Cognitive Behavioral Theory, Young Adults, and Community Corrections: Pathways for Innovation

April 24, 2018
Authors: Molly Baldwin, Anisha Chablani-Medley, Luana Marques, Vincent Schiraldi, Sarah Valentine, and Yotam Zeira

The Executive Session on Community Corrections has released a new paper in the New Thinking in Community Corrections series, entitled “Cognitive Behavioral Theory, Young Adults, and Community Corrections: Pathways for Innovation.”

In this new report, co-authored by Molly Baldwin, Anisha Chablani-Medley, Luana Marques, Vincent Schiraldi, Sarah Valentine, and Yotam Zeira, the authors review a collaborative initiative between Roca, a community-based organization in Massachusetts that serves high-risk, justice-involved young men ages 17 to 24, and Community Psychiatry PRIDE, an implementation and dissemination clinical research center affiliated with Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, which focuses on reducing mental health disparities in racially and ethnically diverse communities. The two entities designed a Cognitive Behavioral (CBT) curriculum specifically for the young adult population Roca serves, which is over represented in community corrections. The curriculum development process included the following stages:

  1. Literature review
  2. Needs assessment and model review
  3. Curriculum development
  4. Piloting

Through this process, they developed a curriculum with 10 CBT core skills:New CBT Curriculum Core Skills

The authors conclude with a set of recommendations:

  1. Simple is better.
  2. Start with those who know best: participants and front-line staff.
  3. Find a partner with a different skill set.
  4. Staff can do it, even if they don’t have a Ph.D.
  5. Transform the culture.


Praise for Pathways for Innovation:

  • “Innovation in community corrections is not only about identifying evidence-based practices – it’s about bringing the science to the day to day challenges of our justice system. This paper presents a great promise: that evidence-based practices like cognitive behavioral therapy can reach the highest-risk individuals in the community, with rigor, comprehensive implementation approach, and impact. If we want to see less young people in our jails and more success in community supervision, collaborative efforts like the one led by Roca and PRIDE are our best bet.” – Anne Milgram, Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at New York University Law School
  • “Effective community-based responses to criminal behaviors are key to the important project of ending mass incarceration. This exciting paper unpacks what it takes to leverage CBT, one of our most rigorously evaluated tools for achieving behavioral change and effective outcomes with young people who would otherwise be in jail. Roca and MGH’s ability to turn science into practice, particularly with such a high-risk group of young people, is the kind of innovation that charts a path out of America’s overreliance on jails and prisons.” – Bruce Western, Co-Director of the Columbia Justice Lab, Visiting Professor of Sociology at Columbia University
  • “This project starts off smart.  It pairs savvy practitioners and solid community researchers to fashion a scientifically and practically informed cognitive behavioral intervention for a group of very high risk adolescents. It then learns along the way and revises its approach accordingly.  The refinements to the intervention come from listening to the people delivering the intervention and those receiving it.  It is an exemplar for collaborative program development.” – Edward P. Mulvey, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Law and Psychiatry Program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.


Molly Baldwin is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Roca; Anisha Chablani-Medley is the Chief Programming Officer at Roca; Luana Marques is the founder and Director of Community Psychiatry PRIDE; Vincent Schiraldi is a Senior Research Scientist at the Columbia School of Social Work; Sarah Valentine is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine ; Yotam Zeira is the Director of Strategy & External Affairs at Roca.

The Executive Session on Community Corrections is a project of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) in the Malcolm Wiener Center at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).

Findings and conclusions in these publications are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the US Department of Justice.

Download the report


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About the Executive Session on Community Corrections