Insights from Ted Palmer: Experimental criminology in a different era: The academy of experimental criminology 2011 Joan McCord prize lecture

Ted Palmer, Patricia van Voorhis, Faye S. Taxman, Doris L. MacKenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: Report insights from the career of the noted evaluation researcher, Ted Palmer, on emerging issues in correctional research and correctional treatment. Method: Not applicable. Results: Ted Palmer discussed the favorable and productive research climate at the California Youth Authority and the California Department of Corrections during the 1960s and 1970s. Research departments in both agencies had strong backing from the Governor and the state legislature. The research divisions were staffed by renowned social scientists who were able to work independently and free from political influence mostly because the state was growing rapidly and needed evidence to support the increasing number of state investments. Robert Martinson's 1974 study asserting that "nothing worked" in correctional treatment effectively dismantled treatment programming in California. Ted Palmer's response to Martinson involved an independent review of the same studies. The Palmer review reached the conclusion that programs meeting certain characteristics did in fact reduce recidivism. Ted experienced a number of attacks from Martinson and explained that it was essential to just keep to the science of the work, avoiding personal attacks. Palmer later expanded this inquiry into a book. Ted Palmer gave special credit to recent researchers, Canadian scholars especially, for meta-analyses and other studies that effectively showed that some types of correctional rehabilitation programs effectively reduced recidivism. Ted recounted that he believed the most valuable findings of the classic experimental study, the Community Treatment Project, concerned the guidance for differential approaches and relationship styles for youth. He noted the importance of treating three conditions: internal conflicts, deficits in social skills, and external pressures. Ted observed that contemporary treatment approaches tend to ignore internal, psychological problems and conflicts. He offered several recommendations regarding future research priorities. The field needs larger studies with longer follow-up periods that allow for a more thorough examination of optimal program conditions. Conclusion: Not applicable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-115
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Insights from Ted Palmer: Experimental criminology in a different era: The academy of experimental criminology 2011 Joan McCord prize lecture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this