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An Outcome Evaluation of a Prison Work Release Program: Estimating Its Effects on Recidivism, Employment, and Cost Avoidance

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 26 Issue: 6 Dated: 2015 Pages: 531-554
Date Published
24 pages

This study adds to the relatively limited and mostly outdated work-release literature by evaluating the effectiveness of a Minnesota prison work-release program. 


A retrospective quasi-experimental design was used to assess the impact of work-release on recidivism, employment, and cost avoidance among 3,570 offenders released from Minnesota prisons between 2007 and 2010. Propensity score matching was used to minimize observable selection bias. Work-release significantly increased the hazard of returning to prison for a technical violation, although it significantly reduced, albeit modestly, the risk of reoffending with a new crime. It did not have an impact on hourly wage, but it significantly increased the odds that participants found a job, the total hours they worked, and the total wages they earned. Work release produced an estimated cost avoidance benefit of $1.25 million overall, which amounts to nearly $700 per participant. 35 references (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2015