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Summaries of RCT Grants

Randomized controlled trial of ConTextos’ Authors Circle — a jail-based memoir writing program for pre-trial detainees, aimed at reducing jail misconduct and recidivism

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.

Grant Recipient: Drexel University

Principal Investigators:

Jordan Hyatt, Ph.D., Drexel University

Sarah Tahamont, Ph.D., University of Maryland

Aaron Chalfin, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Term: 2021 - 2029

Funding: $496,087

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.

Grants

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