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Practice Profile

Noncustodial Employment Programs for Ex-Offenders

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Practice Description

Practice Goals/Services Provided
Noncustodial employment programs provide formerly incarcerated offenders with job training and career development outside of a traditional correctional setting. These programs aim to increase employment and reduce recidivism by improving the jobs and earnings prospects of recent criminal offenders through employment services provided in a noncustodial setting (i.e., neither prison nor jail). The noncustodial settings include halfway houses, group homes, and other community-based facilities where services may be available to recently released offenders.

The employment services provided typically include job placement or job training components, although many programs also include life-skills training, educational services, or social service assistance. The core elements of job training can include career counseling, assistance with résumé preparation as well as filling out job applications, role-playing, and readiness training for job interviews. The needs of offenders may vary. Some may have held a legitimate job before being incarcerated and need assistance only with finding an employer who will hire them, while others may require more employment services to help them enter the labor market.

Practice Theory
The goal of this practice is to reduce recently released offenders’ recidivism by increasing their employment prospects. Longitudinal research of criminal careers and offending has shown that legitimate employment reduces reoffending following release from prison (Sampson and Laub 1993), and that having a criminal record adversely affects one’s employment opportunities (Bushway 1998). When considering the large number of incarcerated persons in the United States, the adverse effects of criminal history on employment prospects, and the potential benefits that legitimate employment has on future offending, noncustodial employment programs aim to improve the odds of successful reentry for many ex-prisoners as they reenter communities across the country.

Target Populations
The targets of these types of interventions are offenders in a noncustodial setting, typically either recently released from prison or having recent criminal histories that have brought them into contact with the justice system. Many of these programs were developed as part of U.S. Department of Labor initiatives that target the chronically unemployed or underemployed and aim to increase job readiness of populations who have been consistently identified as having weak ties to the labor market. Such programs include those funded under the Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962, the Job Training Partnership Act, and Job Corps.

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Visher, Winterfield, and Coggeshall (2006) reviewed 10 studies that examined the effect of participation in noncustodial employment programs on recidivism. They found an overall mean effect size that was small and nonsignificant (LOR=0.06), meaning there were no significant reductions in criminal behavior (i.e., arrest, conviction, technical violation, or self-reported) for recent offenders who participated in noncustodial employment training programs, compared with offenders who did not participate. The effect size shows that, while 54.3 percent of the comparison group were not arrested, 55.8 percent of the treatment group were not arrested.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11978 - 199986000

Meta-Analysis 1
Visher, Winterfield, and Coggeshall (2006) conducted a comprehensive search for studies to determine whether noncustodial employment programs for ex-prisoners or recent offenders reduce recidivism, compared with a no-intervention group. To be included in the analysis, studies needed to have 1) examined the effectiveness of an employment training or job placement program in a noncustodial setting, 2) used a control group that received no treatment or treatment as usual, and 3) been completed during or after 1970 and were in English.

A comprehensive search was conducted, which included searching electronic databases, emailing with leading researchers, and reviewing bibliographies of published reviews and related literature. The search resulted in the inclusion of eight studies published between 1978 and 1999. The studies included published and unpublished evaluations of noncustodial employment programs. The individual program studies included ex-prisoners or offenders with a recent criminal history. All studies were randomized experiments, although the specific assignment procedures were not always clearly presented. While most of the studies had only adult participants, one study’s minimum age requirement was 16. No information was provided on the gender, or the racial/ethnic breakdown of the studies’ samples. The follow-up periods of the included studies ranged from 6 to 36 months.

The authors used inverse variance weights with a fixed-effects analysis. They also conducted a sensitivity analysis to ensure that no single effect size was biasing the results. The standard mean difference and the logged odds ratio were used as the effect size estimates. Once the effect size estimate from each experiment was calculated for recidivism, the overall mean effect size estimate, along with the corresponding confidence intervals, and a weight effect size estimate were calculated.
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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Visher, Christy A., Laura Winterfield, and Mark B. Coggeshall. 2006. “Systematic Review of Noncustodial Employment Programs: Impact on Recidivism Rates of Ex-Offenders”. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2006:1.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Bushway, Shawn D. 1998. “The Impact of an Arrest on the Job Stability of Young White American Men.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 35(4):454–79.

Sampson, Robert, and John Laub. 1993. Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points Through Life. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
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Related Programs

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Following are programs that are related to this practice:

Preventing Parolee Crime Program (PPCP) Promising - One study
A multidimensional, parole-based reintegration program that aims to reduce parolees’ crime and reincarceration by providing them with services that can facilitate a successful reintegration into society following release from prison. The program is rated Promising. Parolees who participated in the program had a statistically significant lower likelihood of reincarceration, compared with parolees who did not participate.

New Jersey Community Resource Centers Promising - One study
This program operates through nonresidential multiservice centers that are designed to facilitate parolees’ successful reintegration back into the community by offering a combination of services and supervision. The program is rated Promising. Parolees in the treatment group showed statistically significant reductions in rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration, compared with parolees in the comparison group.

New Jersey Halfway Back Program Promising - One study
This program serves an alternative to incarceration for technical parole violators or as a special condition of parole on release from prison. The program, which is run at secure residential facilities, provides parolees with an environment that is halfway between prison and ordinary parole release. The program is rated Promising. Program parolees showed statistically significant reductions in rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration, compared with the comparison group.

Auglaize County (Ohio) Transition (ACT) Program Promising - One study
This is a jail reentry program that works to reduce inmates’ recidivism once they reenter the community, in part by linking them to various resources. The program is rated Promising. Approximately 12 percent of program participants were rearrested during the 12-month follow-up period, compared with 82 percent of control group participants, a statistically significant difference.

Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) No Effects - One study
A collaborative Federal effort that concentrated on improving criminal justice, employment, education, health, and housing outcomes of adult and juvenile offenders upon their release from incarceration. The program is rated No Effects. The overall results of the evaluation did not show significant differences between participants and non–participants using measures of housing, substance use, and criminal behavior/recidivism for adult male, female offenders and juvenile male offenders.

JOBSTART No Effects - One study
A school and community-based program designed to increase academic skills and job placement among economically disadvantaged youths with poor reading skills and low job prospects. The program is rated No Effects. The treatment group did not have significantly different outcomes than the control group across most outcome measures. The researchers noted that the resources devoted to JOBSTART exceeded the benefits produced.

Job Corps Promising - One study
A national residential education and job training program that targets economically disadvantaged youths between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. The program is rated Promising. Participants were less likely to be arrested, convicted and incarcerated than the control. There were no statistically significant differences between the control and treatment for alcohol or drug usage. Employment rates and earnings surpassed the control group during the 2nd year follow-up period.

Career Academy Effective - One study
A school within a school that uses a multifaceted approach to foster academic success, mental and emotional health, and labor market success. The program is rated Effective. The program had a significant, positive effect on earnings among young men in the Academy group. However, there was no significant effect on young women’s labor market outcomes or on all participating youths’ high school completion rate, post-secondary education or attainment, or social adjustment outcomes.

Ready, Willing, and Able (RWA) No Effects - One study
This is a transitional employment program that gives those who are newly released from prison the opportunity to work and find housing. RWA seeks to provide clients with work and foundational skills so that they can obtain a job, secure housing, and become financially independent. The program is rated No Effects. RWA had no significant impact on arrests, convictions, and prison sentences after 3 years; however, it did have a significant impact on jail sentences after 3 years.

Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration (TJRD) No Effects - One study
The program is designed to improve behavioral and performance job skills, provide services and support, and help find job placements for participants leaving prison. The program is rated No Effects. The results showed that participation in transitional job services led to increased employment early in the follow-up period, but as participants went from transitional jobs to regular jobs, the employment increase faded. There was no significant impact on recidivism over the 2-year follow up.

EMPLOY (Minnesota) Promising - One study
This is a prisoner-reentry employment program designed to reduce recidivism by helping participants find and retain employment after release from prison. It provides participants with employment assistance during the last several months of confinement through the first year following their release from prison. The program is rated Promising. Results suggested that participants in the program reported significantly lower rates of recidivism and higher rates of employment post-release.

Minnesota Prison Work Release Program Promising - One study
This program was designed to help participants make a successful transition from prison to the community through stable housing, support, and employment after their release. The program is rated Promising. The work-release program significantly decreased recidivism outcomes and improved employment outcomes. However, revocation for technical violations were significantly higher for program participants.

National Supported Work Demonstration Project (Multisite) No Effects - One study
The program was designed to help hard-to-employ individuals acquire skills, habits, and credentials necessary to find and hold permanent, unsubsidized employment. The goal was to prepare individuals for regular employment, reduce unemployment, and reduce criminal behavior and substance use. The program is rated No Effects. There were no significant differences on number of arrests and time to arrests between participants and nonparticipants.

Florida Work Release Program Promising - One study
This reentry program allows individuals who are nearing the end of their custodial sentences to work regular jobs in the community. The program is based in work release centers in participants’ counties of residence in Florida. The program is rated as Promising. The program was found to have a statistically significant effect on reducing reconvictions of participants and increasing their employment and quarterly earnings post-release.

Second Chance Act (SCA) Adult Reentry Demonstration Programs No Effects - One study
This is a program designed to reduce recidivism and improve employment rates through reentry services for individuals who have a moderate-to-high risk for reoffending. The program is rated No Effects. At the 30-month follow up, there were no statistically significant differences in rearrest, reconviction, reincarceration, or employment rates between program participants and control group members.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 17+

Gender: Both

Settings: Other Community Setting, Residential (group home, shelter care, nonsecure)

Practice Type: Aftercare/Reentry, Vocational/Job Training

Unit of Analysis: Persons