Employment and Recidivism: An Analysis of a Faith-based Reentry Program

Project of Merit Winner!
Author(s): Emily Friedman, Caitlin J. Steckley, Rachel Simmons
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michael Hallett
Department: Criminal Justice


Recently released criminal offenders are generally subjected to heavy stigma as they reenter society which is compounded by the general isolation that many feel upon release. Because of these difficulties, re-entry programs can be an effective, prosocial way for ex-offenders to reintegrate back into the community and workforce. This project was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a local faith-based, non-profit re-entry program in Duval County between 2015 and 2019. Prisoners of Christ (POC) services both low and high-risk offenders through their employment assistance and residential housing programs. We conducted quantitative research on POC participants utilizing rearrest data from the Florida Department of Corrections and Duval County Jail databases (N = 546). Our quantitative methods included a Chi-Square Test of Independence to determine if there was a significant difference between the employed and unemployed groups on the outcome of rearrest. Our findings supported a statistically significant difference between groups (p = 0.0496), therefore we continued to evaluate the strength of the correlation between employment and rearrest through the Phi test. Our results indicated a weak correlation (φ=0.0839) supporting our theoretical framework of employment as a desistance signal. Subsequently, we conducted qualitative interviews with “successful desisters” to better understand the phenomenology of the desistance process through POC participants. Results indicated an importance of internal change, prosocial ties, and stable employment. Future research is recommended to determine if there are specific aspects of employment that increase a person’s likelihood of desisting from crime such as type of work and pay scale.
Audio Presentation Transcript:

(SOARS Poster Audio, run time 6:16.) Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsqnLk8UarU

Hello, my name is Rachel Simmons and I am here to tell you about the project Employment and Recidivism: An Analysis of a Faith-based Reentry Program that I worked on with Emily Friedman and Caitlin Steckley with the mentorship of Dr. Michael Hallett.
The purpose of this research was to evaluate the success of a faith-based prisoner reentry program in the Jacksonville, FL area. We wanted to analyze how, according to successful desisters, the program helped individuals sustain a crime-free life.
We hypothesized that clients securing employment would be statistically different than those who did not on the variable of rearrest. Using a chi-square test for independence, the data affirmed our hypothesis.
Here, the term desister describes someone who has begun engaging in the complex and ongoing process of no longer criminally offending.
There are two main programs at POC, Housing and employment assistance. Their Housing program also known as residential program is limited by their funding, so the majority of POC participants are only able to utilize the employment assistance program. This program alone is still very helpful, which we will talk more about later, as it includes aspects such as assistance with health care, food subsidies, and transportation.
POC is atypical in assisting sex offenders and others who are deemed at a high risk for reoffending. Additionally, While POC is a Christian-based organization, religious belief is not a condition of acceptance.
Here you can see the breakdown of participation in the programs 82.1% participating in only employment assistance and 17.9% participating in residential and employment assistance.
Our Quantitative methods included reviewing those participants who utilized POC’s services between 2015 and 2019. After removing participants with duplicated or missing data, we ended up with a sample size of 546. With the participants names, birthdates and demographic information we checked for arrest records for each individual in the databases of Florida Department of Corrections and the Duval County Jail.
For the purposes of this project, recidivism (the rate of reoffending) was calculated as rearrest not necessarily reconviction. Successful employment and all other information was documented by POC.
Recidivism was aggregated by type of offense, race, gender, employment and type of POC program, employment and residential vs only employment.
We then ran a Chi Square test of independence to determine if there was a statistically significant difference between employment and rearrest, and subsequently we ran the Phi test to evaluate the strength of the correlation between employment and rearrest.
The Qualitative data came from 14 semi structured interviews which we conducted at POC with individuals who were classified as “successful desisters.” Meaning they had not been rearrested in the past 5 years. Questions included those about criminal history, religiosity, and effectiveness of POC. Each interview was recorded with the participants consent and later transcribed and stored securely. We analyzed the themes of the interviews individually and then compared them among the group for inter-coder reliability.
Overall, we discovered that participants who were employed were rearrested at a lower rate than non-employed individuals. Additionally, our Chi Square test showed a significant difference between employment and no rearrest, revealing that there is 95% probability that the difference between employment and rearrest is not random.
Here you can see the difference between the recidivism rates for participants who were not employed versus the recidivism rates of those who were employed. These are the tables we utilized to show the observed participants in POC and the values of the Chi Square test, including the p-value of slightly less than .05 otherwise notated as 5%.
It is also worthy of note that participants in the interviews spoke overwhelmingly of the importance of the financial stability they gained and for many it was the very first time in their life that they had it. The participants also shared the common theme of the importance of faith and religion.
Both our qualitative and quantitative results show the importance of achieving economic stability which is likely tied to gainful employment as a step to desistance. Both quantitative and qualitative results point towards financial security being helpful in the desistance process.
This is also emphasized through anecdotal stories told by those we interviewed who have not been re-arrested since release. This emphasizes the importance of continuing to grow the reentry sector.
However, it’s important to note that while employment and rearrest did have a statistically significant difference, according to the Phi test there may be other factors that encourage this difference, such as the ability to make a living wage.
Limitations of this study include the inability to do a national check for rearrest. Additionally, this study was a cross sectional study as opposed to longitudinal, with participants time out of POC varying based on the year they completed the program.
Thank you for viewing our poster, I hope you enjoyed learning about it as much as Emily, Caitlin, and myself did. And a special thank you to Dr Hallett for all your guidance on this project. Have a great day everyone!

One Response

  1. Beautiful work, Emily, Caitlin, and Rachel! I’m aware that you all had to rethink your project as initially proposed due to the pandemic. You should be very proud of your nimble response and of the final results. It’s clear that you worked remotely together as a team very skillfully. The design, organization, and execution of the project, and the delivery of your careful research in the abstract, poster, and video presentation, are superb. We wish you all the best going forward. Thank you!

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