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Prison work-release programs and incarcerated women's labor market outcomes (Jung & LaLonde, 2019)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Jung, H., & LaLonde, R. J. (2019). Prison work-release programs and incarcerated women's labor market outcomes. Prison Journal, 99(5), 535-558. 

Highlights

  • The study's objective was to examine the impact of Adult Transition Centers (ATCs) on quarterly earnings and employment.  

  • The study used a quasi-experimental design to compare outcomes before and after incarceration for women who served in ATCs relative to ATC-eligible women who served in minimum security prisons. The study used earnings and employment records from the Illinois Department of Employment Security matched with prison records from the Illinois Department of Corrections.  

  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between serving in an ATC and quarterly earnings or employment post-incarceration. 

  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented non-experimental design. This means we can be somewhat confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to ATCs, but other factors might also have contributed. However, the study did not find statistically significant effects.

Intervention Examined

Adult Transition Center Program

Features of the Intervention

Prison work-release programs, first authorized in Wisconsin in 1913, are designed to help prisoners transition to regular jobs after release. Adult Transition Centers (ATCs) are a form of prison work-release program operated by the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). IDOC selects individuals from a pool of eligible applicants to transfer from their current prison to an ATC where they have opportunities for outside education and employment. ATC residents must participate in outside employment, education, training, or community service, but return to the facility during non-working or non-study hours.  

Features of the Study

The study used a fixed effects model to compare outcomes before and after incarceration for a group of women who served in ATCs relative to ATC-eligible women who served in minimum security prisons. The treatment group consisted of women who were assigned to an ATC in Illinois and either completed and were paroled from the ATC program (ATC parolees) or dropped out of the program and were returned to minimum-security prison (ATC dropouts). The comparison group consisted of women who had a minimum-security designation and were paroled from Illinois’ minimum-security facility, but did not serve in an ATC. To compare the two groups’ outcomes, the study used a statistical model that accounted for time-varying characteristics like quarterly earnings and time-invariant characteristics like race and ethnicity. The study used data from IDOC on prisoners’ demographics and entry and exit dates combined with data on quarterly earnings and employment from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. 

The analytic sample included 3,099 women, but results were presented separately for ATC parolees and ATC dropouts, with a focus on assessing program impacts among treatment completers (ATC parolees). Among the baseline sample of 1,093 ATC parolees, 69% were African American and 25% were White, while the baseline comparison group sample of 1,197 women was 58% African American and 34% White. The average age at prison release was about 34 for the ATC parolees and 30 for the comparison group.

Findings

Earnings and wages

  • The study found no significant differences in the quarterly earnings of women from the treatment completion group (ATC parolees) and the comparison group within two years after incarceration or beyond two years after incarceration.  

Employment

  • The study found no significant differences in the employment rates of women in the treatment completion group (ATC parolees) and the comparison group within two years after incarceration or beyond two years after incarceration.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented quasi-experimental design. This means we would be somewhat confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to ATCs, but other factors might also have contributed. However, the study did not find statistically significant effects.

Reviewed by CLEAR

May 2022