Transition Program Recidivism Rates Remain Drastically Lower than a Statewide Comparison Group

A long-term follow-up study of New York State Education Department's Incarcerated Education Transition Program continues to show that participants return to jail at rates far below those who don't participate in the program. In fact, recidivism among program participants continues to go down as more data are collected over a longer period of time and now stands at 11.6%; 75% lower than the rate in the statewide camparison group of 47%. (see Figure 1).

The study, conducted by the Westchester Institute for Human Services Research, Inc. and the Hudson River Center for Program Development, has been implemented over the last five years. It began as a pilot study in 1994-95, where program participants from five facilities were tracked, expanded to 26 facilities in 1996-97 and further expanded to include 36 facilities in 1998 - over half of the county jail systems in New York State. A total of 1,368 inmates were tracked 4-15 months after their release (excluding the pilot group participants).

Last year's research brief (Spring 1998) showed that only 13% of program participants returned to jail. The current analysis, which involved 3 times the number of paricipants, showed an even lower rearrest rate of 11.6%.1 This is a true testament to the program's ability to help participants remain in the community. Other remarkable post-release outcomes are described below. Especially striking are the findings related to the role of post-release assistance (i.e., time spent by transition counselors on behalf of, or with former paricipants after they leave jail, helping them to secure employment, education, and assistance).

Post-Release Outcomes-Education, Employment, and Personal Status

As noted, post-release outcomes were examined during the follow-up period of 4-15 months after Transition Program participants were released from jail. The participants were tracked for varying lengths of time. Three post-release outcome areas were examined: education, employment, and personal status.

Educational Outcomes (Figure 2*)

*Post-release outcomes are presented in figures 2,3 and 4 only for 1,171 program participants. 197 program participants were not included for the following reasons: 167 were sent to state prison, 25 were tracked for less than 4 months, and 11 had zero hours reported for transition program exposure.

Employment Outcomes (Figure 3*)

Types of work and places of employment varied but many positions fell into four main categories:

  1. Retail - Positions included clerk, cashier, and stockperson. Places of employment included Tru-Value Hardware, K-Mart, Sears, and Price Chopper.
  2. Food/Hotel Service - Positions included fry cook, clerk, waitress, and dishwasher. Places of employment included Holiday Inn, McDonalds, and Burger King.
  3. Construction - Positions included mason, laborer, machine operator, and foreman.
  4. Maintenance - Positions included painter, landscaper, gutter cleaner, and plumber.

Sample Wages Per Hour

  Low-end Wages
  • $2.90 plus tips waitress
  • $5.25 Subway sandwich maker
  • $5.25 Ceramics factory foreman
  High-end Wages
  • $18 Carpenter
  • $18 On-site computer technician
  • $18 Demolition worker
  • $25 Horticulture Society shift supervisor

Personal Staus Outcomes (Figure 4*)

Role of Post-Release Assistance

The Spring 1998 research brief demonstrated that the amount of exposure to the Transition Program (e.g., number of hours) was correlated with lower recidivism, controlling for how long participants were incarcerated. In this research brief, we sought to determine if post-release assistance made a critical difference in participants' ability to secure jobs, pursue education, and maintain productive lifestyles after their release. Logistic regression was used in this analysis, controlling for the total number of hours of exposure to the program while incarcerated.

The findings were again striking in a number of areas. With as little as 2 hours of post-release assistance, program participants were far more likely to attain positive outcomes after their release in terms of education, employment, and personal status, than those who did not receive post-release assistance.2   With 6 or more hours, differences were even more notable, clearly showing that what the work transition staff do with - or on behalf of - program participants is clearly easing their transition into productive lifestyles. The findings follow.

Educational Outcomes

Employment Outcomes

Personal Status