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Prisoner Reentry Services: What Worked for SVORI Evaluation Participants?
Published: 07/16/2012

Adult tudor This report presents the results from a secondary analysis of data collected for a large multi-site evaluation of state and local reentry initiatives, the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI; see, e.g., Lattimore & Visher, 2009). These data include administrative recidivism data, as well as extensive, detailed information on background characteristics, including criminal and employment history and substance use; treatment and service needs; services and program receipt; and outcomes across multiple domains, including criminal justice, employment, health (including substance use and mental health), and housing. The original data were augmented with updates from administrative records for arrests and incarcerations and used to examine the questions of “what works, for whom, and for how long?” in prisoner reentry programs. In addition, a search of death records identified 55 individuals who participated in the original evaluation who had died as of spring 2011.


This report presents findings for more than 2,300 adult males, adult females, and juvenile males in multiple states who either participated in SVORI programs or were members of control or comparison groups between 2004 and 2007. The study participants had extensive criminal and substance use histories, low levels of education and employment skills, and high levels of need across a range of services (e.g., education, driver’s license, substance abuse treatment, and job training). Participants in SVORI programs received more services, on average, than comparison subjects.


The original data were collected during interviews 30 days before and 3, 9, and 15 months after release. Data from state agencies and the National Crime Information Center documented post-release recidivism; the original data were augmented with additional years of post-release arrest and reincarceration data for adult subjects. Propensity score techniques were used to improve the comparability between the SVORI and non-SVORI groups. Weighted analyses examined the treatment effects of the receipt of specific services, as well as SVORI program participation. Costs analyses examined the costs savings for arrest and incarceration related expenses associated with services and reentry program participation.


The results suggest:
  • Participation in SVORI programs was associated with longer times to arrest and fewer arrests after release for all three demographic groups during a minimum follow-up period of 56 months for the adults and 22 months for the juvenile males.
  • For the adult males, SVORI program participation was associated with a longer time to reincarceration and also fewer reincarcerations, although the later result was not statistically significant (p = 0.18). For the adult females, the results were mixed and not significant. For the juvenile males, the results for reincarceration were in the right direction (i.e., less likelihood of reincarceration) but were not statistically significant. This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. vi
  • Individual change services were more likely to be beneficial and practical services detrimental with respect to the time to first arrest for the adult and juvenile male samples. Few effects were significant for the adult females.
  • Once we controlled for 12 different types of services, there was a strong remaining effect of SVORI program participation on rearrest that was not identified in the previous work that had focused on a shorter follow-up period.
  • SVORI program participation was associated with a $3,567 reduction in arrest-related costs over the fixed follow-up period for the adult males.
  • Services oriented towards practical needs including reentry preparation, life skills programs, and employment services did not improve post-release non-recidivism outcomes for men, including housing, employment, and drug use outcomes. In some cases, these services appeared to be detrimental to successful reintegration.
  • Services oriented toward individual change including substance abuse treatment, cognitive-focused programs, and education (e.g., general equivalency diploma [GED] classes) may have modest beneficial effects on non-recidivism outcomes. Educational services were most consistently associated with positive outcomes for the adult males.
  • SVORI reentry program participation was associated with positive non-recidivism outcomes in some cases, over and beyond the effects of individual service items, particularly for the adult male sample.


Many of the specific services had no effect on housing, employment, substance use, or recidivism outcomes and in some cases the effect was actually deleterious rather than beneficial. There were significant effects of SVORI program participation on arrests following release, with SVORI program participation associated with a 14% reduction in arrests for the adult men, 48% reduction for the adult females, and 25% reduction for the juvenile males over the fixed follow-up periods. The results suggest the need for additional research into the sequencing and effects of specific and combinations of reentry services, with an understanding that some programs may be harmful if delivered at the wrong time or in the wrong way. The results also suggest that follow-up periods longer than 2 years may be necessary to observe positive effects on criminal behavior and criminal justice system interaction, as the strong effects observed at 56 months were not observed at 24 months after release when nonsignificant positive effects were observed. Observation for the longer follow-up periods may be particularly important for high-risk populations such as the populations studied here who had substantial criminal histories and who may have greater difficulty disengaging from past behaviors at release.

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