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Availability of Employment Opportunities and Recidivism Outcomes

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Robert Apel


The U.S. prison population continues to grow and devising policies to reduce recidivism and criminal justice expenditures is now a major bi-partisan priority. Policy makers are focusing on improving employment outcomes for former prisoners as a way of reducing recidivism and generating tax revenue. We propose a detailed study of the relationship between employment timing and recidivism. We focus on whether employment that occurs rapidly after release (within the first three months) is more effective in reducing the likelihood of recidivism than remaining unemployed or taking a longer period of time to find a job. Our project also examines the characteristics of the broader economy such as the local unemployment rate and the kinds of job openings available in the local labor market, characteristics often associated with rapid and successful job search. The analysis will employ appropriate statistical techniques and is based on recidivism data collected from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) and employment data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).

To address our research question, we gather and construct a unique set of data and perform an analysis of recidivism outcomes. Our data task involves gathering administrative records including Unemployment Insurance (UI), Employer Enterprise (EE) and Adult Workforce Education (AWE) data created by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), and matching them with the records of four representative samples of Ohio state prisoners (previously gathered, geocoded, and merged with census tract/block group data) from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC). Additional records pertaining to mental health status, verbal ability, and work assignment in prison available from ODRC will be gathered and merged to supplement pre-existing collections. Our analysis task involves analyzing recidivism outcomes (parole violations, arrest, parole revocation, and re-incarceration for new crime) with careful scrutiny of the independent and joint influences of (a) the timing and quality of employment experiences and (b) local employment opportunity (unemployment, presence of low skill employment opportunity) and (c) concentrated disadvantage in the neighborhood (block group, tract, county). The overall goal is to assess the unique contribution that timing of employment plays in reducing prison recidivism, contributing to the reintegration of ex-offenders into the wider society.


Award Details

Start Date: May 1, 2015
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End Date:April 30, 2018 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date:   $50,058.00