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The impact of reentry court on recidivism: a randomized controlled trial in Harlem, New York

Abstract

Objectives

This randomized controlled trial evaluates the effectiveness of the Harlem Parole Reentry Court, an innovative reentry court model implemented by the Harlem Community Justice Center, examining its impact on recidivism.

Methods

After random assignment to either the treatment or control groups, the study compares recidivism (rearrest, reconviction, and revocation) among parolees released to Upper Manhattan between 2010 and 2013. Parolees were either assigned to report to the reentry court (N = 213) or to traditional parole for the control group (N = 291).

Results

Results from logistic regression models indicate that the court significantly reduced revocations within 18 months of release, when controlling for relevant covariates. Reentry court parolees demonstrated a significant 45% reduction in revocation. There was no evidence of significant differences on rearrest or reconviction. Moderator analysis showed no significant moderating effect for risk score, age, or sex.

Conclusions

While the reduction in revocations is promising, the results would be considered mixed, at best. Additional research with larger sample sizes is necessary to further explore differential impacts by risk level. Policymakers, practitioners, and researchers must have realistic expectations for recidivism reductions and consider outcomes beyond those found in traditional recidivism research, including potential impacts on quality of life, support networks, family, and community.

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Notes

  1. NY state’s Shock Incarceration program involves voluntary participation by inmates while they are still incarcerated. They are then released early to an intensive form of parole. For more information about NY state’s Shock Incarceration Program, see Clark C., D.W. Aziz, and D.L. MacKenzie. 1994. Shock Incarceration in New York: Focus on Treatment. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

  2. The DCJS risk score is based on a series of static measures: age, gender, and criminal and corrections history. The risk score reflects the probability of rearrest within 2 years of release. DCJS also breaks down the risk score into low (scores of 1–3), medium (4–6), and high (7–10) risk. Although DCJS discontinued the use of the DCJS risk score in July 2013—after the end of the randomization portion of this study—and replaced it with the COMPAS, a more dynamic risk assessment tool, DCJS risk score, has since been shown to be either an equal or slightly better predictor of risk for rearrest than the COMPAS, depending on the population.

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Acknowledgments

Thanks to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision for allowing and assisting in the random assignment of parolees. Thanks to everyone involved in the implementation of the Harlem Parole Reentry Court for their time. This data was provided by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). The opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not those of DCJS. Neither New York State nor DCJS assumes liability for its contents or use thereof.

Funding

This study received funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

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Correspondence to Lama Hassoun Ayoub.

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Hassoun Ayoub, L. The impact of reentry court on recidivism: a randomized controlled trial in Harlem, New York. J Exp Criminol 16, 101–117 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-020-09420-3

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Keywords

  • Prisoner reentry
  • Reentry court
  • Randomized controlled trials
  • Problem-solving courts
  • Recidivism