Wilson et al., 2000; Aos et al., 2006). However, the majority of the evaluations are of poor quality, and a close examination of their methodological problems reduces confidence in their results (MacKenzie, 2006; Wilson et al., 2000)

For correctional education programming to be successful, it must be part of a systematic approach that includes programs for employability, social skills training, and other specialized programming (Taxman, 1998). Best-practice correctional education programs are both carefully tailored to individual prisoners and related to vocational and job skills training. Education and job training for prisoners who were low earners are most successful when they provide workers with credentials that meet private-sector demands. Programs that provide training, a range of services and supports, incentives, and access to better employers work well, especially when there are strong incentives for releasees to get jobs (Holzer and Martinson, 2005; Visher and Courtney, 2006).

To be most effective, inmate screening, needs assessment, and the provision of services need to be integrated, but this approach may run counter to other institutional priorities. In many systems, security classification takes precedence over other activities, which may affect the organization of and availability of services. Many prisoners would like to enroll in education and training programs but slots are not available or they are not eligible because of their security status or short sentence length. If the highest need prisoners are also the highest risk offenders, it might make sense to shift some programming resources to higher security institutions where such prisoners are concentrated (Logan, 1993).

As noted above, work is a primary feature of successful reintegration and desistance (Sampson and Laub, 1990, 1993; Nagin and Waldfogel, 1998). The time spent and connections made at work probably serve as informal social controls that prevent criminal behavior. Having a job, especially a good job, reduces the economic incentive for criminal behavior. For example, using data from the 1980 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, economist Jeffrey Grogger (1998) has estimated that the elasticity of crime participation with respect to wages is −1.0, two and a half times higher than the elasticity provided by incarceration.1 Specifically he found that a 10 percent increase in wages would reduce crime participation by 6−9 percent. His estimates suggest that young men’s behavior is very responsive to price incentives and that falling real wages for youth may have been partially responsible for the rise in youth crime during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Finding employment is one of the most pressing problems that releasees


Elasticity is the ratio of the proportional change in one variable with respect to proportional change in another variable.

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