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In 1974 authors D. Lipton, Robert Martinson and J. Wilks, using ‘meta-analysis’, assessed all the evaluations of criminal rehabilitation programs between 1945 and 1967. They reached the following conclusion: ‘With few and isolated exceptions, the rehabilitative efforts that have been reported so far have had no appreciable effect on recidivism’. The results of this assessment convinced them that not much seems to work and one program did not seem more effective than another. Robert Martinson made this conclusion available much more widely when he published a short piece in the Public Interest, (a liberal magazine begun in New York in 1965) asserting that ‘nothing works’ and the phrase has been associated with his name since. In a 1978 publication he admitted that they had left out of their study some pieces of research which may have shown rehabilitation to be more effective than they had publicly stated. This phrase ‘nothing works’, however, became the mantra of those opposed to rehabilitation and had some influence in moving the public away from liberal programs of rehabilitation and towards retribution or deterrence as justifications for punishment.

Last updated 2002--0-9-

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Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
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*This social science dictionary has 1000
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