Cognitive-behavioral approaches have proven effective in promoting change in areas such as criminal behavior and substance abuse in hundreds of studies over the past 25 years. Cognitively focused approaches take aim at thoughts and beliefs that undermine mental health and turn the focus toward solutions. Behavioral skill-building, in contrast, concentrates on changing unhelpful habitual responses and reinforcing positive behaviors. Combining the two is especially effective, given the human cycle of thoughts that lead to emotions, which lead to behaviors, which reinforce those thoughts and emotions. New thinking in the criminal justice field suggests that an intervention that combines cognitive-behavioral skill-building and employment services could be stronger when combined, leading to lower levels of recidivism.
The Cognitive Behavioral Employment (CBE) intervention was designed to build on evidence from MDRC’s earlier studies of employment programs for the formerly incarcerated and from emerging evidence from the broader criminal justice field. The CBE intervention is designed to integrate theories from the economics of crime prevention with those of psychological/behavioral interventions. CBE is an integrated approach that includes both training for the staff who work with participants and cognitive-behavioral treatment workshops for participants.
MDRC has partnered with the University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute (UCCI) to develop the CBE curriculum and with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) to implement the pilot project, which will evaluate the operational feasibility of the new treatment program for men who have been recently released from prison. The CBE intervention is being piloted in CEO’s transitional jobs program that provides temporary paid jobs for people under parole supervision.