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Does prison-based adult basic education improve postrelease outcomes for male prisoners in Florida? (Cho & Tyler 2010)

 Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Cho, R. M., & Tyler, J. H. (2010). Does prison-based adult basic education improve postrelease outcomes for male prisoners in Florida? Crime & Delinquency, 59(7), 975-1005. [Study 1, Contrast 4: participation in adult basic education vs. no participation in adult basic education.]

Highlights

  • The study examined the impact of participation in prison-based adult basic education on post-release employment, earnings, and recidivism for incarcerated people who read below the 9th-grade level. The authors also investigated similar research questions for other contrasts, the profiles of which are available here.
  • The authors used a statistical model to compare outcomes for treatment and comparison group members, drawing on data from the Florida Department of Corrections, The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program.
  • The study found statistically significant relationships between participation in an adult basic education course and post-release employment and earnings. Compared with people who did not participate in adult basic education, those who did had lower earnings and both lower and higher employment depending on the statistical model used.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated relationships are attributable to participated in an adult basic education program; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Adult basic education

Features of the Intervention

Adult basic education programs provide education to incarcerated people who read below the 9th-grade level through a basic education, literacy, or cognitive life skills class. Inmates typically enroll in more than one adult basic education class at a time and are considered to have completed adult basic education if they complete at least one adult basic education course.

Adult basic education is one of the most prominent education programs in state and federal prison. In Florida, more inmates who did not complete high school participate in adult basic education than general education degree programs.

Features of the Study

This study is a nonexperimental analysis that included 2,566 men who were incarcerated in the Florida Department of Corrections between October 1994 and February 1999. The authors used data from the Florida Department of Corrections, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program in a statistical model to compare outcomes for treatment and comparison group members. For the contrast examined in this profile, the treatment group included people who participated in at least one adult basic education class, and the comparison group included people who did not participate in adult basic education while incarcerated. The authors used multiple types of statistical models to estimate the program’s impact. In one model, they compared the treatment and comparison group’s quarterly outcomes over the first three years after each inmate’s expected release date while adjusting for differences in pre-program age, education, academic ability (based on the tests of adult basic education), employment, and criminal justice history, among other characteristics. In another model, the authors used data on each inmate over time to estimate impacts in each of the first three years after expected release, adjusting for each inmate’s unique pre-program characteristics, but not existing differences in their labor-market trajectories. A third type of model examined whether inmates returned to prison within three years of their expected release date.

Findings

Employment

  • There were statistically significant findings on the relationship between participating in at least one adult basic education class and employment rates two and three years after release from prison. Compared with people who did not participate in adult basic education, people who participated in at least one adult basic education class had employment rates that were 3 percentage points higher in the first year after the expected release date, 2 percentage points higher in the second year, and 2 percentage points higher in the third year, but were (according to a different model) 2 percentage points lower over the full three-year period.

Earnings

  • There were statistically significant negative relationships between participation in an adult basic education course and earnings, where people who participated in adult basic education earned $81 less per quarter across the three years after the estimated incarceration release date, $51 less per quarter in the first year after the estimated incarceration release date, $65 less per quarter in the second year after the estimated incarceration release date, and $84 less per quarter in the third year after the estimated incarceration release date.

 Recidivism

  • There was no statistically significant relationship between participating in an adult basic education course and recidivism.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Though this study compares outcomes between treatment and comparison groups, it did not ensure the groups compared were similar before the intervention. In addition to the full-sample findings reviewed here, the authors estimated impacts separately for white and minority inmates. Because they account for possible differences in race between study groups, some of these estimates would receive moderate evidence ratings if they were eligible for review. Additionally, the study considers p-values of less than 0.10 to be significant, though it is standard practice to consider statistical significance if the p-value is less than 0.05. Only results that demonstrate a p-value of less than 0.05 are considered statistically significant in this profile.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that estimated effects are attributable to participation in adult basic education; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

March 2019

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