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Correctional Theory

Correctional Theory
Context and Consequences

Second Edition

© 2017 | 352 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

“The text is an incredible composite of the literature that has shaped correctional practice. The authors have a great capacity for making research interesting and accessible.  Cullen and Jonson have accomplished their goal of motivating readers to become sophisticated consumers of correctional knowledge.”

Betsy Matthews, Eastern Kentucky University


The Second Edition of Correctional Theory: Context and Consequences continues to identify and evaluate the major competing theories used to guide the goals, policies, and practices of the correctional system. Authors Francis T. Cullen and Cheryl Lero Jonson demonstrate that changes in theories can legitimize new ways of treating and punishing offenders, and they help readers understand how transformations in the social and political context of U.S. society impact correctional theory and policy. Designed to motivate readers to become sophisticated consumers of correctional information, the book emphasizes the importance of using evidence-based information to guide decisions, rather than relying on nonscientific commonsense or ideology-based beliefs.

PART I. Crisis in American Corrections
CHAPTER 1. From Theory to Policy: Evidence-Based Corrections
Theories of Corrections  
Six Theories in Brief  
Utility, Opinion, and Evidence  
Evidence-Based Corrections  
Conclusion: What’s Ahead?  
CHAPTER 2. Correctional Theory in Crisis: America’s Changing Context
What Is Rehabilitation?  
The Rise of the Rehabilitative Ideal  
Attacking Rehabilitation  
The “Nothing Works” Doctrine: Martinson and Beyond  
Conclusion: Crisis in Correctional Theory  
PART II. The Punishment Response
CHAPTER 3. Just Deserts: Doing Justice or Getting Tough?
The Concepts of Retribution and Just Deserts: Punishing the Crime  
Retribution: Just and Painful  
Four Problems for Retribution  
The Justice Model: Restraining State Discretion  
What Went Wrong? Winning the Battle but Losing the War  
Conclusion: The Need for Crime Control  
CHAPTER 4. Deterrence: Scaring Offenders Straight
The Concept of Deterrence  
Is Deterrence a “Conservative” Theory?  
The Theoretical Assumptions of Deterrence  
Studying Whether Deterrence Works: Assessing Types of Evidence  
Policy Changes That Increase Punishment  
Macro-Level Studies of Punishment and Crime Rates  
Perceptual Deterrence Studies  
Deterrence in the Community  
The Effects of Imprisonment  
Conclusion: The Limits of Deterrence  
CHAPTER 5. Incapacitation: Locking Up the Wicked
Too Many Prisoners  
More Than Enough Criminals  
The Concept of Incapacitation  
Estimating the Incapacitation Effect: Studying Individual Offenders  
Estimating the Incapacitation Effect: Macro-Level Studies  
Conclusion: Compared to What?  
PART III. The Social Welfare Response
CHAPTER 6. Restorative Justice: Reintegrative Shaming
The Concept of Restorative Justice  
The Appeal of Restorative Justice  
Three Problems  
Does Restorative Justice Work?  
Conclusion: The Limits of Harm  
CHAPTER 7. Rehabilitation: What Works to Change Offenders
The Concept of Rehabilitation  
Knowing What Works  
Challenging Nothing Works: Narrative Reviews  
Challenging Nothing Works: Meta-Analytic Reviews  
What Does Not Work  
What Does Work: Principles of Effective Intervention  
What Else Might Work?  
Conclusion: Reaffirming Rehabilitation  
PART IV. Extending the Vision of Corrections
CHAPTER 8. Reentry: Saving Offenders from a Life in Crime
From Parole to Reentry  
The Reentry Problem  
Reentry Programs  
The Effectiveness Problem  
Two Things to Keep in Mind  
Conclusion: Saving Offenders From a Life in Crime  
CHAPTER 9. Early Intervention: Saving Children From a Life in Crime
Lessons From Childhood Criminology  
The Need for Early Intervention  
Five Programs That Work—At Least When Done Right  
Two More Reasons to Support Early Intervention  
Conclusion: Beyond Adult-Limited Corrections  
CHAPTER 10. Six Correctional Lessons: Choosing Our Future
Three Themes  
Four Lessons  
Conclusion: Choosing Our Future  
About the Authors


Instructor Resource Site
Calling all instructors! It’s easy to log on to SAGE’s password-protected Instructor Teaching Site for complete and protected access to all text-specific Instructor Resources. Simply provide your institutional information for verification and within 72 hours you’ll be able to use your login information for any SAGE title! Then, pick and choose from this list, depending on what each site offers.

Password-protected Instructor Resources include the following:
  • A Microsoft® Word® test bank is available containing multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions for each chapter. The test bank provides you with a diverse range of pre-written options as well as the opportunity for editing any question and/or inserting your own personalized questions to effectively assess students’ progress and understanding.
  • Editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides offer you complete flexibility in easily creating a multimedia presentation for your course. Highlight essential content and features.
  • Learning objectives that reinforce the most important material.
  • Key words that reflect key topics in the chapters.
  • Chapter-specific discussion questions help launch classroom interaction by prompting students to engage with the material and by reinforcing important content.
  • EXCLUSIVE! Access to certain full-text SAGE journal articles that have been carefully selected for each chapter. Each article supports and expands on the concepts presented in the chapter. This feature also provides questions to focus and guide student interpretation. Combine cutting-edge academic journal scholarship with the topics in your course for a robust classroom experience.
  • Student exercises facilitate students' use of internet and other relevant resources and support further exploration of topics.
Key features


  • The historic end to the mass imprisonment movement and its important implications for correctional policy are examined.
  • A new chapter on prisoner reentry has been added to illuminate a key challenge facing American corrections.
  • An increased presentation of recent research evaluating correctional theories and interventions promotes discussion and shows the utility of evidence-based corrections.
  • Updated tables, figures, and statistics give students a current profile of correctional populations and trends. 
  • A revised table of contents conveniently divides chapters into four accessible parts to make the text easier to navigate.


  • Three underlying themes (theories matter, context matters, and evidence matters) are used throughout the book to examine the correctional system's goals, policies, and practices—now and in the future.
  • The authors explore alternative visions of corrections that differ from the punitive orientation of the past 40 years, especially the theory of rehabilitation.
  • Readers are encouraged to become evidence-based thinkers and to develop their own theory of corrections to guide them as citizens, policymakers, and practitioners.
  • The book's final chapter examines possible future improvements in correctional policies and practices.
  • The book is written in an accessible style with humor and interesting, timely examples.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 5

Chapter 8

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