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Blonigen DM, Cucciare MA, Byrne T, Shaffer PM, Giordano B, Smith JS, Timko C, Rosenthal J, Smelson D. A randomized controlled trial of moral reconation therapy to reduce risk for criminal recidivism among justice-involved adults in mental health residential treatment. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology. 2022 May 1; 90(5):413-426.
OBJECTIVE: Moral reconation therapy (MRT) is a cognitive-behavioral intervention to reduce risk for criminal recidivism. Despite being implemented widely in correctional settings, there are no randomized controlled trials of MRT, and its effectiveness for reducing recidivism among justice-involved adults in noncorrectional settings is unknown. METHOD: In a pragmatic trial, 341 justice-involved patients (95.3% male; 57.8% White/non-Hispanic) admitted to one of three mental health residential treatment programs were randomly assigned to usual care (UC) or UC plus two MRT groups per week for 12 weeks. Follow-ups were conducted at 6- and 12-month postbaseline (71.3% and 74.8% retention, respectively). Primary outcomes were criminal thinking and criminal associates. Secondary outcomes were legal problem severity, days incarcerated in the past 30, rearrested/charged (per official records), substance use, and employment and family/social problems. The study design, analysis, and outcomes were preregistered (ClinicalTrials.gov; ID: NCT02524171). RESULTS: Patients in both conditions improved over time on most outcomes. In intent-to-treat analyses, the rate of change in outcomes over time did not differ by condition, nor did the prevalence of being rearrested and charged within 1 year of baseline (UC = 20.2%, MRT = 24.9%; = 1.14; 95% CI [0.67, 1.94], = .63). MRT engagement was low; 37% of those randomized to MRT received a minimum dose-that is, completed at least Step 3. In per-protocol analyses, this subgroup, relative to UC, improved more on criminal associates, days incarcerated, legal problem severity, and alcohol use severity. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, MRT was not more effective than UC at reducing recidivism risk for patients in mental health residential treatment. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).