Evaluating the effectiveness of an anger management program in a detention facility

Heather M Frank, University of Rhode Island


Offenders struggle with anger management not only before prison, but also while incarcerated (e.g., difficulty with prison adjustment, institutional behavioral problems). For these reasons, a number of correctional institutions offer anger management programming. However, the literature of these outcome studies within corrections is limited (Dowden, Blanchette, & Serin, 1999). This study is an evaluation of psycho-educational anger management/substance abuse groups provided to male federal detainees at a privately owned detention facility in the northeastern United States. Objectives of the study were to: understand the demographics of this offender population, assess the effectiveness of the program, and explore participants' group experiences. ^ Over one year, 74 detainees voluntarily attended seven-week, psychoeducational groups facilitated by clinical psychology graduate students. Cognitive-behavioral curriculum was based on Willoughby's (1979) model of the "alcohol troubled person," behavioral/social learning concepts, and the stages of change approach (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1982), and presented using a Motivational Interviewing approach (Miller & Rollnick, 1992). Thirty-one detainees (15 English and 16 Spanish-speaking) completed both pre and post-intervention measures, assessing: background demographics, alcohol/drug history, content/curriculum material, measures assessing readiness to change anger and substance use, self-report of current and usual level of anger, and program satisfaction. ^ Nonparametric statistics showed participation in the group increased detainees' report of readiness to change the way they deal with their anger. English and Spanish-speaking participants were similar on many background variables, but the latter had fewer prior incarcerations, heard of the group through peers, were less likely to use drugs and seek help before arrest, and reported more extreme (very little or very frequent) alcohol use. No significant differences were found between those who completed only the pre measures, versus those who completed both sets. Participants demonstrated knowledge of curriculum and found the group experience to be positive in both content and process dynamics of the group itself. Specifically, Spanish-speaking participants emphasized a factor similar to the traditional Latino concept of "respeto." These results suggest research should study the impact of offenders' readiness to change on treatment outcomes, and continue investigating both English and Spanish-speaking offenders' specific needs and experiences of programming to provide effective interventions. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Behavioral|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Criminology and Penology

Recommended Citation

Heather M Frank, "Evaluating the effectiveness of an anger management program in a detention facility" (2006). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3225317.