Evidence-Based Practices


In recent years, scientists using advanced analytical tools have determined that there are many effective programs and policies that substantially reduce recidivism,[1] refuting the erroneous assertions of earlier social scientists that “nothing works.”[2] Since learning about “what works” is an ongoing process, interventions are ranked on a continuum, ranging from those without supporting evidence to “promising practices” and “science-based” or “research-based” practices. At the top of the list are programs that have been found to be effective and replicable when implemented under the highest-level of scientific scrutiny, which are considered “evidence-based practices.”[3] Interest in these practices and policies has fueled the increased use of community-based alternatives across the country and decreased the need for secure confinement of many youth.

In this section of the Resource Hub, you’ll find an overview of key issues and reform trends relating to evidence-based practices and links to information on each one, as well as the most recent research, cutting-edge reforms, model policies, links to experts, and toolkits to take action.

Evidence-Based Practices Topics


[1] Mark W. Lipsey,  James C. Howell, Marion R. Kelly, Gabrielle Chapman, and Darin Carver, “Improving the Effectiveness of Juvenile Justice Programs,” (Washington, D.C.: Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, December 2010), http://bit.ly/1njNt5p, citing Francis T. Cullen, “The Twelve People Who Saved Rehabilitation: How the Science of Criminology Made a Difference,” Criminology, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2005), http://bit.ly/1j3PrXl.

[2] Most famous was the so-called “Martinson report:” Robert Martinson, “What Works? Questions and Answers about Prison Reform,” The Public Interest 35 (1974): 22-54, http://bit.ly/UNXnme; see also Douglas Lipton, Robert Martinson, and Judith Wilks, The Effectiveness of Correctional Treatment: A Survey of Treatment Evaluation Studies (New York: Praeger, 1975). The conclusions that “nothing” worked helped to fuel the “tough on crime” justice system approach of the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in harsh sanctions for youth often involving long periods of secure confinement.

[3] Specific definitions vary. To add to the confusion, the term “evidence-based practice” is also often used in casual speech to refer to any program that has some research behind it, regardless of its quality. Finally, it must also be remembered that an intervention may be highly effective even though little or no research has been done on it. See Jeffrey A. Butts, “Evidence-Based,” Evidence Generation, accessed October 10, 2018.