Absence of conflict of interest.
Hill, L., Scaggs, S., & Bales, W. D. (2017). Assessing the statewide impact of the Specter Vocational Program on reentry outcomes: A propensity score matching analysis. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 56(1), 61-86.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of completing the Workplace and Community Transition Training for Incarcerated Individuals (WCTTII) program on the employment and recidivism outcomes of young people released from prison in Florida.
- The authors used a nonexperimental matching design to create a comparison group of former prisoners who were similar to WCTTII program graduates but who did not participate in the WCTTII program or who started the program but did not complete it. The authors estimated the program’s impact by comparing employment and recidivism outcomes for program graduates with those for the matched comparison group using administrative data from the Florida Department of Corrections Offender Based Information System, law enforcement, and the Department of Revenues.
- The study found that the WCTTII program decreased the proportion of former prisoners who were reconvicted or re-incarcerated within three years of their release. The study found no statistically significant relationships between the program and employment within three months of release.
- The quality of causal evidence on recidivism outcomes presented in this report is moderate because they were based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the WCTTII program, but other factors might also have contributed. The quality of causal evidence on employment is low because the authors did not adequately account for differences in employment history before the intervention.
Workplace and Community Transition Training for Incarcerated Individuals
Features of the Intervention
The WCTTII program was implemented from 1997 to 2012 in 12 unspecified state prisons in Florida. Prisons implementing the WCTTII program provided vocational training in construction project coordination; heating, cooling, and ventilation installation and maintenance; landscape irrigation; culinary arts; plumbing; and information technology. The prisons partnered with a community or technical college to provide participants with 300 hours of vocational training and 100 hours of employability skills training, after which participants received a vocational certificate. Participants were also invited to attend reentry seminars with employers interested in recruiting from the program. Inmates were eligible to participate if they were younger than 35 years old, had a high school degree or a GED, had seven years or fewer until they were scheduled to be released from prison, and were not in prison for a sexual offense against a minor or a homicide.
Features of the Study
The authors used a nonexperimental study design (propensity-score matching) to create a comparison group of former prisoners who were similar to the 1,950 WCTTII program graduates that comprised the treatment group. Program graduates and comparison group members were drawn from the 247,592 Florida inmates released from 2004 to 2011 and contained within the Florida Department of Corrections Offender Based Information System. To construct the comparison group, the authors identified the non-graduate most similar to each program graduate. Out of 1,950 program graduates, 1,896 were matched to the most similar non-graduate. The authors used statistical models to compare the program graduates’ outcomes with those of comparison group members using employment data from the Florida Department of Revenues and recidivism data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
- The study found that graduating from the WCTTII program significantly decreased the likelihood of being reconvicted within a year of release by 9 percent and the likelihood of reimprisonment within a year of release by 3 percent. The authors found that program completion significantly decreased the likelihood of reconviction within three years of release by 13 percent and the likelihood of reimprisonment within three years of release by 11 percent compared with the matched comparison group.
- The study found no significant differences between the program participants and the comparison on finding employment.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors used a well-implemented nonexperimental design that demonstrated equivalence between the two groups on observed characteristics, but unobserved differences between the groups—and not the program—could explain the observed differences in recidivism outcomes. For the employment outcomes, the authors did not sufficiently account for existing differences between the groups’ employment histories before program participation, meaning that existing differences between the groups could explain the observed differences in employment outcomes.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence on recidivism outcomes presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to WCTTII, but other factors might also have contributed.
The quality of causal evidence on employment is low because the authors did not adequately account for differences in employment history between the program participants and comparison group members before the intervention.