Federal Initiatives Seek to Reduce Recidivism Rates

By Wells, Doris; Hernon, Jolene | Corrections Today, September-October 2013 | Go to article overview

Federal Initiatives Seek to Reduce Recidivism Rates


Wells, Doris, Hernon, Jolene, Corrections Today


The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has been involved in the ongoing evaluation of two federal initiatives designed to reduce recidivism: the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) and the Second Chance Act (SCA). The following is a summary of the evidence NIJ has gathered about the impact of these two major initiatives.

SVORI Evaluation

Results indicate that the populations that were studied (moderate- to high-risk adult males, adult females and juvenile boys in prisons and jails across the U.S.), had high levels of need for reentry services and programs, including but not limited to: housing, case management and education. When researchers first analyzed the data, they found that SVORI programs had no discernible impact on rearrest and reincarceration for adult males, and no significant impact on reincarceration for adult women. Later reanalysis, however, found more promising results. When researchers analyzed data from a longer follow-up period of at least 56 months for the adults and 22 months for the juvenile sample, they found that participation in SVORI programs was associated with longer times before rearrest and fewer arrests after release for all participants. This indicates that reentry programming, such as SVORI, may have a long-term impact for offenders returning to their communities after they are released from incarceration.

A summary of results from the SVORI study can be found at www.nij.gov, keyword SVORI. An article about the longer-term, positive impact on women is available in NIJ Journal No. 269, "Improving Access for Services for Female Offenders Returning to the Community," by Marie Garcia and Nancy Ritter. The article is available at www.nij.gov, keyword Improving Access.

SCA Evaluation

Building on the positive findings from the follow-up analysis of SVORI, NIJ has started a long-term investment in assessing the impact of SCA on offender reentry. NIJ and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) are investing approximately $15 million to examine the impact of reentry programming on offender reentry and recidivism.

In 2010, NIJ awarded a grant to conduct an evaluation of eight reentry courts (which receive funding from BJA). The evaluation is ongoing. This evaluation, which is being led by National Poverty Center Research, in collaboration with Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International and the Center for Court Innovation, consists of three components--a process evaluation, impact evaluation and cost-effectiveness study.

The goal of the process evaluation is to document the policies, practices, community context and implementation barriers across all eight sites. Researchers will draw explicit comparisons between the reentry court model, as implemented at the sites, with the antecedent drug court model (specifying similarities, differences and adaptations in each policy domain). They will also examine reentry courts in the context of reentry programs and best practices.

The goal of the impact evaluation is to compare recidivism during and after offenders' participation in the reentry court programs. The evaluators are also looking at the impact of other factors--such as employment, substance abuse and housing options. Those who participate in the programs will be compared with a matched group of offenders who do not participate. The goal is to determine if reentry courts reduce rearrests, reconvictions and reincarceration; and if reentry courts reduce problems related to criminal behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, employment, housing, mental health and family relationships. The purpose of the impact evaluation is to also determine which specific reentry court practices, services and participant perceptions are associated with more positive outcomes.

The cost-effectiveness analysis will be conducted at seven sites, will estimate the cost of the program, and will determine if costs for treatment and other outcomes are lower for reentry court participants than their matched comparison groups. …

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Federal Initiatives Seek to Reduce Recidivism Rates
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