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Program Profile: North Carolina Vocational Delivery System

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

Date: This profile was posted on September 05, 2017

Program Summary

This program was designed to assist justice-involved young adults (ages 18 to 22) in obtaining postrelease employment. It involved an integrated system of vocational training and reentry services to reduce the rate of rearrest after release. This program is rated No Effects. Results suggest there were no statistically significant differences in measures of recidivism and employment between young adults who participated in the program, compared with those who did not participate.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals
North Carolina Vocational Delivery System (VDS) was a vocational rehabilitation program offered by the North Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC) at two prisons: Cameron Morrison Youth Center (CMYC) and Sandhills Youth Center (SYC). The program integrated training and employment services provided by a variety of agencies into one comprehensive program directed at improving the postrelease employability and employment rates of inmates. VDS was geared toward 1) working individually with inmates to identify vocational interests and aptitudes, 2) developing individual plans of study for improving vocational skills, 3) providing the identified training as well as other needed services (i.e., substance abuse and psychological counseling), and 4) helping inmates secure postrelease employment.
Target Population
VDS was specifically designed for justice-involved male young adults between the ages of 18 and 22 who were medium- and minimum-custody inmates.
Key Personnel
The DOC, the Department of Community Colleges, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation of the Department of Human Resources, and the Employment Security Commission (ESC) all participated in the delivery of VDS. VDS required employees within the two prisons to coordinate among themselves and with other agencies to provide services to inmates.
Program Components
Upon arrival at a VDS facility and assignment to the program, inmates met with an evaluator and underwent 3 weeks of vocational evaluation, testing, and counseling to determine which programs most suited each inmate’s vocational interests and aptitudes. The evaluator discussed results with the inmate and his case manager, who then developed the inmate’s correctional plan, based on the assessment, which provided the basis for assignment to educational, vocational, and enrichment programs. A basic course offered through VDS lasted about 6 weeks; however, an inmate could choose to continue participating in the course for an extended period post-completion.
The case manager also worked with the inmate, instructors, and others to facilitate completion of the plan, which included monitoring of the inmate’s progress with respect to his correctional plan and priority placement in vocation programs. The VDS program also included Community-Re-entry Training (CRT), a program that provided training on interview techniques, workplace behaviors, financial management, and hygiene; and job development, including assistance prior to and following release from prison. A job developmental specialist was responsible for prerelease employment assistance, and the ESC offender specialist assisted the inmate in finding a job once released.

A parole officer established a Mutual Agreement Parole Program (MAPP) contract, which guaranteed a parole date, with the inmate, where justice-involved young adults could negotiate a parole date contingent upon completion of the correctional plan.
Program Theory
The VDS program is based on an economic model of criminal behavior (Becker 1968). The model suggests that participation in crime follows a rational decision in which the costs and benefits of criminal activity are weighed against the costs and benefits of legal activity. Crime is chosen if the expected returns to crime are higher than those of legal activity. The model suggests that criminal behavior can be affected by increasing the costs of participating in crime or by increasing the returns to legitimate activity. The VDS program focuses on increasing the returns of legitimate activity such as wages from employment.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Employment (Quarterly Wage)
Lattimore, Witte, and Baker (1987) found no statistically significant difference in the postrelease quarterly wages between the experimental and control groups.
Recidivism (Arrest)
Groups did not differ statistically significantly on postarrest release measures of arrest.
There were no statistically significant differences in the proportion of the experimental and control groups that were reincarcerated.
Time to First Arrest
Time to first arrest did not statistically significantly differ between the two study groups.
Time to First Re-Incarceration
Time to first reincarceration did not statistically significantly differ between the two study groups.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Lattimore, Witte, and Baker (1987) used a true experimental design that randomly assigned inmates to one of three evaluation groups (one experimental and two control groups) to examine the impact of the North Carolina Vocational Delivery System (VDS). The study included two stages of random assignment. In Phase I, between June 1983 and November 1984, inmates were either assigned to the VDS study and transferred to Cameron Morrison Youth Center (CMYC) or to a prison external to the VDS experiment. The criteria used to assign inmates to CMYC included 1) male inmates ages 18 to 21; 2) inmates convicted of non-assaultive crimes, who had non-assaultive histories, serving total sentences of 15 years or less; 3) first-time, justice-involved youths, regularly involved youths, and youths who committed multiple offenses with no history of violence, aggressive behavior, or other negative institutional records; and 4) non-assaultive mentally disabled youths with an IQ of 40 to 70.
In Phase II, beginning in June 1983, but mainly from November 1984 and June 1986, those transferred to CMYC were randomly assigned to either the control group or the experimental group. Selection criteria identified individuals as eligible for random assignment to the experimental or control group if they had 1) committed property offenses (i.e. robbery, breaking and entering, larceny, shoplifting), 2) IQs greater than or equal to 70; 3) good health, 4) an expected in-state release, and 5) an expected stay of 8 months to 3 years. The experimental group was designated to receive all elements of the program, while members of the control group received some elements of the program based upon availability.
Data for the study was drawn from Sandhills Management Information System, North Carolina Department of Correction (DOC), the Employment Security Commission (ESC), and the Police Information Network (PIN). Evaluation of the VDS program began with enrollment of participants into the program and continued through June 1986. Data collection on participants continued through August 1987.

A total of 591 participants were enrolled in VDS, of which 295 were assigned to the experimental group and 296 to the control group. Overall, the two groups compared well with respect to demographic and pre-incarceration employment measures, with few differences between them. About 50 percent of each group was white, 70 percent were from an impoverished background, and 80 percent or more drank and used drugs (at least occasionally). Most of the participants were not married, from an urban area, and had IQs of 100. The average educational achievement for all groups was ninth grade and most tested at the fifth- or sixth-grade level. Fifty-seven percent of participants had less than 1 year of work experience, more than 70 percent were unskilled, and more than 70 percent had either no or unstable work histories. The control and experimental groups were similar on all measures of criminality. Most members of all groups were serving sentences for breaking and entering or larceny.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Although participants in the experimental group received more services than control group participants, evaluation of the implementation of North Carolina Vocational Delivery System indicate that some components of the program were implemented (correctional plans), some components were not universally delivered (Mutual Agreement Parole Program contracts and Community- Re-entry Training), and other components (evaluation and job development/placement services) were most likely delivered in part (Lattimore, Witte, and Baker 1989).
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Other Information

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Lattimore, Witte, and Baker (1990) conducted a follow-up study on a measure of recidivism (arrest following release) for a subgroup of original 591 VDS participants. Between June 1983 and May 1986, program participation data and arrest data from North Carolina’s Police Information Network was available for 138 experimental group members and 109 control members, after release. On average, most study participants were 20 years of age, single (92 percent) with no dependents (82 percent), white (53 percent), and from an urban area (61 percent). Study participants came from an impoverished background (72 percent), had an IQ of 100, had completed the ninth grade, and scored at the fifth- or sixth-grade level on reading, spelling, and arithmetic skills. They were most likely to be employed (56 percent) prior to incarceration, had an unstable work history (74 percent), and were unskilled (70 percent). There was a small but statistically significant difference in the average arithmetic score, and the average sentence for released subjects was 52.5 months (rather than 61.5). Lattimore, Witte, and Baker (1990) found that the likelihood of re-arrest following release from prison did not statistically significantly differ between the experimental and control groups.
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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
Lattimore, Pamela K., Ann D. Witte, and Joanna R. Baker. 1987. “Sandhills Vocational Delivery System Experiment: An Examination of Correctional Program Implementation and Effectiveness.” North Carolina State University: Center for Urban Affairs, Community Services.
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Additional References

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

Lattimore, Pamela K., Ann D. Witte, and Joanna R. Baker. 1989a. "Experimental Assessment of the Effect of Vocational Training on Youthful Property Offenders.” (Working Paper) National Bureau of Economic Research.

Lattimore, Pamela K., Ann D. Witte, and Joanna R. Baker. 1990. “Experimental Assessment of the Effect of Vocational Training on Youthful Property Offenders.” Evaluation Review 14(2):115–33.

Phipps, Polly, Kim Korinek, Steve Aos, and Roxanne Lieb. 1999. Research Findings on Adult Corrections Programs: A Review. Olympia, Wash.: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Corrections-Based Vocational Training Programs
Vocational training or career technical education programs in prison are designed to teach inmates about general employment skills or skills needed for specific jobs and industries. The practice is rated Promising in reducing recidivism, and in having a significant impact on participants obtaining employment following release from prison. Their odds were 28 percent higher than inmates who had not participated in training.

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

Age: 18 - 22

Gender: Male

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, White

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Correctional

Program Type: Aftercare/Reentry, Vocational/Job Training

Targeted Population: Young Offenders, Prisoners

Current Program Status: Not Active

Listed by Other Directories: National Reentry Resource Center