The National Supported Work Demonstration Project was designed to help hard-to-employ individuals acquire skills, habits, and credentials necessary to find and hold permanent, unsubsidized employment. The demonstration targeted specific groups of individuals with limitations to finding and gaining employment, including ex-offenders recently released from prison, individuals recently in substance use treatment, and young school dropouts, many with records of delinquency. The goal was to prepare individuals for regular employment, reduce unemployment, and reduce criminal behavior and substance use.
This program was a large-scale experimental employment program from March 1975 until June 1977. The demonstration program offered minimum-wage, subsidized jobs to individuals in the targeted groups. The program was voluntary (usually 12 months) and provided temporary employment in an environment that was more supportive and more closely supervised than the usual workplace environment. Intervention participants worked in crews of 8 to 10 led by a counselor or supervisor. This program was built on the theory that marriage and employment may be turning points in the lives of criminal offenders (Elder, 1985) because work and the informal social controls of the workplace encourage conformity to rules (Sampson and Laub, 1993).
The demonstration program targeted Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) participants, serious criminal offenders, hardcore drug users, and youth dropouts who had a history of being incarcerated for at least 6 months and had spent no more than 3 months in a job during the past 6 months.
Criminal offenders with ADFC were women who were currently on AFDC or had been on AFDC for 30 of the preceding 36 months with a youngest child of 6 years old or younger. The program also targeted hardcore drug users who were 18 years or older and were currently attending a treatment program or had attended a program within the preceding 6 months. Serious offenders were 18 years or older and incarcerated within the last 6 months as a result of a conviction. Youth dropouts were 17 to 20 years old and did not have a high school diploma or equivalency, had not been enrolled in school within 6 months, and who had an official delinquency record, conviction, court appearance, or the equivalent. Participants were recruited from socioeconomically deprived populations and were referred by criminal justice, social service, and job-training agencies.
As Uggen (2000) studied only recidivism or reoffending, only those with an official arrest history (85 percent of the sample) were included in the analysis.
Number of Arrests
Uggen (2000) found that for the total sample of participants in the National Supported Work Demonstration Project, there was no significant difference in the number of arrests, compared with nonparticipants at the 3-year follow up.
Time to Arrest
There was also no significant effect on the time to arrest for the total sample of participants in the National Supported Work Demonstration Project, compared with nonparticipants at the follow up.
Uggen (2000) used data from the experimental design of the National Supported Work Demonstration Project from nine U.S. cities: Jersey City, N.J., Hartford, Conn., Philadelphia, Pa., Oakland, Calif., Chicago, Ill., Newark, N.J., San Francisco, Calif., New York, N.Y., and Atlanta, Ga. The program took place from March 1975 until June 1977. Over 3,000 participants were randomly assigned to the control or treatment conditions. The number of participants in the control group varied between 1,937 to 2,210, while the number of participants in the intervention group varied between 1,821 to 2,052. Members of both groups self-reported work, crime, and arrest information every 9 months for up to 3 years. As Uggen (2000) only studied recidivism or reoffending, only those with an official arrest history (85 percent of the sample) were included in the analysis.
The treatment group had an average age of 24.6 years old and was 92.0 percent male. The race/ethnicity breakdown of the treatment group was 76.2 percent African American, 12.3 percent Latino, and 11.1 percent white. The comparison group had an average age of 25.2 and was 91.6 percent male. The race/ethnicity breakdown of the comparison group was 76.9 percent African American, 11.7 percent white, and 11 percent Latino.
Event history analysis was conducted to examine the data. Analysis was done using a nonparametric analysis of assignment effects and interaction between the controlled effects and the outcome measures. The study author examined the differences in survivor functions between the treatment and control groups, stratifying by age of participants. The discrete cutting point of age was 26 years.
Although no details were provided on the costs of individual components of the National Supported Work Demonstration Project, the total program cost was $100 million (Uggen 2000).
The interaction between age and employment was found to have a positive effect on recidivism. Participants in the National Supported Work Demonstration program who were over the age of 26 were less likely to report crime and arrest, compared with nonparticipants over the age of 26. For younger participants (26 years and younger), the intervention of supported employment opportunities had no effect on crime. Therefore, although work appeared to be a turning point for older offenders to successfully transition back into the community, this was not true for younger offenders.
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:Study 1
Uggen, Christopher. 2000. “Work as a Turning Point in the Life Course of Criminals: A Duration Model of Age, Employment, and Recidivism.” American Sociological Review
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
MDRC. 1980. Summary and Findings of the National Supported Work Demonstration Project.
Ballinger Publishing Co: Cambridge, Mass.
Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated 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:
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