Jacobs, E. (2012). Returning to work after prison: Final results from the Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration. New York: MDRC.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration (TJRD) on ex-offenders’ employment and wages.
- The author used a randomized controlled trial to assign former prisoners to the transitional jobs program or to a group that was offered job search assistance and compared the two groups’ employment and earnings outcomes two years after random assignment, controlling for participants’ characteristics before random assignment.
- The study found that members of the transitional jobs group were significantly more likely (by 29 percentage points) than control group members to be employed at any point during the two years after random assignment.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the TJRD, and not to other factors.
The Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration (TJRD)
Features of the Intervention
The transitional jobs program provided former prisoners in Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and St. Paul, Minnesota with 30 to 40 hours of temporary paid employment weekly, job search assistance, and other supports, including job coaching and classes before employment. Participants in later cohorts in the Milwaukee and St. Paul sites also received bonuses (up to $1,500) for obtaining and retaining unsubsidized employment. Participants began reporting to their temporary jobs within two weeks of random assignment. The program offered 90 days of subsidized employment, with the option to extend as slots were available.
The program was offered to men aged 18 and older who had been released from prison within the previous 90 days, were interested in and available for full-time employment, and had not participated in transitional employment within the previous year.
Features of the Study
The program recruited and randomly assigned 1,813 eligible ex-offenders either to TJRD or to a control group that was offered job search assistance. Employment and earnings data were collected quarterly from state Unemployment Insurance and transitional job site records for two years after random assignment. The authors estimated program impacts by comparing regression-adjusted means and percentages between the treatment and control group members.
- The study found that treatment group members were significantly more likely (by 29 percentage points) than control group members to be employed at any point during the two years after random assignment.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Although transitional jobs group members exhibited positive gains in overall employment, the subsidized employment that the transitional jobs program offered largely drove these findings. Treatment group members were employed in unsubsidized jobs at the same rate as the control group members by the end of the two-year follow-up period.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the TJRD, and not to other factors.