Grant Recipient: Drexel University
Jordan Hyatt, Ph.D., Drexel University
Sarah Tahamont, Ph.D., University of Maryland
Aaron Chalfin, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Term: 2021 — 2029
Summary: This grant will fund a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of ConTextos’ Authors Circle, a jail-based memoir‑writing program designed to develop participants’ critical thinking and communication skills, with the ultimate goal of reducing jail misconduct and post-release recidivism.
Authors Circle is backed by promising prior evidence from two similar programs: Reading for Life and Interactive Journaling. Reading for Life is a mentoring and character-development program for juvenile offenders with nonviolent records that seeks to build virtuous character through the study of moral themes in literature. A well-conducted RCT found a near-significant 21% reduction in re-arrest rates 4- to 46-months after random assignment (30% in the treatment group versus 38% in the control group, p=0.07). Interactive Journaling is a low-cost journaling intervention for incarcerated adults convicted of a substance use-related offense that was found to produce a significant 23% reduction in the likelihood of being re-booked for a criminal offense during the year after random assignment (51% of the treatment group had been re-booked versus 66% of the control group).
This study will randomly assign approximately 720 pre-trial detainees in Cook County Jail over the course of 3.5 years to receive either Authors Circle or usual services. The study will measure jail misconduct and recidivism over a three-year follow-up period using administrative data from sources that include Cook County Jail, the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County Sheriff’s office, and the Cook County court system.
The study’s pre-specified analysis plan will be posted shortly.