Federal Prisons: Work Experience Linked with Post-Release Success

Article excerpt

The Post-Release Employment Project (PREP), a broad-based study of inmates in Federal penal institutions conducted by the Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) Office of Research and Evaluation, indicates that prison work and training programs have a significant positive impact on inmates who participate in these activities. Initial PREP results reveal that inmates who receive training and work experience during their incarceration generate fewer misconduct reports in prison, are more likely to be employed during their halfway house stays and after their release, and are less likely to commit additional crimes (recidivate) than similar inmates who were not trained or employed during their imprisonments.

THE STUDY

The PREP study was the first comprehensive analysis of UNICOR--the Federal Prison's Industries---conducted by the BOP. It evaluated the effectiveness of BOP job training and employment programs in preparing inmates for productive careers upon their release from prison.

The study analyzed the differences between Federal offenders who received training/ work experience (the study group) and offenders with similar backgrounds who did not participate in these activities (the comparison group). The researchers employed a sophisticated matching technique to ensure that any differences observed between the two groups could be attributed primarily to exposure to work/training programs and not to any pre-existing differences in criminal history, preprison work experience, education, or other factors.

GENERAL FINDINGS

Institutional Adjustments

Initial results suggest that participants who received work training (the study group) demonstrated better institutional adjustment than those who did not (the comparison group). Study group members were less likely to receive misconduct reports within their last year of incarceration, and if they did, it was less likely to have been for serious misconduct. In addition, study group members demonstrated a higher level of responsibility--as measured by dependability indicators, interaction with staff members and other inmates, and judgment in financial matters--than did their comparison group counterparts.

Halfway House

Like many penal systems, the Bureau of Prisons contracts halfway houses to provide qualified inmates with an opportunity to work in the community prior to the end of their imprisonment. The halfway house experience, however, also affords inmates the first opportunity to commit additional crimes. …