What is Evidence-Based Practice and Why Do I Need to Know about It?

Evidence Based Practice is based on research

If you are a job seeker who is new to the field of corrections, you may hear quite a few terms or phrases that you are not familiar with. That is why we offer our Glossary of Terms to help you get informed regarding terms and phrases associated with the field of corrections.

One phrase that you may often hear, especially in job listings, is evidence-based practice(s). It is even possible that you may currently be employed in a correctional career, but this phrase is new to you. We’re going to explore what evidence-based practice (EBP) is about and why it should matter to you.

Formal Definition of Evidence-Based Practice

We recently added the following definition of evidence-based practice to our Glossary of Terms:

Evidence-based: Conclusions drawn from rigorous research studies that have been replicated numerous times with defined, measurable outcomes about the effectiveness of an intervention or process.

The Dawn of Evidence-Based Practice

Evidence-based practice was formally introduced about 1992 and its original applications related to the medical sciences. The concept is really pretty simple: All practices should be derived based on quantitative (quantity, numbers) research studies that have been performed and interpreted in a way that is consistent with EBP standards. When decisions are made or policies enacted, they are done so using current research and related data to produce the best possible outcome.

The value in such a standard was recognized not only for medicine, but also education, psychology, psychiatry, rehabilitation, and even corrections. Instead of following practices that are led by intuition, anecdotal experience or what a certain individual considers correct or appropriate, evidence-based practice is built upon tried-and-true research. Evidence-based practice allows organizations to use what really works as demonstrated by trials. Evidence-based practice also provides some uniformity in standards and application, whether it is in the medical field, educational field or correctional field. Evidence-based practice is orderly, systematic, logical, and authoritative.

How Evidence-Based Practice is Utilized in Corrections

Law enforcement and correctional agencies are constantly trying to find the best methods to deter individuals from committing crimes. When crimes are committed, law enforcement professionals are there to apprehend the perpetrators and correctional professionals are there to process, monitor, and rehabilitate those individuals throughout their confinement.

In order to reduce recidivism (re-occurrence of criminal activity), an ever-increasing number of correctional agencies are instituting evidence-based practice as the standard for all policy and procedure. Instead of using procedures that may work in one situation and not another, evidence-based practice provides a guideline that determines what will be the most effective strategy based on the results of research.

One common example of evidence-based practice in action is the implementation of motivational interviewing techniques that have proven helpful in initiating and maintaining behavior changes. Instead of attempting to persuade or trick people on correctional supervision into doing what they should, motivational interviewing assists individuals in recognizing the need for change and finding the personal motivation to become involved in their own rehabilitation and reentry process.

Resources to Learn More about Evidence-Based Practice

Would you like to find out more about how evidence-based practice is used in correctional applications?

Here is some recommended reading to continue your learning:

Evidence Based Correctional Practices
The Principles of Effective Interventions
Implementing Evidence-Based Practice in Community Corrections: The Principles of Effective Intervention

Do you see the value of basing policy and procedure on verifiable research rather than unscientific trial-and-error? What benefits of evidence-based practice can you see? Do you now feel more confident in your knowledge of EBP?

Know someone who could use a quick info session on EBP? Share this blog post with them to raise their awareness of evidence-based practice.

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