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Program Profile: Minnesota’s Affordable Homes Program

Evidence Rating: No Effects - One study No Effects - One study

Date: This profile was posted on February 23, 2015

Program Summary

A prison work crew program designed to increase the availability of affordable low-income housing while training inmates in construction-industry-specific occupational skills. The program is rated No Effects. The program had some significant effect on program participants’ likelihood of gaining employment in the construction field following release from prison. However, there were no significant effects on gaining employment in other fields, rearrests, reconvictions, and reincarceration.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Minnesota Department of Corrections (MDOC) manages the Affordable Homes Program (AHP), a prison work crew program that trains prisoners in construction, building, and remodeling low-income homes, while they serve time. Established in 1998, AHP was designed to increase affordable low-income housing in Minnesota while providing prisoners with occupational skills and positive work habits to help secure employment after their release from prison.

Target Population
To be eligible for AHP, prisoners must a) be minimum security; b) have no outstanding misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony charges; c) have made no escape attempts in the last 5 years; d) have no history of sexual offenses; e) have no discipline violation in the last 6 months resulting in segregation or extended incarceration; f) pose no risk to the community; g) have a positive attitude; and h) be physically capable of performing the work.

Program Activities
AHP provides hands-on field training designed to help prisoners find employment in the construction industry after their release from prison. Work crews are made up of up to 10 prisoners who are housed in local correctional facilities, such as county jails, in order to be more accessible to the community that they work in.

Prisoners work four 10-hour days a week under the supervision of an MDOC employee who is a master tradesman. Each crew is supplied with a van for transportation and a trailer for their tools. Prisoners are paid an hourly wage that varies from $1.00 to $1.50 and is used to pay restitution, for release money, or is saved in an account until the prisoner is released.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Overall, Bohmert and Duwe (2012) found that the Minnesota Affordable Homes Program (AHP) had some significant effect on program participants’ likelihood of gaining employment in the construction field following release from prison. But there were no significant effects on gaining employment in other fields, nor on measures of rearrests, reconvictions, and reincarceration following release from prison. Overall, the preponderance of evidence suggests the program did not have an impact on participants.

Postrelease Employment
The results showed that participants of the AHP were 2.41 times more likely to gain employment in the construction field compared with the comparison group. However, when looking at gaining employment in other fields, there were no significant differences between the AHP participants and the comparison group.

Rearrest for a New Offense
AHP had no significant effect on rearrest for a new offense.

Felony Reconviction
AHP had no significant effect on felony reconviction.

Reincarceration for a New Crime
AHP had no significant effect on reincarceration for either a new crime or a return to prison for any reason.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Bohmert and Duwe (2012) used a retrospective quasi-experimental design to evaluate the effectiveness of the Minnesota Affordable Homes Program (AHP) on prisoner postrelease employment, recidivism, and program costs. The treatment group (n=224) consisted of all male prisoners who participated in AHP from 1998 to 2005 and were released to the community before January 2006; the comparison group (n=224) consisted of all prisoners who did not participate in AHP during that same time period. All study participants were followed through 2008. Propensity score matching was used to create a similar comparison group.

The study sample was mostly white (treatment= 73 percent, comparison= 75 percent); were an average of 35 years old at release; had an average of 1 ½ previous prison commitments; had an average prison stay of 2 ½ years; and were likely to have been incarcerated for a property offense (treatment=40 percent, comparison=41 percent) or drug offense (treatment=34 percent, comparison=30 percent). There were no significant differences between the two groups.

Postrelease employment was measured by whether the prisoner obtained employment, the total number of hours of employment, and the amount of money earned, using data from the Minnesota Department of Employee and Economic Development. Recidivism was measured by a rearrest for a new offense, a felony reconviction, and a return to prison for a new crime. Data on rearrest and reconviction was obtained from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Data on reincarceration was obtained from the Minnesota Department of Corrections Correctional Operations Management System database, which limited the results to recidivism data in Minnesota only.
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Cost

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Bohmert and Duwe (2012) conducted a cost–benefit analysis on 1) the cost of Minnesota’s Affordable Homes Program (AHP), 2) the cost of inmate labor, 3) no-interest financing for AHP loans, 4) tax revenue from employment earnings, and 5) the cost of recidivism. The analysis found the total costs avoided were over $13.1 million and a benefit of $61.86 for every $1 spent.
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Other Information

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Bohmert and Duwe (2012) conducted a subgroup analysis on the recidivism measures of rearrest for a new crime, felony reconviction, and reincarceration for a new crime, with a focus on the Minnesota Affordable Homes Program (AHP) completers (n=146) and noncompleters (n=78) versus the comparison group (n=224). On all three measures, AHP completers had a significantly lower recidivism rate as compared with the comparison group, whereas AHP noncompleters had significantly higher recidivism rates as compared with the comparison group.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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

Study 1
Bohmert, Miriam Northcutt, and Grant Duwe. 2012. “Minnesota’s Affordable Homes Program: Evaluating the Effect of a Prison Work Program on Recidivism, Employment and Cost Avoidance.” Criminal Justice Policy Review 23(3): 327–51.
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Additional References

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

Duwe, Grant. 2013. What Works With Minnesota Prisoners: A Summary of the Effects of Correctional Programming on Recidivism, Employment, and Cost Avoidance. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Department of Corrections.


Minnesota Department of Corrections. 2010. An Evaluation of the Institution/Community Work Crew: Affordable Homes Program. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Department of Corrections.
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Correctional Work Industries
Correctional work industries are designed to provide work experiences for inmates while they are incarcerated. The practice is rated Promising for reducing crime and delinquency. Those who participated in correctional work industry programs were significantly less likely to recidivate than those who did not participate.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Male

Race/Ethnicity: White, Other

Setting (Delivery): Correctional, Other Community Setting

Program Type: Vocational/Job Training

Targeted Population: Prisoners

Current Program Status: Active