Academic, Vocational, and Substance Abuse Program Impacts
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).
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.
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.
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.