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Minnesota’s Affordable Homes Program: Evaluating the effects of a prison work program on recidivism, employment and cost avoidance (Northcutt Bohmert & Duwe 2012)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Northcutt Bohmert, M., & Duwe, G. (2012). Minnesota’s Affordable Homes Program: Evaluating the effects of a prison work program on recidivism, employment and cost avoidance. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 23(3), 327-351. [Study 1, Contrast 1: Affordable Homes Program participants versus matched nonparticipants].

Highlights

  • The authors examine the impact of participation in Minnesota’s Affordable Homes Program (AHP) on post-release employment, earnings, and recidivism outcomes for people who were previously incarcerated. The authors also investigated whether completion of the program impacted similar outcomes, the profile of which is available here.
  • The authors used a nonexperimental design (propensity score matching) to create a comparison group of nonparticipants who were similar to program participants. The authors used data from the Minnesota Department of Employee and Economic Development, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the Minnesota Department of Corrections to compare these groups’ post-release employment, earnings, and recidivism. • Participation in AHP was not associated with statistically significant effects on employment, earnings, or the recidivism as measured by rearrest, felony reconviction, or re-incarceration for a new crime.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report for program participants compared with nonparticipants is low for post-release employment and earnings but moderate for outcomes related to recidivism. This means we are not confident in the report’s employment and earnings outcomes, but we are somewhat confident in its recidivism outcomes.

Intervention Examined

Minnesota’s Affordable Homes Program (AHP)

Features of the Intervention

Minnesota’s AHP was intended to increase the number of affordable homes in the state and increase the likelihood of people obtaining employment in construction-related fields after release from incarceration. The eligibility criteria for AHP include current incarceration in a minimum security facility; having no discipline violations in the past six months of incarceration; and being physically capable of work. AHP participants received hands-on construction training and were placed in a work crew with a maximum of nine other people. The crews were housed in local minimum security correctional facilities—mostly county jails—throughout the state of Minnesota and worked four 10-hour days each week to build or remodel affordable housing units. Participants were paid $1.00 to $1.50 an hour for their work.

Features of the Study

The authors used a nonexperimental design (propensity score matching) to create a comparison group of 224 previously incarcerated people in Minnesota who had not participated in the program but were otherwise similar to the 224 program participants. Participants were 73 percent White with an average age of 35. All study participants in both groups were released to the community from 1998 to 2008. The authors compared post-release employment and earnings of the two groups using data from the Minnesota Department of Employee and Economic Development. The authors used data from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ Correctional Operations Management System to compare rearrests, reconvictions, and re-incarcerations.

Findings

Employment

  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between participation in AHP and post-release employment.

Earnings

  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between participation in AHP and total wages earned post-release.

Recidivism

  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between participation in AHP recidivism, as measured by rearrest, felony reconviction, or re-incarceration for new crime.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Although the authors used a well-implemented nonexperimental design that produced moderate quality evidence on the relationship between participation in AHP and recidivism, the study does not adequately control for pre-program earnings or employment.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low for post-release employment and earnings but moderate for outcomes related to recidivism. This means we are not confident in the employment and earnings outcomes, but we are somewhat confident in its recidivism outcomes.

Reviewed by CLEAR

January 2020

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