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An Experimental Evaluation Of A Comprehensive Employment-Oriented Prisoner Re-Entry Program


Cook et al. (2015)


While the economic model of crime suggests that improving post-prison labor market prospects should reduce recidivism, evaluations of previous employment-oriented re-entry programs have mixed results, possibly due to the multi-faceted challenges facing prisoners at the time of their release. We present an evaluation of an experiment that combines enhanced employment opportunities with wrap around services before and after release.


One hundred six eligible prisoners were randomly selected for the "Milwaukee Safe Street Prisoner Release Initiative (PRI)", where they:

1) Met regularly with a social worker and were assessed using a number of standard protocols; 2) were given a vocational-skills assessment and access to soft-skills training, and the chance to participate in restorative justice circles; 3) were expected to participate in the Breaking Barriers cognitive-reality curriculum designed to change behavior, thinking, and attitudes towards criminality and to address the dynamic risk factors for criminal behavior; and 4) were also given access to reach-in service, alcohol and drug treatment, and remedial educatio


One hundred thirty prisoners were randomly selected as control participants, where they did not receive the PRI services.


1) Prisoners that received PRI services displayed an increase in employment rates compared to those who did not. 2) Prisoners that received PRI services displayed an increase in earnings during the period when ex-offenders are eligible for subsidized jobs, and these gains persist throughout the year. 3) The intervention has significant effects in reducing the likelihood of recidivism.


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