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Systematic Review of Noncustodial Employment Programs: Impact on Recidivism Rates of Ex-Offenders

NCJ Number
Date Published
28 pages

The authors of this paper had the goal of assessing the effects of programs which were designed to increase employment through job training and/or job placement among formerly incarcerated persons, specifically those who have recently been released, in order to reduce recidivism.


The objective of this Campbell systematic review was to assess the effects of programs designed to increase employment through job training and/or job placement among formerly incarcerated persons (i.e., those recently released), aimed at improving employment and reducing recidivism. Searches of literature reviews by the first author were augmented by structured searches of nine electronic databases, including the Campbell SPECTR database of trials to identify random assignment studies conducted after 1970. Experts in the field were consulted and relevant citations were followed up. We report narratively on the eight eligible studies. More than 6,000 older youth (aged 16-17) and adults with prior contact with the criminal justice system participated in these studies. The analyses show that employment-focused interventions for ex-offenders in these studies did not reduce recidivism, although this group of random assignment studies is highly heterogeneous both in the type of employment program delivered and the individuals enrolled in the program. Thus, the results should not be generalized to former prisoners who are enrolled in employment programs after release. The studies are also mostly out of date and the average subject was not typical of persons released from prison in the U.S. in the early 2000s. Employment-focused interventions for former prisoners have not been adequately evaluated for their effectiveness using random assignment designs. A new generation of rigorous evaluations is needed to provide direction to policymakers as to the most effective combination of employment-related services for specific types of ex-offenders. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2006