Sociology Index


Robert Martinson's nothing works, has become the mantra of those opposed to rehabilitation or rehabilitative ideal and had influenced some in moving the public away from liberal programs of rehabilitation and towards retribution or deterrence as justifications for punishment.

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 criminal recidivism’.

The results of this assessment convinced them that nothing works really 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, asserting that nothing works and the phrase 'nothing works' has been associated with his name since. Robert Magnus Martinson's 1974 study "What Works?" was so influential, that it became known as the "nothing works" doctrine.

From Nothing Works to What Works: Changing Professional Ideology in the 21st Century - Francis T. Cullen, Univ. of Cincinnati, Paul Gendreau, Univ. of New Brunswick at Saint John.
Criminologists believed that the scientific study of the causes of crime would form the basis of individualized treatments that would reduce offender recidivism. By the mid-1970s, this view had collapsed and had been replaced by a professional ideology emphasizing that nothing works in corrections, that the causes of criminality are structural, and that crime can only be reduced through social justice. The authors believe that this vision will improve criminology as a discipline and contribute more than "nothing works" scholarship to the commonweal of both offenders and the public order.

'Something from nothing': Shifting credibility in community correctional programmes in Australia. - Mark Israel, John Dawes, Flinders University.
Growth in the number and size of community corrections programmes in Australia has occurred despite concerns about the value of those programmes. In this article, we examine the debate that took place among researchers and practitioners about the credibility of community corrections following Martinson's apparent assertion in 1974 that nothing works and investigate what little is known about the confidence that various groups in Australia are prepared to place in such programmes.

Fall of the 'Platonic Guardians': Liberalism, Criminology and Political Responses to Crime in England and Wales - IAN LOADER, University of Oxford - Faculty of Law. - British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 46, No. 4, pp. 561-586, 2006.
Abstract: Explores three moments of contention during which the legitimacy of liberal elitism was called into question over the last several decades: the nothing works assault on rehabilitation in the 1970s, the rise of law and order politics in the 1980s, and the populist and punitive turn taken by penal politics since 1993.

Evaluation - A Way Out of Rhetoric (From Correctional Counseling and Treatment) - S Adams.
Abstract: The 'Nothing Works' doctrine, which purports to use empirical evidence as the basis for arguing that rehabilitation programs in general are a waste of time and money, is empty rhetoric that is useless for rational correctional planning. Adherents of the Nothing Works doctrine have not adopted a scientific, critical approach to the evaluation research used to suport their rhetoric, and they have ignored the ambiguous, ambivalent results of such research. One of the consequences of the current flocking to the Nothing Works banner by many impressionable administrators and politicians has been the attachment of new importance to the prison as a symbol of deterrence and incapacitation.

A Meta-Analysis of Juvenile Correctional Treatment, JOHN T. WHITEHEAD, STEVEN P. LAB.
Debate over the effectiveness of correctional treatment has been raging for over a decade. The view that Nothing Works dominates in the mind of the public and relies on many early reviews of the literature for support. The most contemporary approach to analyzing the state of the evidence on correctional treatment is the use of meta-analysis. Meta-analysis is a technique that reanalyzes data found in original research reports and arrives at a common measure for all of the studies. It appears that the earlier evaluations that claim that Nothing Works are close to the conclusion to be drawn from more recent evaluations of juvenile treatments.

Beyond Positivism: Learning from Contextual Integrated Strategies, JOHN BRAITHWAITE
That Nothing Works is not an empirically established fact, but an artifact of the epistemology of a science with a particular structure. This structure can be reformed.

Correctional Treatment and Social Intervention Theory: Bringing Sociology and Criminology Back in - Don C. Gibbons, Department of Sociology, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, Oregon 97207, U.S.A.
Nothing Works era of the 1960s and 1970s. A considerable share of the analysis in this paper centers on the author's primer on correctional treatment, Changing the Lawbreaker. Many of the weaknesses and strengths of sociologically-based treatment theory in corrections are pointed up in that examination. Two major conclusions are warranted: diagnostic typologies have failed to reflect the diversity of offender behavior, and correctional theorizing by sociological criminologists has been unduly optimistic. At the same time, the Nothing Works or punitive approach to lawbreakers is also flawed.

Once Upon a Time Served: Therapeutic Application of Fairy Tales within a Correctional Environment - C. Lewis Holton, Criminal Justice Department, Tri-County Technical College, Post Office Box 587, Pendleton, South Carolina 29670, U.S.A. 
During this century, correctional policy has swung dramatically from stark punitive control to rehabilitative ideal or rehabilitative cure. We have sought a just model for corrections, and we have seen "experts" go on record that Nothing Works.