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Focus Area: Brand Name Programs

At times, particularly innovative or successful reentry programs gain national attention based on their design features and their potential impact on reducing recidivism. These programs are typically well funded and provide multiple services to address the variety of challenges people face when exiting correctional facilities. Given the high-profile nature of these programs, other jurisdictions tend to consider them models for replication, and as such, they are often the subject of rigorous, highly publicized evaluation. These types of well-known programs often cultivate a brand name in the field of reentry.

This page provides an overview and examination of key evaluative research investigating the relationship between brand name reentry programs and recidivism reduction. Below are results and conclusions of research on these programs that met the criteria for methodological rigor, and provide a basis for comparing and discussing these programs.

At present, researchers have identified and reviewed 11 brand name reentry programs that have been rigorously evaluated. (Additional programs will continue to be added to the Brand Name category over time - particularly in the domains of substance abuse and cognitive-behavioral programs.) These programs, all of which seek to reduce recidivism, employ a broad range of treatment options—ranging from facilitating law enforcement and service provider input prior to an individual’s release, to offering employment services to participants. Researchers categorized these brand name programs into the following groups:

  • Community- and institution-based programs delivering an array services, such as mental health, substance abuse, and employment services (New Jersey’s Day Reporting Center and Halfway Back Programs, ComALERT, Preventing Parolee Crime Program, Auglaize County Transition Program, Boston Reentry Initiative, and Project Greenlight);
  • Programs focused on treating substance abuse (San Juan County DWI Victim Impact Panels and modified therapeutic community for mentally ill chemically-addicted offenders);
  • A cognitive-behavioral program (EQUIP); and
  • An employment-focused reentry program (Center for Employment Opportunities).

What the Research Says about Brand Name Programs

1. Community- and Institution-based Programs Offering an Array of Services

The largest category of brand name programs includes interventions employing a variety of treatment options in an attempt to address the unique needs of the returning population—ranging from mental health treatment to employment assistance. Programs such as the Auglaize County Transition Program (ACT) and Project Greenlight focused on providing services and support in an institutional setting, while interventions such as the New Jersey Day Reporting Center, New Jersey Halfway Back Program, ComALERT, and Preventing Parolee Crime Program (PCCP) offered assistance to recently released individuals in a community setting. The Boston Reentry Initiative provided both pre- and post-release services. Researchers rated all the studies evaluating these programs as meeting a high level of rigor, with the exception of the ACT study.

Six of the seven studies found that program participation had a strong and significant impact on reducing recidivism among participants. The one remaining study, an evaluation of Project Greenlight, found evidence that the program actually contributed to increased rates of recidivism. Although the reasons for this harmful effect are unclear (and may be related to problems with implementation fidelity), it is encouraging that all six of the other programs were associated with strong reductions in recidivism. Moreover, the evaluation of ComALERT found that the program had a significant and beneficial effect on employment outcomes (none of the other studies examined outcomes other than recidivism).

2. Substance Abuse Programs

Thus far, two well-known substance abuse programs comprise this category (although others will be added over time). The modified therapeutic community program for mentally ill chemical abusers (MICAs) has been evaluated in two rigorous studies, with mixed results. One study found modest evidence of a beneficial effect, while the other study showed no evidence of an effect. An evaluation of the Victim Impact Panels that form a component of the San Juan County (New Mexico) DWI Program found no evidence of an effect.

3. Cognitive-Behavioral Program (EQUIP)

The EQUIP cognitive-behavioral program was originally designed to be applied with young offenders, but it has also been used with adult populations. One evalaution of EQUIP met the standards for methodological rigor - a study of the program's psychoeducational component with adult inmates. Findings from this quasi-experimental study suggest that the psychoeducational component of the program may be effective in reducing recidivism among women; however, no effects were found with respect to recidivism outcomes of adult males.

4. Employment Program (CEO)

The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) provides participants with transitional jobs as well as other services to help them attain permanent employment. One evaluation of the program was identified, a three-year randomized controlled trial that found mixed evidence of effectiveness. While findings showed that program participants had lower rates of some types of recidivism, other types of recidivism were unaffected. Moreover, no effects were found on employment outcomes, other than findings associated with the transitional jobs provided by the program itself.

Future Areas of Research

In examining the literature, researchers identified a plethora of brand name interventions. For a majority of these programs, only a single evaluation met the project’s criteria for a basic or high level of methodological rigor. With EQUIP, for example, two additional study series were identified, but neither met the criteria; thus only a single evaluation of the program was considered. In other instances, researchers could only find a single study. As always, readers should exercise caution when judging the efficacy of any program based on one evaluation—even if the study meets the high standard rigor.

While most of the evaluations of these brand name programs focused on recidivism as an outcome (an appropriate measure for the study population), fewer studies assessed other types of program impact such as employment or substance abuse—even when the program explicitly identified these goals. Future research should seek to address this gap in the research.

Summary of Evaluations and Outcomes

Rigor Evaluation Recidivism Employment Substance Abuse
Basic Rigor Bouffard & Bergeron, 2006 (not evaluated) (not evaluated)
High Rigor Braga, Piehl, & Hureau 2009 (not evaluated) (not evaluated)
High Rigor Crouch et al, 1989; Blakely et al, 1991; Menon et al, 1995; Menon et al, 1992; Finn, 1998 (not evaluated)
Basic Rigor Farrell 2000 (not evaluated)
High Rigor Inciardi et al. 2009 (not evaluated)
High Rigor Jacobs & Western 2007 (not evaluated)
Basic Rigor Kunitz et al., 2002; Woodall et al., 2004; Delaney et al., 2005 (not evaluated) (not evaluated)
Basic Rigor Liau; Shively; Horn; Landau; Barrida; and Gibbs 2004 (not evaluated) (not evaluated)
Basic Rigor Miller & Miller 2010 (not evaluated) (not evaluated)
Basic Rigor Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2006 (not evaluated) (not evaluated)
High Rigor Multiple evaluations, 2004-2015
High Rigor Ostermann 2009 (1) (not evaluated) (not evaluated)
High Rigor Ostermann 2009 (2) (not evaluated) (not evaluated)
High Rigor Redcross et al., 2006- 2012 (not evaluated)
Basic Rigor Sacks et al. 2003 (not evaluated)
High Rigor Severson, Veeh, Bruns, & Lee, 2011; 2012 (not evaluated)
Basic Rigor Van Stelle & Moberg 2004
Basic Rigor Veeh, Severson, & Lee, 2015 (not evaluated) (not evaluated)
Basic Rigor Wexler et al 2005 (not evaluated) (not evaluated) (not evaluated)
High Rigor Wexler, Melnick, and Cao 2004
Basic Rigor Wheeler et al. 2004 (not evaluated)
High Rigor Wilson et al. 2006 (not evaluated) (not evaluated)
Basic Rigor Woodall et al. 2007 (not evaluated)
High Rigor Zhang, Roberts, & Callanan 1997 (not evaluated) (not evaluated)

Programs