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Examining the effects of a transitional employment program for formerly incarcerated people on employment and recidivism: a randomized controlled trial during COVID-19

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This study examines the effectiveness of a transitional employment program (TEP)—delivered with cognitive behavioral interventions (CBIs)—at improving employment and recidivism outcomes among residents returning to Palm Beach County, Florida, from incarceration.


A randomized controlled trial (N = 175) with an intent-to-treat approach was used to examine the effects of the TEP on employment and recidivism outcomes. Bivariate statistics examined treatment group status on the dependent variables. Separate logistic regressions models then examined the effects of programmatic hours and employment on recidivism outcomes.


Results suggest that participation in the TEP increased employment but did not reduce recidivism. Logistic regression results, however, showed that obtaining employment significantly reduced the odds of recidivating.


Participation in the TEP itself did not reduce recidivism; however, certain programmatic aspects appear to be worthy of consideration moving forward, including improving implementation fidelity, increasing CBI buy-in, and assisting formerly incarcerated people obtain employment.

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  1. PBC is currently in the process of transitioning from the LSI-R to the Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI).

  2. Per the federal grant award, individuals released from federal custody were not eligible to participate.

  3. While general reentry services in PBC are provided to juveniles and adults, the TEP was only available to adults. This was done as the TEP would have conflicted with the juveniles’ educational requirements.

  4. All methods and procedures were approved by the university’s Institutional Review Board.

  5. There were a couple of instances wherein an individual who was assigned to service provider A (the construction TEP) was physically unable to work in the construction trade. As such, service provider A, in consultation with the County’s Public Safety Department staff, would transfer the individual to service provider B or C to receive reentry services/TEP.

  6. This does not include youth or federal returnees, as they were ineligible to participate in the TEP.

  7. There are numerous reasons why a case manager did not refer individuals for the TEP, including (but not limited too a) client ineligibility, client declining to participate (e.g., already employed, uninterested in program), client applying for disability/social security.


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This project was supported by the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Innovations in Reentry Initiative program under award number 2017-CZ-BX-0003.

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Correspondence to Cassandra A. Atkin-Plunk.

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Appendix. Per-protocol analysis

Appendix. Per-protocol analysis

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Table 7 Descriptive and bivariate statistics for dependent variables of interest by pre-/post-March 13, 2020 randomization


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Atkin-Plunk, C.A. Examining the effects of a transitional employment program for formerly incarcerated people on employment and recidivism: a randomized controlled trial during COVID-19. J Exp Criminol (2023).

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