving component, participants engage in exercises that target specific skills such as gathering of information, conceptualizing dilemmas, alternative thinking, and assertive communication. Activities include role playing, thinking games, homework assignments, and group discussion. New skills are presented along with opportunities to practice previously introduced skills.

Program Theory                                                                                                                
The CST program is founded on cognitive psychology, which assumes that dysfunctional thought processes may lead to maladaptive behavior. The program aims to teach participants to recognize and change their dysfunctional thoughts and to develop more mature thinking skills to reduce the likelihood of committing a crime (Van Voorhis et al. 2001). 

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Return to prison
Van Voorhis and colleagues (2001) found no statically significant differences in the rate of returning to prison between Cognitive Skills Training (CST) participants and the comparison group at the 2-year follow up.
 
Felony Rearrest/Reconviction
There was no statistically significant difference in likelihood of having a felony rearrest/reconviction between CST participants and the comparison group during the program and at the 9-month follow up.
 
Employment
There was no statistically significant difference in likelihood of having employment between CST participants and the comparison group at the 9-month follow up.
 
Technical Violations
There was no statistically significant difference in having a technical violation between CST participants and the comparison group at 9-month follow up.
 
Study 2
Return to prison
Van Voorhis and colleagues (2002) found no statically significant differences in the rate of returning to prison between CST participants and the comparison group at the follow-up periods.
 
Felony Rearrest/Reconviction
There was no statistically significant difference in likelihood of having a felony rearrest/reconviction between CST participants and the comparison group at the 1-year follow up.
 
Employment
There was no statistically significant difference in likelihood of having employment between CST participants and the comparison group at the 1-year follow up.
 
Technical Violations
There was no statistically significant difference in having a technical violation between CST participants and the comparison group at the 1-year follow up. 
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Van Voorhis and colleagues (2001) used a randomized controlled trial to determine the effect of Cognitive Skills Training (CST) on recidivism and employment measures. The evaluation of CST was completed in two phases. The present summary focuses on Phase I and the Study 2 summary below focuses on Phase 2. The Phase 1 evaluation involved program participants who completed CST by July 1998 while the Phase 2 evaluation involved participants who had completed the program from July 1998 to April 2000.

Male study participants from 16 parole districts in Georgia were randomly assigned to either the treatment (n = 232) or control (n = 236) conditions. The treatment group was 69.4 percent African American and 30.6 percent white, and the average age was 30 years. Most of the treatment sample (71.1 percent) were classified as low risk, with 28.9 percent classified as medium/high risk. The comparison group was 72 percent African American and 28 percent white, and the average age was 30.5 years. Most of the comparison sample (64.4 percent) were classified as low risk, with 35.6 percent classified as medium/high risk. The treatment and comparison groups did not significantly differ on any of the following characteristics: age, race, education, employment status at prison intake, IQ, history of substance abuse, marital status, risk assessment scores, number of prior incarcerations, prior felony convictions, or prior violent offenses.

Recidivism was measured in three ways: return to prison, felony arrest or parole revocation, and technical parole violation. Employment was measured by whether the individual was employed either full- or part-time. Administrative data on returns to prison was gathered from prison records and covered a period of up to 30 months after the program ended. Follow-up forms completed by parole supervisors at 3, 6, and 9 months postrelease were used to assess re-arrest, felony re-arrest/revocation, technical violation, and employment status.

Survival analysis was used, controlling for time at risk of recidivism, to evaluate the cumulative effects of treatment on the proportion of each group that returned to prison, was re-arrested, or whose parole was revoked over the follow-up period. Chi-square tests were used to assess the impact of treatment on technical violations and employment outcomes. A subgroup analysis was conducted to determine if risk status and dosage mediated the effects of the program.

Study 2
Van Voorhis and colleagues (2002) conducted the Phase II evaluation, which expands upon the Phase I evaluation by using a larger study sample across a larger number of parole districts in Georgia. The sample included individuals who completed the program from July 1998 to April 2000. Phase II focuses on the conditions under which CST is most beneficial to participants. A randomized experiment was conducted in which 963 male parolees from 25 parole districts were randomly assigned to the CST (n = 470) or the control group (n = 493).

The treatment group was 69.3 percent nonwhite and 30.7 percent white. The average age was 31.9 years, and the average number of prior incarcerations was 1.8. The comparison group was 71 percent nonwhite and 29 percent white. The average age was 31.9 years, and the average number of prior incarcerations was 2. No significant differences were observed between the two groups on a variety of demographic, socioeconomic, and criminal history variables. The study examined both employment and recidivism outcomes.

Recidivism was measured in three ways: return to prison, felony arrest or parole revocation, and technical parole violation. Employment was measured by whether the individual was employed either full- or part-time. For the felony arrest/revocation, technical violation, and employment, outcomes were tracked for 12 months after the program end date. For return to prison, outcomes were tracked for variable time periods ranging from 12 months to up to 33 months after the program end date.

Administrative data from the state’s offender-based tracking system was used. Survival analyses were conducted to determine the effects of the program on return to prison and felony rearrests/revocations while taking into account how long each individual in the study sample was at risk for recidivism.
 
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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The facilitator’s’ handbook (Ross, Fabiano, and Ross 1989) attempts to provide consistency across program sites. It provides detailed lesson plans, scheduled activities, and suggestions on how best to verbalize the material to program participants. The curriculum is designed to cultivate an informal yet structured group rapport. 
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Other Information

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In Phase I, Van Voorhis and colleagues (2001) conducted a subgroup analysis to determine if risk status and dosage mediated the effects of the program. The study authors found the effects did not differ by risk level or dosage for any of the outcomes measured. In Phase II, Van Voorhis and colleagues (2002) conducted a subgroup analysis and found that program effects did not differ per study participants’ level of risk to recidivate for return to prison, arrest/revocation, and employment outcomes. However, for technical violations, low-risk treatment group participants were significantly more likely to experience a violation than low-risk control group participants at the 12-month follow up (46.7 percent versus 29.4 percent, respectively). Among medium- and high-risk parolees, rates of technical violation did not differ between the treatment and control groups.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1

Van Voorhis, Patricia., Lisa M. Spruance, Shelley Johnson Listwan, P. Neal Ritchey, Jennifer Pealer, and Renita Seabrook. 2001. The Georgia Cognitive Skills Experiment: Outcome Evaluation, Phase I. Cincinnati, Ohio: University of Cincinnati.   


http://www.maccac.org/Offender_Programs/MN_Cog_Net/Van%20Voorhis,%20et%20al.%20'01.pdf

Study 2
Van Voorhis, Patricia., Lisa M. Spruance, P. Neal Ritchey, Shelley Johnson Listwan, Renita Seabrook, and Jennifer Pealer. 2002. The Georgia Cognitive Skills Experiment: Outcome Evaluation, Phase II. Cincinnati, Ohio: University of Cincinnati.

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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Ross, Robert, Elizabeth Fabiano, and Crystal Ewles. 1988. “Reasoning and Rehabilitation”. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 32(1): 29–35.


Robinson, David. 1995. The Impact of Cognitive Skills Training on Post-Release Recidivism among Canadian Federal Offenders. Ontario, Canada: Correctional Service Canada. (This study was reviewed but did not meet Crime Solutions' criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)

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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Moderate- and High-Risk Adult Offenders
This is a problem-focused, therapeutic approach that attempts to help people identify and change dysfunctional beliefs, thoughts, and patterns of behavior that contribute to their problems. For adult offenders, CBT teaches them how cognitive deficits, distortion, and flawed thinking processes can lead to criminal behavior. The practice is rated Promising for reducing crime committed by moderate- and high-risk adult offenders.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 18 - 62

Gender: Male

Race/Ethnicity: Black, White

Setting (Delivery): Correctional

Program Type: Aftercare/Reentry, Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, Group Therapy, Probation/Parole Services

Targeted Population: Prisoners

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: National Reentry Resource Center