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An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Prison Work Release Programs on Post-Release Recidivism and Employment

NCJ Number
William D. Bales; Catie Clark; Samuel Scaggs; David Ensley; Philip Coltharp; Alexa Singer; Thomas G. Blomberg
Date Published
December 2015
61 pages
In evaluating the effectiveness of prison-based work-release centers in reducing post-prison recidivism and increasing employment, this study determined whether privately operated work-release centers produced different outcomes compared to State-operated programs under the Florida Department of Corrections.
In addition, the study examined whether post-prison outcomes for work-release programs varied among inmates with differing characteristics, including gender, race, age at prison release, offense type, and post-release supervision. Findings indicate that released inmates who participated in work-release programs had significantly lower recidivism than a control group of released inmates who did not participate in a work-release program. For this study, recidivism encompassed arrest for any new crime, arrest for a new felony offense, or conviction for a new felony offense. In addition, participation in a work-release program had a significant influence on the likelihood of obtaining post-release employment within the first quarter after release. A comparison of results from privately and publicly operated work-release centers showed no significant difference in participants' recidivism; however, inmates who completed a privately operated work-release program were significantly more like to become employed after their release. The study found no significant variations in outcomes across various demographic groups, offense type, or post-prison supervision status. Based on these results, the study recommends expansion of the use of prison-based work-release programs. The study involved 27,463 inmates who completed a work-release program and were released from a Florida prison between 2004 and 2011. Their post-release recidivism and employment were compared with 15,911 released inmates who met the criterion for placement in a work-release program but did not participate during their incarceration. 14 tables and 42 references