Supporting Reentry Employment and Success: A Summary of the Evidence for Adults and Young Adults

Supporting Reentry Employment and Success: A Summary of the Evidence for Adults and Young Adults

Published: Sep 30, 2019
Publisher: Mathematica
Associated Project

Reentry Projects Grant Evaluation: Serving Justice Involved Adults and Young Adults

Time frame: 2017-2024

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Chief Evaluation Office


Johanna Lacoe

Hannah Betesh

Key Findings
  • Most prior studies of adult employment reentry programs do not consistently show effects due to variation in program models, implementation ­quality, and study designs.
  • Reentry programs specifically tailored to young adults often include job training or employ­ment support, but evidence of employment impacts is limited.
  • CBT interventions reduce recidivism for justice-involved adults but impacts on young adults and on employment outcomes are unknown.
  • The ongoing REO evaluation (2017-2022) has the potential to provide evidence on strategies to reduce recidivism and increase employment for justice-involved individuals.

Employment is a potential source of stability and opportunity for individuals trying to better their lives after involvement with the criminal justice system. The path to employment can be difficult for this population due to such factors as limited basic skills and soft skills, employers’ reluctance to hire people with criminal records, and difficulty retaining stable employment because of unstable housing, lack of adequate transportation, or mental health problems. Young adults (ages 18 to 24) face many similar challenges but are developmentally different from adults; therefore, programs that improve outcomes for adults may need to be tailored to address the specific needs of young adults before they show similar results. Additionally, disruptions in education due to court involvement early in the lives of young adults can derail future employment opportunities, without appropriate interventions.

This brief summarizes existing research on interventions to improve employment and recidivism outcomes for both justice-involved adults and young adults by examining the evidence on common reentry program interventions such as employment-focused programming, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and case management.

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