Contingency Management Programs in Corrections: Another Panacea?
Take the case of the latest panacea in community corrections, the famous Hawaii Opportunity Probation With Enforcement (HOPE) which has been touted as a punishing “smarter” strategy (Hawkin & Kleiman, 2009). At the program’s core are graduated sanctions or punishment approach where probationers are informed that violating conditions of their probation will result in “immediate” arrest and jail time and possibly prison time. Fundamentally, HOPE is a program of threats. In the CM literature, threats do not work as they have no immediate consequences. By immediate, we mean within the minute, not an hour or days later which learning theory has proven in about a thousand experimental replications. Furthermore, if there was a literature that revealed threats had validity, a graduated approach to sanctions is also a guarantee for failure which, by the way, also applies to empirically valid punishers (Bonta & Andrews, 2017; Matson & DiLorenzo, 1984). There is an extensive meta-analytic literature that a consequence of the most common threat used in corrections such as serving actual jail/prison time is not a punisher because antisocial behavior is not reduced on the basis of several meta-analyses (for a summary of the meta-analyses, see Gendreau & Goggin, 2014). The HOPE results prove our point. The National Institute of Justice funded study examining more than 1,500 probationers randomly assigned across four sites into a HOPE condition or probation as usual condition found no significant reduction in recidivism (Lattimore et al., 2016). For other skeptical points of view on HOPE, see Duriez, Cullen, and Manchak (2014). Sadly, programs like these are likely to flourish under the current political climate that supports accountability and get-tough ideology.