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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Michael D. Crews

Florida Department of Corrections
Timothy H. Cannon, Interim Secretary

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Academic, Vocational, and Substance Abuse Program Impacts

Executive Summary

This study examined the effectiveness of the Department's academic, vocational, and substance abuse programs in reducing inmate recidivism after release.

Analysis was based on 18,414 inmates released from prison in FY1996-97. This includes inmates completing their sentences, and those moving onto community supervision based on split sentences or post-prison release conditions. Using this cohort allows for a 24-month follow-up period for new offense commission and additional time for processing through the judicial system (i.e. from arrest to admission).

The analysis focused on the impact of program completion - GED, vocational certificates, and Tier II-V substance abuse programs. We also examined the impact of programs controlling for inmate gender, age, race, prior commitments and other significant predictors of recidivism. Finally, we examined the impact of programs when offenders also achieve improvements in academic skills, work experience, and good disciplinary records while incarcerated.

The program impact is illustrated by showing success rates (the percent who do not recidivate), the percentage difference between completers and non-completers, and the percent improvement (the difference between completers and non-completers divided by non-completers).

Highlights

  • Inmates who complete programs are more successful after release than those who do not complete programs.
Academic Programs (GED):
  • Inmates who earn a GED are 8.7% less likely to recidivate than those who do not complete a program.
  • Over seventy percent of GED completers are successful after release.
  • Academic program impacts are found even among offender groups that normally have higher recidivism. Ex. Males, younger males, black offenders and prior recidivists.
  • Among those receiving GEDs, success is enhanced when offenders also display improved behavioral skills and acquire work experience.
  • Inmates who receive a GED and improve their TABE score to 9th grade level or higher are 25.0% less likely to recidivate than those who receive a GED and have a TABE level of 8th grade or less.
  • Inmates who receive a GED and participate in work release for 60 days or more are 10.1% less likely to recidivate than those who receive a GED and have no work experience.
Vocational Programs:
  • Inmates who earn a vocational certificate are 14.6% less likely to recidivate than those who do not complete a program.
  • Nearly three-quarters of vocational program completers are successful after release.
  • Vocational program impacts are found even among offender groups that normally have higher recidivism. Ex. Males, younger males, black offenders, prior recidivists and special education inmates.
  • Among those receiving vocational certificates, success is enhanced when offenders also display improved behavioral skills and acquire work experience.
  • Inmates who receive a vocational certificate and improve their TABE score to 9th grade level or higher are 22.6% less likely to recidivate than those who receive a vocational certificate and have a TABE level of 8th grade or less.
  • Inmates who receive a vocational certificate and participate in a PRIDE or PIE program for at least 60 days are 5.3% less likely to recidivate than those who receive a certificate and have no PRIDE/PIE experience.
Substance Abuse Programs:
  • Inmates who complete substance abuse programs are 6.2% less likely to recidivate than those who do not complete a program.
  • Over two-thirds of substance abuse program completers are successful after release.
  • Substance abuse impacts are found even among offender groups that normally have higher recidivism. Ex. Males, younger males, black offenders, prior recidivists and special education inmates.
  • Inmates with precursor offenses (those which indicate a history of criminal behavior related to substance abuse/dependence) who complete a substance abuse program are 13.2% less likely to recidivate than those with precursor offenses who do not complete a substance abuse program.
  • Inmates who complete a substance abuse program and participate in a work release program for at least 60 days are 5.9% less likely to recidivate than those who complete a program and have no work experience.

Cost Avoidance*

Academic Programs (GED):

The recidivism rate for the 1,788 inmates who received a GED was 29.8% compared to 35.4% for those who did not complete a program. This reduction in recidivism (5.6%) translates into approximately 100 inmates not returning to prison. Avoiding the cost of their re-incarceration for one year would amount to cost savings of approximately $1.9 million.

Vocational Programs:

The recidivism rate for the 1,793 inmates who earned a vocational certificate was 26.0% compared to 35.4% for those who did not complete a program. This reduction in recidivism (9.4%) translates into approximately 169 inmates not returning to prison. Avoiding the cost of their re-incarceration for one year would amount to cost savings of approximately $3.2 million.

Substance Abuse Programs:

The recidivism rate for the 3,129 inmates who completed a substance abuse program was 31.4% compared to 35.4% for those who did not complete a program. This reduction in recidivism (4.0%) translates into approximately 125 inmates not returning to prison. Avoiding the cost of their re-incarceration for one year would amount to cost savings of approximately $2.4 million.

* Based on a formula developed by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (Report Number 00-23, page 48), cost avoidance is derived by multiplying the number of inmates who complete a program by the reduction in recidivism percentage (difference in completers and non-completers) and multiplying this number by an annual incarceration rate of $19,000 per inmate.

Transition Programs

Preliminary studies utilizing a one-year recidivism measure indicate that participation in transitional programs greatly increases inmate success after release from prison. For this analysis, transitional programs included participation in Project Re-connect, the Daytona Beach Community College Project Re-connect program, transitional housing program and completion of the 100-hour transitional course offered in select institutions.

Using a one-year recidivism measure has historically proven to mask the true success of programs (there is a marked failure among non-program participants between the first and second year). Therefore, it is recommended that a follow-up study be designed to evaluate the data after it has had a chance to mature. In addition, this will allow for gaps in the transitional data to be filled in. The result will be a more comprehensive study being conducted by categorizing services received and allowing for the normal fall-out seen after the first year follow-up.