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Program Profile: Minnesota Prison Work Release Program

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on September 05, 2017

Program Summary

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.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Minnesota Prison Work Release 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 specific goals of the program are to increase post-prison employment and ultimately reduce recidivism. The program is run by the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MnDOC).

Program Activities

Once individuals in prison are approved for the work-release program, they are transferred from the MnDOC facility to a county jail or a community corrections residential facility. While on work release, participants are expected to obtain steady employment or participate in approved vocational programming. Participants are randomly drug and alcohol tested. Those who are assessed as chemically dependent are required to participate in treatment programs (such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or relapse-prevention programs). Participants are also expected to use a portion of their income (an average of $7.00 per day) to pay the work-release housing costs and court-ordered restitution. Participants who have difficulty finding employment are referred to community programs that assist offenders in developing job-seeking skills.
Participants complete work release when they reach their original, supervised release date. They fail work release if they violate program rules, fail to follow the conditions of furloughs/passes, and/or fail to remain law abiding. Violating the conditions of work release can result in sanctions ranging from loss of privilege to revocation and return to prison.
Targeted Population
Individuals in prison are eligible to participate if they are within 8 months of being released from prison and have served at least half of their sentence. When they are within 1 year of being released to supervision, they may submit applications for work release. Due to public safety considerations, the program is geared more toward those of lower-risk. Persons convicted of sex crimes, or have a high-recidivism risk, poor prison behavior, or are predatory-type individuals are prohibited from participating in the program.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Duwe (2015) found that the Minnesota Prison Work Release Program significantly decreased the risk of being rearrested. Participation in the program lowered the hazard by 16 percent for rearrest.
The program significantly decreased the risk of being reconvicted. The results showed that participation in the program lowered the hazard by 14 percent for reconviction. 
The program significantly decreased the risk of being reincarcerated. Participation in the program lowered the hazard by 17 percent for new offense reincarceration. 
Revocation for Technical Violations
However, contrary to program goals, participants had a statistically higher chance of revocation for technical violations than the comparison group. The program increased the risk of technical violations by 78 percent for program participants (this may be due to program participants being placed under greater surveillance than comparison group members who were placed on regular supervision). 
Program participants were eight times more likely to find a job post-release than the comparison group, a statistically significant difference.
Total Hours Worked
Participation in the program significantly increased the total number of hours worked for program participants, compared with the comparison group. Program participants worked 497 hours more in the follow-up period.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Duwe (2015) conducted a quasi-experimental design to measure the effectiveness of the Minnesota Prison Work Release Program. The program group included 1,785 people in prison who were transferred to a county jail or community corrections residential facility to participate in the program. The comparison group comprised of general population individuals in prison who met the eligibility criteria, but did not participate in the work-release program. Although 6,841 incarcerated individuals were released from 2007 to 2010, propensity score matching resulted in 1,785 who served as the comparison group. No specific breakdown was provided on the demographic characteristics of study participants.
Follow-up data on recidivism outcomes (measured as rearrests, reconvictions, reincarcerations, and revocations for technical violations) was collected through the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Correctional Operations Management System. Cox regression models were used for the analysis of the four recidivism measures. Recidivism data was collected on participants through the end of 2012. Data on employment outcomes (measured as finding a job and total hours worked) was obtained from the Minnesota Department of Employee and Economic Development and analyzed using multiple logistic regression.

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Although there was no specific cost information available on this program, the study author did indicate that the program had a cost avoidance implication of over $700 per participant, which equaled $1.25 million overall (Duwe 2015). The cost avoidance was calculated based on the costs of incarceration, the income taxes contributed back to the system, and the contribution of wages to pay restitutions.
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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
Duwe, Grant. 2015. “An Outcome Evaluation of a Prison Work Release Program: Estimating Its Effects on Recidivism, Employment, and Cost Avoidance.” Criminal Justice Policy Review 26(6):531–54.

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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Noncustodial Employment Programs for Ex-Offenders
This practice involves job training and career development for offenders with a recent criminal record in order to increase employment and reduce recidivism. These programs take place outside of the traditional custodial correctional setting, after offenders are released. The practice is rated No Effects in reducing criminal behavior for participants in noncustodial employment training programs compared with those who did not participate.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Adult Reentry Programs
This practice involves correctional programs that focus on the transition of individuals from prison into the community. Reentry programs involve treatment or services that have been initiated while the individual is in custody and a follow-up component after the individual is released. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism.

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

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: White, Other

Setting (Delivery): Correctional, Other Community Setting

Program Type: Aftercare/Reentry, Vocational/Job Training, Wraparound/Case Management

Targeted Population: Prisoners

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: National Reentry Resource Center

Grant Duwe
Research Director
Minnesota Department of Corrections
1450 Energy Drive, Ste 200
St. Paul MN 55108-5219