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An experimental evaluation of a nationally recognized employment-focused offender reentry program (Farabee et al. 2014)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Farabee, D., Zhang, S. X., & Wright, B. (2014). An experimental evaluation of a nationally recognized employment-focused offender reentry program. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 10(3), 309–322.

Highlights

  • The study examined the impact of an employment-focused offender reentry program (STRIVE) operated in Southern California on the education, employment, and recidivism outcomes of a sample of people released from prison or jail between 2008 and 2011.
  • Study members were randomly assigned to either receive STRIVE services (the treatment) or a list of other resources in the community, but not STRIVE services (the control). The primary data sources were interviews conducted at baseline and 12 months after random assignment and administrative recidivism data provided by the California Department of Justice.
  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between STRIVE and education, employment, or recidivism 12 months after random assignment. The study also found no statistically significant relationship between STRIVE and recidivism two years after random assignment.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because it was based on a randomized controlled trial with fewer members of the control group participating in the study at follow-up than members of the STRIVE intervention group (thus, the study has high attrition). 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 would have been attributable to the STRIVE program if the study had found statistically significant effects.

Intervention Examined

The STRIVE program

Features of the Intervention

STRIVE is an employment-focused offender reentry program that has been implemented in more than 25 communities in the United States since 1998. The California STRIVE program examined in this study consisted of job readiness classes for 40 hours a week for three to four weeks, employment placement assistance, and access to a computer lab for resume writing and job search activities. In addition, housing was available to those released within the last 24 hours. Forty-seven percent of those assigned to the treatment group graduated from the STRIVE program. STRIVE is an employment-focused offender reentry program that has been implemented in more than 25 communities in the United States since 1998. The California STRIVE program examined in this study consisted of job readiness classes for 40 hours a week for three to four weeks, employment placement assistance, and access to a computer lab for resume writing and job search activities. In addition, housing was available to those released within the last 24 hours. Forty-seven percent of those assigned to the treatment group graduated from the STRIVE program.

Features of the Study

The study site was a single community-based organization providing reentry services in an unnamed community in Southern California. The authors used random assignment to create similar treatment and control groups of previously incarcerated people released within the last six months. Study members completed a baseline interview and then drew a poker chip from a small bag containing one red and one white chip. Those who selected a red chip were assigned to the treatment group and were eligible to receive STRIVE program services, and those who selected the white chip were assigned to the control group and received a list of alternate community resources. The authors then compared the educational attainment, employment, and re-incarceration of treatment and control group members up to one year after random assignment. Other outcomes, including housing stability, drug use, legal status, and health status were examined in the study but were not eligible for review by CLEAR.

Findings

Education

  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between the STRIVE program and high-school or postsecondary completion 12 months after random assignment.

Employment

  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between the STRIVE program and full-time or part-time employment 12 months after random assignment. 

Recidivism

  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between the STRIVE program and re-arrest or re-incarceration measured at 12 months and two years after random assignment.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Although the study was a randomized controlled trial, follow-up data were available for fewer members of the control group than for members of the STRIVE group (thus, the study has high attrition). Because of this, the authors must ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. In this case, the authors did not ensure that the groups at follow-up were similar in characteristics measured before the intervention or account for potential preexisting differences between the group members. These potential preexisting differences—and not the STRIVE program—could explain the observed outcomes. 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 ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects would have been attributable to the STRIVE program if the study had found statistically significant effects.

Reviewed by CLEAR

March 2019

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