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Program Profile: Milwaukee Safe Streets Prisoner Release Initiative (PRI)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on January 30, 2018

Program Summary

This program combines enhanced employment opportunities and wraparound services for prisoners before and after release from prison. The program is rated Promising. There was a statistically significant reduction in likelihood of rearrests for program group participants, compared with the control group. There was also a lower rate of reimprisonment for program participants than nonparticipants; however, this difference was not statistically significant.

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

Program Description

Program Goals
The Milwaukee Safe Streets Prisoner Release Initiative (PRI) provides comprehensive, wraparound services for prisoners released from correctional facilities in Minnesota. The goal of the program is to reduce recidivism by providing participants with services that assist them with employment in addition to treatment for drug addiction, family dysfunction, debts, gang connections, and lack of interpersonal skills.
Prisoners are eligible to participate in the program if they meet the following criteria: 1) are 35 years or younger and male, 2) are scheduled for release with at least 6 months of community supervision, and 3) have a history of violence or gang involvement. Sex offenders are not eligible for the program.
Program Components/Services Provided
The program provides “reach-in” services to assist prisoners with the challenges faced prior to and after release from prison. PRI provides six months of services prior to release, which include a comprehensive and individualized plan to assist offenders with their reintegration into the community.
Prisoners meet regularly with social workers who provide case management by assessing needs, risk, child support, and credit and personal documentation such as driver’s licenses and social security numbers. Prisoners are also supported by a coordinated care team that includes a social worker, job coach, and others. The coordinated care team meets with prisoners 30 days prior to release to ensure there are adequate plans for housing, transportation, and job searches. The team also meets with the prisoners monthly following release.
Postrelease services include a voucher program, intensive case management, and a close working relationship with prosecutors, law enforcement, and faith-based and community-based organizations. Additionally, postrelease services include the following:
  • Vocational Skills Assessment
  • Restorative Justice Circles, which involve a pre-meeting and the circle itself. During the pre-meeting, law enforcement officials, police, and community prosecutors meet with offenders as a group to tell them what will happen during the circle. The offenders then meet with victims, who are given a chance to discuss the suffering caused by the crime.
  • Breaking Barriers, which is a life-skills and cognitive–behavioral change program. The program is workshop-oriented and presented by trained facilitators using group and individual exercises. It is designed to increase self-efficacy, goal achievement, and personal accountability.
  • Community Corrections Employment Program (CCEP), which offers work experience, training, and education vouchers for parolees. Additionally, to encourage employers to hire its clients, CCEP also provides tax-credit certification of eligible offenders to employers, and bonding when necessary.
  • WIser Choice, which addresses alcohol and other drug abuse problems.
  • Remedial Education
  • Work Release

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
New Arrest
Cook and colleagues (2015) found that the Milwaukee Safe Streets Prisoner Release Initiative (PRI) participants were less likely to be re-arrested after a 1-year follow-up period. Of the treatment group, 63 percent of prisoners recidivated, compared with 72 percent of the control group, which was a statistically significant difference.
New Incarceration
There was no statistically significant difference between PRI participants and the control group regarding those who were reincarcerated (22 percent versus 26 percent, respectively).  
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Cook and colleagues (2015) used a randomized controlled trial to study the effects of the Milwaukee Safe Streets Prisoner Release Initiative (PRI) on measures of recidivism after a 1-year follow-up period. The program was limited to male offenders in Milwaukee, 35 years or younger, with a history of violent offenses or gang membership.
The WIDOC recruited the sample through a “trickle-in” process from January to August 2009. Prisoners were told that they had a one-in-three chance of being selected for the treatment program. Upon acceptance into the treatment group, prisoners received a call from the prison social worker. After selection, prisoners had to give consent for their willing participation in the study. Prisoners were randomly assigned based on their WIDOC prison number: every third number was selected for treatment. After selection, PRI inmates were transferred to Racine, Wisconsin, to participate in the program 6 months prior to their scheduled release. Prisoners were housed in the Racine Correctional Institute or Sturtevant Transitional Facility in Racine.
The sample for the study consisted of 236 high-risk male offenders in a Milwaukee prison. The treatment group included 106 prisoners who received numerous social services, including those for employment, substance abuse, and interpersonal skills, and the restorative justice circles. The treatment group was 84 percent black, 15 percent white, and 1 percent other racial/ethnic minority. Prisoners in the treatment group had a mean age of 28 years at release. The control group consisted of 130 prisoners who did not receive any pre- or post-release services. Although participants in the control group were eligible for the same services, they were not guaranteed these services unless the services were available. The control group was 86 percent black, 11 percent white, and 2 percent other racial/ethnic minority. Data was missing for the remaining 1 percent. Prisoners in the control group had a mean age of 27 years at release. On average, the control group had 2.7 prior felonies, and the treatment group had an average of 2.2 prior felonies. Also, 66 percent of the control group had prior gang affiliation, compared with 58 percent of the treatment group. No statistically significant differences were found between groups on baseline characteristics.

Administrative, government data sources that covered the period from January 2009 through the end of 2011 were used to conduct the analysis. Post-prison recidivism data was collected through administrative records from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WIDOC). The study used an intent-to-treat analysis. No subgroup analyses were conducted. 
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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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
Cook, Philip J., Songman Kang, Anthony A. Braga, Jens Ludwig, and Mallory E. O’Brien. 2014. “An Experimental Evaluation of a Comprehensive Employment-Oriented Prisoner Re-entry Program.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology 31(3):355–82.

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Additional References

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

Cook, Phillip J., Mallory O’Brien, Anthony Braga, and Jens Ludwig. 2012. “Lessons from a Partially Controlled Field Trial.” Journal of Experimental Criminology. doi: 10.1007/s11292-012-9146-z

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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

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 - 35

Gender: Male

Race/Ethnicity: Black, White, Other

Setting (Delivery): Correctional

Program Type: Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Aftercare/Reentry, Restorative Justice, Vocational/Job Training, Wraparound/Case Management

Targeted Population: Serious/Violent Offender, Gang Members, Prisoners

Current Program Status: Active

Philip Cook
Duke University, Sanford School of Public Policy
218 Rubenstein Hall PO Box 90245
Durham NC 27708
Phone: 919-613-7360