Unlocking Desistance: The Role of Executive Functioning in the Rehabilitation of Correctional Populations
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
In a secondary analysis of data collected by Fishbein and Sheppard (2006), the current study sought to explore the relationships among age, executive functioning and antisocial behavior (e.g., changes in institutional infractions, self-reported aggression and reactivity) among a sample of incarcerated men enrolled in a correctional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) program between 2003 and 2005. Specifically, the current study examined whether baseline executive abilities predicted misconduct and whether this relationship was mediated by treatment engagement. The relationships among age, treatment engagement, and changes in executive functioning post-treatment were also considered. It was predicted that improvements in executive functioning would vary by age and level of treatment engagement; younger inmates and those with higher levels of treatment engagement were expected to demonstrate greater improvement.
Findings indicated that baseline response inhibition and impulsivity predicted treatment-related outcomes; however, no baseline executive functions assessed were found to predict changes in antisocial behavior. Interestingly, treatment engagement was not found to be predictive of changes in executive abilities or misconduct. Age-related variations in changes in executive functioning were observed, indicating that younger inmates might be more responsive to interventions aimed at improving executive abilities. Lastly, striking differences were found among baseline executive abilities across age groups; older inmates demonstrated significantly worse performance on all executive tasks. Such findings are inconsistent with developmental trends observed among non-correctional populations.
These results have practical implications for justice-involved populations. In particular, evidence suggests that certain executive abilities could be useful in identifying individuals who are less likely to benefit from correctional treatment programs and therefore would need additional resources or enhanced interventions beyond standard correctional programming. Moreover, findings suggest that intervention efforts aimed at addressing executive deficits among correctional populations could be most effective when provided during early adulthood. Additional research is needed to explore the relationships between executive functioning and recidivism among correctional populations of diverse ages. In particular, future research should examine the potential efficacy of an evidence-based executive remediation program within a correctional setting to assess the potential for executive improvement among this population and whether such improvement is related to critical behavioral and social outcomes.
Nesi, Danielle, "Unlocking Desistance: The Role of Executive Functioning in the Rehabilitation of Correctional Populations" (2022). Dissertations. 3939.
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Available for download on Wednesday, July 26, 2023