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Substance Use Treatment and Reentry (STAR) program: Final evaluation report (Hunter & Huang 2014)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Hunter, S. B., & Huang, C. Y. (2014). Substance Use Treatment and Reentry (STAR) program: Final evaluation report. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Substance Use Treatment and Reentry (STAR) program on post-release employment and recidivism outcomes for justice-involved young adults in California.
  • The authors used an interrupted time series design to compare the outcomes of justice-involved young adults before and after participating in the STAR program. They assessed the change in participants’ scores on the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) Government Performance Reporting Act assessments, which were administered at baseline and at 3, 6, and 12 months following program intake.
  • The authors found statistically significant relationships between program participation and employment and recidivism outcomes. At six months after program intake, employment decreased by 26.7 percentage points but the number of participants who spent any time in a confined setting (jail, prison, juvenile hall) decreased by 11.5 percentage points.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not account for trends in outcomes before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects on employment and recidivism are attributable to the program; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The Substance Use Treatment and Reentry (STAR) program

Features of the Intervention

The STAR program was implemented by Homeboy Industries, a community-based organization in Los Angeles, California. To be eligible, participants must have been ages 16 to 25, sentenced to at least six months in prison, and released within the last four months before program entry. The STAR program provided participants with reentry services to improve their mental health, reduce recidivism, and provide education, job skills, and transitional plans for successful community reentry. Program participants received 12 weeks of motivational enhancement therapy/cognitive behavioral therapy counseling, employment opportunities on-site, and wraparound services such as tattoo removal and parenting classes as needed. Additionally, participants who completed their 12-week treatment were referred to community-based recovery support and relapse prevention services.

Features of the Study

The authors used an interrupted time series design to compare the employment and recidivism outcomes of justice-involved young adults before and six months after participating in the STAR program. They examined the change in participants’ scores on the CSAT Government Performance Reporting Act assessments, which included information on these and other outcomes and were administered at baseline and at 3, 6, and 12 months following program intake. A total of 207 young adults released from Los Angeles County Juvenile Probation Camps from 2010 to 2013 were enrolled into the program, and the analysis included 139 who provided both baseline and six-month follow-up data.

Findings

Employment

  • The authors found a statistically significant relationship between program participation and employment. At six months after program intake, employment among STAR program participants decreased by 26.7 percentage points.

Recidivism

  • The authors found a statistically significant relationship between program participation and recidivism. At six months after program intake, the percentage of participants who spent any time in a confined setting such as jail, prison, or juvenile hall decreased by 11.5 percentage points.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors compared the outcomes of STAR program participants measured before and after they participated in the intervention. For these types of designs, the authors must observe outcomes for multiple periods before the intervention to rule out the possibility that participants experienced increasing or decreasing trends in the outcomes of interest before enrolling in the program. That is, if participants who had increasing employment rates tended to enroll in the program, we would anticipate further increases over time, even if they did not participate in the program. Without knowing the trends before program enrollment, we cannot rule this out. Therefore, the study receives a low causal evidence rating.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not account for trends in outcomes before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the STAR program; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

December 2019

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