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Prisoner reentry experiences of adult females: Characteristics, Service Receipt, and Outcomes of Participants in the SVORI multi-site evaluation (Lindquist et al. 2010)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Lindquist, C. H., Lattimore, K. B., & Visher C. A. (2009) Prisoner reentry experiences of adult females: Characteristics, Service Receipt, and Outcomes of Participants in the SVORI multi-site evaluation. Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI International.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of a violent prisoner reentry program, the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI), on several outcomes of female prisoners reentering society, including employment, public benefit receipt, and recidivism.
  • The authors used a matched comparison group design, using propensity-score weights, to analyze impacts of the SVORI program for females released from prison. The authors collected four waves of survey data to analyze impacts from before release up to 15 months after release. In addition, the authors obtained state administrative data describing recidivism at 24 months after release.
  • The study found that people in the SVORI group were more likely to be employed after release than those in the comparison group, but it found no significant differences between the groups in public benefit receipt or recidivism outcomes.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report for the recidivism outcomes based on survey data is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are confident that any estimated effects would have been attributable to SVORI and not to other factors had the study found statistically significant effects. The quality of causal evidence presented in this report for the recidivism outcomes based on administrative data and for the employment and public benefit receipt outcomes is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects on employment are attributable to SVORI; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI)

Features of the Intervention

The SVORI provides federal funding to states and local areas to develop reentry programs for people exiting prison and returning to their communities. Eligibility for the SVORI was limited to serious and violent offenders, and programs focused on prisoners ages 35 and younger. Individual program sites applied additional eligibility criteria, including criminal history, risk level, and other factors. The characteristics of the program differed in each of the 89 sites in which it was implemented, but program providers were required to provide services in three phases: in-prison, in the supervised post-release period, and in a post-supervision period. The broad requirements of the program were that it provide case management to address a variety of life stability, economic, and health concerns and supervision to reduce recidivism. The authors conducted an implementation study of programs included in the current study and found that they focused largely on employment and community integration services.

Features of the Study

The authors employed a matched comparison group design, using propensity-score weights, to analyze impacts of participation in the SVORI program for female prisoners reentering society. Comparison people were matched to the treatment group on age, race and ethnicity, employment and criminal justice history, and other characteristics. The study was conducted in 11 selected sites with diverse programs serving adult females. A total of 357 females who were recently released from prison and completed a survey before release participated in the study; these included 153 people in the SVORI (treatment) group and 204 people in a geographically matched comparison group of female offenders.

The authors collected four waves of survey interview data using computer-assisted interviews at 30 days before release (Wave 1), 3 months after release (Wave 2), 9 months after release (Wave 3), and 15 months after release (Wave 4). Between 244 and 276 study participants completed each survey wave, and overall response rates ranged from about 68 percent to about 77 percent. In addition, the authors obtained administrative data on rearrest and reincarceration from state correctional agencies across the 11 states, describing recidivism up to 24 months after release. The outcomes analyzed in the study included employment, receipt of public benefits, and recidivism. Other outcomes presented in the study were not eligible for review.

Study Sites

The study was conducted among 11 adult SVORI program sites in a geographically diverse set of 11 states: Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington.

Findings

Employment

  • The study found that women in the SVORI group had more cumulative employment (a difference of 0.8 months) between months 9 and 15 after release from prison than those in the comparison group, but employment before month 9 was the same across the SVORI and comparison groups.

Public benefit receipt

  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between the SVORI and either public health care receipt or receipt of other public welfare benefits among women in the study.

Recidivism

  • On a self-reported measure of reincarceration, the study found no statistically significant differences between women in the SVORI and comparison groups. But administrative state corrections data showed that the SVORI group was more likely to be reincarcerated for a new crime or a technical violation in the two-year period after release.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors estimated multiple related impacts on outcomes on employment, public benefit receipt, and recidivism. Performing multiple statistical tests on related outcomes makes it more likely that some impacts will be found statistically significant purely by chance and not because they reflect program effectiveness. The authors did not perform statistical adjustments to account for the multiple tests, so the number of statistically significant findings in these domains is likely to be overstated.

In addition, the authors note that although study enrollment occurred in 11 program sites, it was not evenly distributed. Of 204 comparison group members, almost half (101) were from Indiana. Thus, the impact of this program site and state as a comparison site is magnified in the analysis.

In the analyses of employment and public benefit receipt outcomes, as well as recidivism outcomes based on administrative state corrections data, the authors did not account for existing differences between the groups before program participation. These existing differences between the groups—and not the program—could explain the observed differences in outcomes. For this reason, the quality of causal evidence on these outcomes presented in this report is low.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report for the recidivism outcomes based on survey data is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are confident that any estimated effects would have been attributable to the SVORI and not to other factors had the study found statistically significant effects. The quality of causal evidence presented in this report for the recidivism outcomes based on administrative data and for the employment and public benefit receipt outcomes is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects on employment are attributable to the SVORI; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Additional Sources

Lattimore, P. K., & Steffey, D. M. (2009). The multi-site evaluation of SVORI: methodology and analytic approach. Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI International.

Reviewed by CLEAR

December 2019

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