Criminal Justice

Individuals who have been incarcerated face daunting challenges in re-entering society and in their lives following incarceration. Many lack education, work experience, family support, and housing. In addition, substance abuse and mental health problems are common. Without adequate supports, recidivism is likely.

We study programs and services to improve education and employment outcomes, strengthen family relationships, and provide health and financial supports for individuals involved with the justice system. Our researchers are evaluating initiatives for multiple populations, including youth offenders, adults in jails and prisons, and former offenders. Our work provides insight into the effectiveness of interventions occurring at many points of contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems, including violence prevention programs, bail programs, and juvenile justice reform efforts in cities and counties across the country.

Stable employment is a key factor in preventing recidivism. We are evaluating programs that seek to improve employment outcomes, such as the Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release program, which provides individuals in correctional facilities with jail-based employment supports and job training and links to public workforce systems. We also studied an initiative that provided former offenders with employment, mentoring, and housing assistance to help them make a successful reentry to society. Because youth with juvenile records face particular challenges completing education and job training and finding employment, we are examining efforts focused on improving their outcomes, such as the Evaluation of Grants for Youth Offenders and the Youth Offender Demonstration Project Evaluation.

Because strengthening family relationships is key to many support programs, our Parents and Children Together evaluation is looking at ways to support fathers, including many participants who are ex-offenders, to help build healthy relationships with their children and partners. In addition, we are testing the effectiveness of programs that aim to increase employment for noncustodial parents—including many ex-offenders—with substantial child support arrears. We have also examined efforts such as Health Link, which help connect inmates to health services.

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