Skip to main content

Workforce development program: A pilot study of its impact in the U.S. Probation Office, District of Delaware (Visher et al. 2010)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Visher, C. A., Smolter, N., & O’Connell, D. (2010). Workforce development program: A pilot study of its impact in the U.S. Probation Office, District of Delaware. Federal Probation, 74(3), 16-21.

Highlights

  • The authors examined the impact of the U.S. Probation Office, District of Delaware’s pilot workforce development program on employment, earnings, and recidivism outcomes for adult offendprobationers.
  • The authors used a nonexperimental design to create a matched comparison group of nonparticipants who were similar to program participants. The authors’ estimated the program’s effects by comparing these groups’ employment, earnings, and recidivism outcomes one year after the program. Data were collected from probationer case files;, the Probation and Pretrial Services Automated Case Tracking System (PACTS) database;, and, for the treatment group, program records.
  • The authors found that individuals people who participated in vocational training were employed for more months in the first year after program enrollment than were participants who received no vocational training. The authors found that individuals people in the program group were less likely to be rearrested or have their probation revoked than were members of the matched comparison group.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is low. The authors did not account adequately for potential differences between the program and comparison groups before implementing the intervention was implemented. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the workforce development program; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The U.S. Probation Office, District of Delaware’s workforce development program

Features of the Intervention

In 2007, the U.S. Probation Office, District of Delaware funded a pilot workforce development program. The pilot program provided probationers with employment services including vocational training, job counseling, job search assistance, job referrals, interview skills training, and resume building, although the specific services received varied by participant. All participants who received vocational training were mandated to also complete either drug, alcohol, or mental health services. Although no probationers were turned away from participating in the program, those who were considered as having a moderate to high risk of probation failure and had at least one employment-related challenge were sought out for services. Some participants were mandated to participate.

Features of the Study

The authors used a nonexperimental research design (matched comparison group design) to compare recidivism outcomes between the program and comparison groups. The program group consisted of 80 probationers who participated in the workforce development program between from 2006 and to 2008. The comparison group members were drawn from two unnamed federal jurisdictions similar to Delaware but with no workforce development programs . The authors used five factors to match program participants with nonparticipants; these factors were:included race, gender, risk predictor index score, supervision type, and offense category. Matches were possible for 73 participants. The authors estimated the program effects using probationer case files, the PACTS database, monthly supervision reports completed by the probationers, program records, and data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. To estimate outcomes related to employment and earnings, the authors compared employment outcomes among program participants based on the specific workforce development services received. To estimate outcomes related to recidivism, the authors compared the two groups’ recidivism rates within the year following program participation.

Findings

Employment

  • The authors found that program participants who participated in vocational training were employed for more months in the first year after program enrollment than were participants who received no vocational training, and that participants who received job referrals were more likely to be employed one year after program enrollment than were those who did not receive job referrals. The authors did not find any statistically significant relationships between employment after one year and participating in other specific workforce development program components (including vocational training).

Earnings

  • The authors found no statistically significant relationship between participation in vocational training and earnings one year after program enrollment.

Recidivism

  • The authors found that people in the program group were less likely to be rearrested or have their probation revoked than were members of the comparison group, although this was not statistically significant, nor were relationships between participation in specific program components and recidivism outcomes.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors did not demonstrate the groups they compared were similar before the intervention and they did not include age as a matching variable or as a control in their analyses. This means that preexisting differences between the groups—and not the program or program components— could explain the observed differences in outcomes.

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 are attributable to the workforce development program or individual program components; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

March 2019

Topic Area