Absence of conflict of interest.
Webster, J. M., Staton-Tindall, M., Dickson, M. F., Wilson, J. F., & Leukefeld, C. G. (2014). Twelve-month employment intervention outcomes for drug-involved offenders. American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse, 40(3), 200-205.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of a drug court employment intervention on participants’ employment and earnings one year after the intervention.
- The study is a randomized controlled trial. A total of 500 participants at two drug court sites in Kentucky were randomly assigned to receive either an employment intervention and a standard drug court program (the treatment group) or a standard drug court program alone (the control group). Using self-reported survey data from participants, the authors compared outcomes for the treatment and control groups.
- The study found that members of the treatment group worked an average of 210 days in the year after random assignment compared with 200 days for the control group; this was a statistically significant difference. The study found no significant impacts of the intervention on earnings.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because it was based on a randomized controlled trial for which the study did not provide enough information to demonstrate that the groups had similar response rates on the survey, and it also did not account for other factors that could have affected the difference between the treatment and control groups. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the employment intervention; other factors are likely to have contributed.
The employment intervention
Features of the Intervention
The employment intervention involved a combination of group and individual activities over 26 sessions. Led by employment specialists with counseling experience, sessions focused on job readiness, life skills, and obtaining or advancing in employment. Specifically, the intervention covered topics such as networking, writing resumes and cover letters, completing job applications, interviewing skills (including how to address a criminal record during interviews), and workplace behavior expectations. Participants also received case support in maintaining employment and preventing a relapse of their substance use disorders. The individual sessions used methods such as motivational interviewing and employment-focused case management, in which participants would identify their barriers to employment and work on solutions to overcoming those barriers. Group sessions included employment-focused motivational interviewing, thought-mapping, and structured storytelling.
The intervention and comparison groups both participated in the standard drug court activities, including substance abuse treatment services within the context of the criminal justice system. Drug court participants must complete drug testing, hold a job, and come to the court for frequent interactions with the judicial system.
Features of the Study
Participants at two drug court sites in Kentucky were recruited for the study in 2000 to 2002. To be eligible for the study, participants had to have a nonviolent drug offense and a substance use disorder identified using a standard screening instrument. A total of 500 eligible people were randomly assigned to the treatment group, which received both the employment intervention and standard drug court activities, or the control group, which received the standard drug court activities but not the employment intervention. During the study period, about 61 percent of the intervention group completed more than half of the sessions.
About two-thirds of the sample was male, with an average age of 30 years old. Sixty-two percent of the sample was white, and most participants (54 percent) were employed part-time or full-time before entering drug court. Participants reported cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol as the substances most commonly associated with their substance use disorders.
Drawing upon self-reported survey data, the authors estimated impacts on employment and earnings using a statistical model to compare the outcomes of treatment and control group members one year after random assignment.
- Bowling Green, Kentucky
- Lexington, Kentucky
- The study found that the treatment group worked an average of 210 days in the year after random assignment compared with 200 days for the control group; this was a statistically significant difference.
- The study found no statistically significant impacts on earnings.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Although the study is a randomized controlled trial, the authors did not provide information about how many people were assigned to the treatment and control groups. Without knowing the sample sizes at the time of random assignment, it is not clear whether there are systematic differences in the response rates across the two groups. As a result, the authors must demonstrate that the two groups were similar before the intervention. The authors accounted for age and education in their statistical model but did not account for other factors (such as gender, prior employment or earnings, and race and ethnicity), which might also affect the outcomes. Differences in these factors between the groups—and not the intervention—could explain the observed differences in outcomes.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because it was based on a randomized controlled trial for which the study did not provide enough information to demonstrate that the groups had similar response rates on the survey, and it did not account for other factors that could have affected the difference between the treatment and control groups. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the drug court employment intervention; other factors are likely to have contributed.
Leukefeld, C., McDonald, H. S., Staton, M., Mateyoke-Scrivner, A.S, Webster, M., Logan, T.K., & Garrity, T. (2003). An employment intervention for drug-abusing offenders. Federal Probation, 67(2), 27-31.
Leukefeld, C., Webster, J. M., Staton-Tindall, M., & Duvall, J. (2007). Employment and work among drug court clients: 12-month outcomes. Substance Use & Misuse, 42, 1109-1126.