Skip to main content

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



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.


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 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.


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  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.


  • Bender, K. M., Cobbina, J. E., & McGarrell, E. F. (2016). Reentry programming for high-risk offenders: insights from participants. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 60, 1479–1508.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Berman, G., & Feinblatt, J. (2002). Problem-solving courts: a brief primer. Law & Policy, 23(2), 125–140.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carey, S. M., Rempel, M., Lindquist, C., Cissner, A., Hassoun Ayoub, L., Kralstein, D., & Malsch, A. (2017). Reentry court research: overview of findings from the National Institute of Justice’s multi-site evaluation. New York, NY: Center for Court Innovation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carson, E.A., & Golinelli, D. (2013). Prisoners in 2012: trends in admissions and releases. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

  • Durose, M. R., Cooper, A. D., & Snyder, H. N. (2014). Recidivism of prisoners released in 30 states in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

  • Farole, D. J. (2003). The Harlem parole reentry court evaluation: implementation and preliminary impact. New York, NY: Center for Court Innovation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gelman, A., Fagan, J., & Kiss, A. (2005). An analysis of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy in the context of claims of racial bias. New York, NY: Columbia University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ghandnoosh, N. (2018). Policy brief: can we wait 75 years to cut the prison population in half? The sentencing project. Retrieved June 25, 2018 from: prisonpopulation- half/.

  • Hamilton, Z. (2010). Do Reentry Courts Reduce Recidivism? Results from the Harlem Parole. New York, NY: Center for Court Innovation.

  • Holzer, H. Raphael S. and Stoll, M. (2003). Employment dimensions of reentry: understanding the nexus between prisoner reentry and work. Urban Institute Reentry Roundtable. Retrieved June 16, 2017 from ResearchGate website:

  • Judicial Council of California (2014). California Parolee Reentry Court Program evaluation. Retrieved February 25, 2017 from California Courts website:

  • Kaeble, D., & Cowhig, M. (2016). Correctional populations in the United States, 2016. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

  • La Vigne, N., Davies, E., Palmer, T., & Halberstadt, R. (2008). Release Planning for Successful Reentry: A Guide for Corrections, Service Providers, and Community Groups. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Landenberger, N. A., & Lipsey, M. W. (2005). The positive effects of cognitive–behavioral programs for offenders: a meta-analysis of factors associated with effective treatment. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 1, 451–476.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lattimore, P. K., & Visher, C. (2009). The multi-site evaluation of SVORI: summary and synthesis. Research Triangle Park, NC: Research Triangle Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lipsey, M. W., & Landenberger, N. A. (2005). Cognitive-behavioral interventions: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. In B. C. Welsh & D. P. Farrington (Eds.), Preventing crime: what works for children, offenders, victims, and places. Berlin Heidelberg New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Research Council. (2014). The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: exploring Causes and Consequences. In Committee on Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration, J. Travis, B. Western, & S. Redburn (Eds.), Committee on Law and Justice, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Neithercutt, M. G. (1987). Time to recidivism in probation/parole cohorts. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 3(2), 7–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Office of Justice Programs. (1999). Reentry Courts: Managing the Transition from. Prison To Community. Washington, DC: Department of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  • Petersilia, J. (2003). When prisoners come home: parole and prisoner reentry. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, C. J. (2013). Tolerance of minor setbacks in a challenging reentry experience: an evaluation of a Federal Reentry Court. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 24(1), 49–70.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Travis, J., & Visher, C. (Eds.). (2005). Prisoner reentry and crime in America. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Visher, C., & Courtnery, S. (2006). Cleveland prisoners’ experience returning home. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Wodahl, E. J., Garland, B., Culhane, S. E., & McCarty, W. P. (2011). Utilizing behavioral interventions to improve supervision outcomes in community-based corrections. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 38, 386–405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


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.


This study received funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lama Hassoun Ayoub.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


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