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Work after prison: One-year findings from the Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration (Redcross et al. 2010)

Citation

Redcross, C., Bloom, D., Jacobs, E., Manno, M., Muller-Ravett, S., Seefeldt, D., Yahner, J., Young Jr., A., & Zweig, J. (2010). Work after prison: One-year findings from the Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration. New York: MDRC.

Highlights

    • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration (TJRD) on ex-offenders’ employment and wages.
    • The study used a randomized controlled trial to assign former prisoners to either the transitional jobs program or to a control group that was offered job search assistance. The authors compared the two groups’ employment and earnings outcomes one year after random assignment, controlling for participants’ characteristics before random assignment.
    • The study found that members of the transitional jobs group were 8.6 percentage points more likely than control group members to be employed during all four quarters of the year after random assignment, but 8.9 percentage points less likely to have unsubsidized employment during the year after random assignment. Transitional jobs group members’ total earnings from all jobs were $1,419 higher, on average, than those of control group members during the year after random assignment, but their total earnings from unsubsidized jobs were $625 lower.
    • 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.

Intervention Examined

The Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration (TJRD)

Features of the Intervention

Funded by the Joyce Foundation, the JEHT Foundation, and the US. Department of Labor, the TJRD provided former prisoners with 30 to 40 hours of temporary paid employment weekly, job search assistance, and other supports, including job coaching. Cohorts of participants were recruited in Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and St. Paul, Minnesota from early 2007 through September 2008. 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 ages 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 one year after random assignment. The authors estimated program impacts by comparing regression-adjusted means and percentages between the treatment and control group members.

Findings

    • The study found that treatment group members were 8.6 percentage points more likely than control group members to be employed in any job, either subsidized by TJRD or unsubsidized, during all four quarters of the year after random assignment (20.2 versus 11.6 percent).
    • Treatment group members were 8.9 percentage points less likely than the control group members to have unsubsidized employment during the year after random assignment (50.3 versus 59.2 percent).
    • Treatment group members had, on average, $1,419 more total earnings from all jobs than the control group during the year after random assignment ($4,336 versus $2,917).
    • Treatment group members had, on average, total earnings from unsubsidized jobs that were $625 less than the control group during the year after random assignment ($2,292 versus $2,917).

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Although transitional jobs group members exhibited positive gains in overall employment and earnings, including those from both subsidized and unsubsidized jobs, the subsidized employment that the transitional jobs program offered largely drove these findings. When looking only at unsubsidized employment, members of the transitional jobs groups fared worse, on average, than members of the control group in terms of earnings and were employed at the same rate as the control group members by the end of the one-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 Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration, and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

April 2016

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