National/International Focus

Cognitive Behavioral Interventions and Misconduct Behind Bars:  A Randomized Control Trial of CBI-CC

  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Principle Investigator
  • Christy A. Visher, Co-Investigator
  • Hannah Cortina, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Emalie Rell, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Initiation Date: 2019; Funding Source: National Institute of Justice

Institutional misconduct, especially violent misconduct, poses a problem for all prisons. This three-year, randomized controlled trial will test the effectiveness of the “Cognitive Behavioral Interventions – A Comprehensive Curriculum” (CBI-CC) program on reducing prison misconduct and violence in prison and arrests after release among a sample of incarcerated individuals in three prisons in Delaware. The CBI-CC program targets high risk individuals and comprises 55 90-minute sessions delivered over 26 weeks making it a high dosage correctional intervention designed to modify behavior.

Four hundred sentenced adult male inmates will be randomly assigned to receive either the CBI-CC intervention or treatment as usual. Inmates will be housed in general population in three prisons in Delaware and will be moderate-high to high risk on the LSI-R, serving time for a violent offense, or have committed a violent infraction during the current sentence. The primary outcome is prison misconduct. Secondary outcomes will include institutional grievances and rearrests six months post release for those who return to the community during the study period.

Implementing a Culture of Health among Delaware’s Probation Population

  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Principal Investigator 
  • Christy A. Visher, Co-Investigator 
  • Steven S. Martin, Advisor
  • Judi Buchanan, Interviewer    
  • Patricia Becker, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Initiation Date: 2016; Funding Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Persons involved in the criminal justice system present a multitude of unaddressed health issues and are less likely to access health care and other social services than those not involved in the system. Addressing the needs of this population requires the efforts of multiple agencies working across systems. This project implemented a Change Team approach to focus the efforts of multiple agencies to improve the alignment, collaboration and synergy of health and other social service delivery to this traditionally hard to reach and underserved population. The purpose of the Delaware Culture of Health Team (DCHT) was to provide health and service education, screening and assessment, and referral to services to person on probation in New Castle County, Delaware. Researchers at the Center for Drug and Health Studies at the University of Delaware evaluated the Change Team process through observation and interviews with team members and volunteers.


Linking Individuals on Probation to Health Care: A Pilot Randomized Trial

Testing the Impact of a Referral Program to Link Probationers to Primary Care

Decision Making Among Adult Offenders and Non Offenders

  • Raymond Paternoster, University of Maryland, Principal Investigator
  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Co-Investigator
  • Steven S. Martin, Co-Investigator
  • Initiation Date: 2014; Funding Source: National Institute of Justice

This project, being conducted in Delaware, will select 500 imprisoned offenders (300 males and 200 females) who are currently residing in a pre-release center and a comparison sample of 250 non-offenders (150 males and 100 females) from the general community. All subjects will respond to two hypothetical crime scenarios (petty theft and assault). Participants will be measured on several characteristics that have been shown in past research to be related to decision making: risk seeking, risk avoidance, sensation seeking, risky decision making, perceptions of both formal and informal sanctions, and the presence of visceral factors or a craving for risky decisions like crime. In addition, a sample of 120 offenders (80 males and 40 females) will be interviewed in the community approximately 12 months after their release. In addition to their questionnaire data, we will collect one year follow-up information from official sources from all those in the offender sample. The data will be used to investigate how offenders and non-offenders differ in their decision making processes, as well as how groups within both samples go about making decisions.

Decide Your Time: Testing Deterrence Theory’s Certainty and Celerity Effects on Substance-using Probationers

  • Daniel J. O’Connell,  Principal Investigator
  • Christy A. Visher, Co-Principal Investigator
  • Steven Martin, Co-Investigator 
  • Grant Bacon, Research Associate
  • John J. Brent, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Initiated: 2010;  Completed: 2015; Funding Source: National Institute of Justice

Delaware’s Decide Your Time program (DYT) was designed to manage high risk substance-using probationers by focusing on the certainty of detecting drug use through increasingly frequent drug tests coupled with graduated but not severe sanctions. Through a randomized trial and process evaluation of Decide Your Time, the Center for Drug and Health studies assessed the program’s effectiveness, as well investigated the facilitators and barriers involved in implementing such a program. Developed from a combined model of deterrence and empowerment, the program informs eligible probationers of: (1) what will be required of them, (2) what will if they fail to meet requirements, and (3) how to reduce their level of monitoring once they trigger increased sanctions. A treatment component led by probation officers assists probationers once program sanctions motivate a readiness for change. The program, therefore, provides a model deterrent approach in which certainty and speed, rather than severity, are the key elements. In addition, it empowers the probationer by clearly informing him or her of how the program operates, thus allowing them to “Decide Your Time.”


Decide Your Time: Testing Deterrence Theory’s Certainty and Celerity Effects on Substance-Using Probationers.”​

Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies 2 (CJ-DATS 2)

  • Christy A. Visher, Principal Investigator
  • Steven S. Martin, Co-Investigator 
  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Co-Investigator
  • Sami Abdel-Salam, Project Director
  • Laura Monico, Graduate Research Assistant (MATICCE)
  • Ashley Kilmer, Graduate Research Assistant (OPII)
  • Holly Swan, Graduate Research Assistant (HIV-STIC)
  • Initiated: 2009; Completed: 2015; Funding Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

CJ‐DATS 2 was a series of national collaborative research projects involving nine Research Centers and a Coordinating Center. The Center for Drug and Health Studies at the University of Delaware was one of the nine Research Centers. Many of the key questions reflect the need to develop a better understanding of the organizational and systems issues that can aid or undermine implementation of effective drug treatment and other services in correctional settings, especially for individuals reentering the community after incarceration. A particular focus of CJ-DATS 2 was to investigate how agencies, sites, or programs adopt and implement evidence-based practices across different stages of criminal justice processing, and how the implementation of evidence-based programs and practices can be improved to yield better client outcomes and increased utilization of services.


“Implementing Drug Abuse Treatment Services in Criminal Justice Settings: Introduction to the CJ-DATS Study Protocol Series”

CJ-DATS 2:  Medication-assisted treatment implementation in community corrections environments (MATICCE)

The Medication-Assisted Treatment Implementation in Community Correctional Environments (MATICCE) protocol focused on improved inter-organizational linkages and communication between criminal justice agencies (e.g., probation and parole, TASC) and community treatment centers where pharmacotherapy is currently provided. The primary focus combined two types of interventions: 1) survey and address knowledge, perceptions, and information (KPI) of employees and staff through staff training, and 2) a strategic planning and implementation process to generate improved collaboration and communication between criminal justice agencies and community treatment centers surround MAT.


Medication-Assisted Treatment in Criminal Justice Agencies Affiliated with the Criminal Justice-Drug Abuse Treatment Studies (CJ-DATS): Availability, Barriers, and Intentions

“Effect of an Organizational Linkage Intervention on Staff Perceptions of Medication-Assisted Treatment and Referral Intentions in Community Corrections”

“Using Organizational Strategies to Improve Substance Abuse Treatment for Probationers: A Case Study in Delaware”

CJ-DATS 2: Improving Best Practices in Assessment and Case Planning for Offenders: Organizational Process Improvement Intervention (OPII)

The Best Practices in Assessment and Case Planning for Offenders: Organizational Process Improvement Intervention (OPII) is designed to: evaluate the effects of an organizational strategy to improve the processes of risk and needs assessment of offenders and development of case plans; transfer this information to community-based treatment agencies; and promote access to services specified in the case plans. The target organizations of the study are correctional agencies involved in the reentry and/or diversion of adult offenders to the community, including prisons, jails, probation and parole, and community-based substance abuse treatment agencies. The protocol was conducted in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Corrections.


“Building Bridges in New Jersey: Strengthening Interagency Collaboration for Offenders Receiving Drug Treatment”

CJ-DATS 2:  HIV Services and Treatment Implementation in Corrections (HIV-STIC)

Offenders are at high risk for HIV infection, yet there are important gaps in the implementation of effective HIV services for preventing, testing for, and treating HIV. This CJ-DATS 2 protocol addresses the research gap by experimentally testing an organizational intervention strategy for more effectively implementing improvements to one of the HIV Services Continuum for offenders under correctional supervision: HIV prevention; testing; or linkage to care for HIV-positive individuals upon discharge. The protocol was implemented in collaboration with the Delaware Department of Corrections with a focus on the linkage to care stage of the continuum.​


“Improvements in Correctional HIV Services: A Case Study in Delaware”

“A cluster randomized trial of utilizing a local change team approach to improve the delivery of HIV services in correctional settings: study protocol”

“Policies and Practices in the Delivery of HIV Services in Correctional Agencies and Facilities: Results From a Multisite Survey”

“Efficacy of a Process Improvement Intervention on Delivery of HIV Services to Offenders: A Multisite Trial”

“The Effect of a Local Change Team Intervention on Staff Attitudes towards HIV Service Delivery in Correctional Settings: A Randomized Trial”