Cognitive behavioral therapy for offenders

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help prevent violence. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is a technique that helps clients understand and change the thought patterns that lead to negative behavior
  • Seeks to advance behavior change and understanding of criminal activity among incarcerated individuals and those on probation through development of healthier thought processes
  • May include programming focused on interpersonal skills, anger management, and related topics
  • Can be offered to juveniles and adults in institutional or community settings

Evidence and impacts


Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps; the second-highest level of evidence by the National Institute of Justice

  • Reduces recidivism in adults and juveniles
  • Has particularly strong impact on high-risk offenders and violent or chronically offending juvenile men
  • Participants increase their social skills, problem solving abilities, critical and moral reasoning, self-control, and impulse management and self-efficacy

Best practices in implementation

  • Note: This section is under review
  • Successful programs often focus treatment on personal accountability, anger management, and interpersonal skills
  • Program should be delivered by well-trained providers and staff, and monitored closely
  • When planning the programming, intensive thought into logistics of service provision, quality assurance, and evaluation of effectiveness is imperative
  • For juvenile offenders, effective programs often include a parent education and treatment component