From The Washington Times:
By David B. Muhlhausen – – Monday, December 14, 2015
It was one of the largest prisoner re-entry programs ever undertaken. RExO (Re-Integration of Ex-Offenders) aimed to help ex-cons find jobs, thereby reducing recidivism. Over the years, the Labor Department poured almost $743 million into the program. Only one problem: It didn’t work.
That’s the conclusion of a two-year evaluation of federal RExO grants conducted by the Department of Labor. And it’s of a piece with other findings.
This study and others deserve serious consideration as Congress works up the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, a bill that emphasizes federal funding for employment-focused re-entry programs. My own review of evaluations of prisoner re-entry programs that use random assignment — the gold standard of evaluation designs — shows that the programs tend to produce, at best, mixed results.
Consider the employment-focused program operated by the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). It has been portrayed as a success by some, including CEO Chief Executive Officer Sam Schaeffer. Last year, Mr. Schaeffer testified before Congress that “the three-year evaluation found that CEO significantly reduced recidivism.”
“The largest impacts occurred among former prisoners who enrolled shortly after release from prison, the core group of people targeted by CEO,” he added.
CEO attempted to immediately place recently released prisoners in transitional jobs in New York City. The transitional jobs approach offers employers subsidies to encourage them to hire former prisoners. While CEO did, in fact, increase the short-term employment of former prisoners, the program was…