This report describes the impacts of programs developed by seven agencies that were awarded grants through the first round of funding under the Second Chance Act (SCA) Adult Demonstration Program (ADP). The ADP represents only one of a number of separate grant programs authorized through SCA. 

Because these seven grantees were purposively selected and were drawn from only one grant program, this study’s findings cannot be generalized to other grantees that received ADP funds or to SCA as a whole.  It uses a random assignment (RA) design and administrative and survey data to study the impacts of these seven grantees’ programs.

For the impact study, 966 individuals eligible for SCA were assigned to either:

  • A program group whose members could receive individualized SCA services, or
  • A control group whose members could receive all services otherwise available but could not receive individualized SCA services.

RA commenced in the last week of 2011 and continued through March 2013. Of the 966 study participants, 63 percent were randomly assigned to the program group, and 37 percent were assigned to the control group.

Data on study participants are from a number of sources:

  • Baseline Information Forms (BIFs). Just before RA, all study participants completed a one‐page BIF; this form asked about the background and criminal history.
  • Data extracted from each grantee’s management information system (MIS). The grantees provided the study team with data showing which pre‐ and post‐release services program group members received as part of their participation in SCA.
  • Administrative data from state and local criminal justice agencies. State and local criminal justice agencies provided data on arrests, convictions, and prison and jail incarcerations for the 10 years prior to each individual’s RA date and the 30 months following RA.
  • Administrative data from the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH). NDNH, built up from states’ quarterly Unemployment Insurance (UI) program wage and claimant files, federal employment files and the directory of new hires, provides information on study participants’ employment and earnings.
  • A follow‐up survey. The research team administered a follow‐up survey to cover the 18 months following RA. All study participants were in the survey sampling frame, and an interview was completed with 82.3 percent of them (82.2 percent of the program group and 82.6 percent of the control group).

Major Findings & Recommendations

SCA grant funds helped grantees enhance their existing programs and strengthen their partnerships. Unquestionably, the funds were needed and they expanded capacity, which enabled a greater level of support to more individuals than would have been possible without the grant. Absence of evidence that these funds reduced recidivism to some degree highlights a well‐known limitation of impact studies: if there are alternative sources of funds for services, then each source is important in expanding a community’s capacity but no one source is singularly impactful when compared with all the others (Heckman et al. 2000). This study does not show that program group services were not effective, but rather that they were about as effective as the services received by the control group. Nevertheless, improvements to the service models that the grantees developed might have led to better outcomes. Resources to fill all service needs remained well short of need and, partly for this reason but also for others, not all participants appeared to receive a continuum of care or adequate dosage of services, and grantees often had difficulty ensuring that participants received all the services they were assigned, particularly if the services were delivered by partners. Further, case management as a focal approach to re‐entry has not yet been found to be effective, and it has challenges regardless of whether POs serves as the case managers or social services agencies do. Some important improvements are already underway. Even before these impact findings were made available, the DOJ learned from the experiences of the grantees in this study as well as others that received early funding and endeavored to improve program models for grantees that received subsequent waves of funding under the Adult Demonstration program (Smart Reentry). For example: -To ensure adherence to evidence‐based practices and the provision of meaningful re-entry services, grantees are required to complete a planning process before being approved for implementation funds. During this time, they are to work with a technical assistance provider to improve their program models. -Grantees must engage with participants prior to release. -Grantees are required to establish a memorandum of understanding with providers to ensure that there is a mechanism for follow‐up when referrals are made. -Grantees must ensure adequate dosage of cognitive‐based interventions. -Grantees are expected to engage.