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Economic Evaluation of Svori Reentry Initiative Dec 2009

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An Economic Evaluation of the
Serious and Violent Offender
Reentry Initiative
THE MULTI-SITE EVALUATION OF THE SERIOUS AND VIOLENT OFFENDER REENTRY INITIATIVE

December 2009

Alexander J. Cowell

Pamela K. Lattimore

RTI International
3040 East Cornwallis Road
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
Phone: (919) 541-8754
Fax: (919) 541-5985
Cowell@rti.org

RTI International
3040 East Cornwallis Road
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
Phone: (919) 485-7759
Fax: (919) 541-5985
Lattimore@rti.org

John Roman
The Urban Institute
2100 M Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: (202) 261-5774
Jroman@urban.org
This project was supported by Grant No. 2004-RE-CX-002 awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S.
Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies
of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Acknowledgments
The Multi-site Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender
Reentry Initiative (SVORI) was supported by grant number
2004-RE-CX-002 from the National Institute of Justice (U.S.
Department of Justice) and was conducted by RTI International
and the Urban Institute. Points of view are those of the authors
and do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. Department
of Justice.
Principal Investigators
Pamela K. Lattimore, RTI International
Christy A. Visher, University of Delaware and Urban Institute
Report Authors
Alexander J. Cowell, RTI International
John Roman, Urban Institute
Pamela K. Lattimore, RTI International
Staff Contributors
Christy A. Visher, University of Delaware and Urban Institute
Brendan J. Wedehase, RTI International
Aaron Sundquist, Urban Institute
Carly Knight, Urban Institute
Michael Mills, RTI International
We also acknowledge the contributions of the site liaisons from
RTI and the Urban Institute, who documented the
implementation of SVORI programming across the sites and
facilitated data collection for the impact study. In addition, we
are grateful for the hard work and dedication shown by our field
interviewers, supervisors, and data collection task leader
throughout the data collection period.
RTI and the Urban Institute thank the SVORI project directors,
other program and research staff from the SVORI sites, and

iii

staff at the facilities where interviews were conducted. We
greatly appreciate the assistance and support received from
these individuals.
Finally, RTI and the Urban Institute acknowledge the invaluable
assistance and direction provided by the members of our
external advisory group.
For more information about the SVORI Multi-site Evaluation,
please visit our Web site at http://www.svori-evaluation.org/.

iv

Abstract
Statement of Purpose
The Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI)
funded agencies in 2003 to develop programs to improve
criminal justice, employment, education, health, and housing
outcomes for released prisoners. Sixty-nine agencies received
federal funds to develop 89 programs. The SVORI multi-site
evaluation was funded by the National Institute of Justice in the
spring of 2003. Sixteen programs (12 adult and 4 juvenile
programs) were included in an impact evaluation to determine
the effectiveness of the programming provided under SVORI.
Nearly 2,400 returning prisoners were interviewed during the
course of the evaluation. This report presents a detailed
analysis of costs of programming before release and a costbenefit analysis comprising costs and benefits from both before
and after release.
Research Subjects
The sample includes 722 men from 4 of the 12 adult programs
and 79 juvenile males from 1 of the 4 juvenile programs. Each
program had a SVORI sample and a comparison sample. The 4
adult programs were selected based on meeting at least one of
three criteria: a large study size, a good comparison match or
random assignment to study condition, and likely availability of
administrative records. The juvenile site had a large number of
study participants and reliable cost data available.
Study Methods
A self-report survey provided data on service receipt, rearrest,
and reincarceration. Survey waves were administered
approximately 1 month before release, and 3, 9, and 15
months after release. The literature and site-specific records
provided data on the cost of each service, arrest, and day

v

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

incarcerated. The survey and cost data were combined for the
analyses. Propensity score weights were applied to improve the
comparability of the SVORI and comparison groups and the
results of the weighted analyses are reported.
Major Findings
Estimates on pre-release service costs varied considerably from
a low of an additional SVORI cost of $658 per offender in
Pennsylvania to $3,480 in the South Carolina juvenile program.
The cost-benefit results confirm that enhanced reentry through
SVORI resulted in more resources being spent on services to
these offenders. For men, the greater service cost persisted
throughout all three follow-up waves. For South Carolina
juveniles, greater service costs were seen before and 3 months
after release. Relative to the comparison group, criminal justice
costs for the SVORI group were lower 3 months after release,
but higher 9 and 15 months after release; importantly, none of
these findings were statistically significant at conventional
levels.
Estimates of net costs (service costs combined with criminal
justice costs) had large confidence intervals and there was no
evidence that net costs for the SVORI group were higher or
lower than the comparison group.
Conclusions
The SVORI economic evaluation indicated that enhanced
reentry was successful in delivering services to offenders, both
before and after release into the community. The cost-benefit
analysis was inconclusive and could not determine whether net
costs for the SVORI group were higher or lower than the
comparison group. Given the richness of the SVORI evaluation
data, further work assessing the impact on criminal justice
costs may be rewarding.
These future directions will help address gaps in current
knowledge. First, future work is needed to further examine the
degree to which enhanced reentry programming may be
associated with possible reductions in criminal justice costs.
This may be perhaps most successfully done by using
administrative rather than survey data on arrests and
reincarceration and expanding the analysis to all of the 16 sites
used in the main evaluation for which reliable data are

vi

Abstract

available. A second likely fruitful area is to expand the kinds of
benefits examined to include outcomes such as employment.

vii

Contents
Section
Abstract
Executive Summary
Introduction

Page
v 
ES-1 
1 

The Purpose of This Report ......................................... 1 
Literature on Reentry Costs and Benefits ...................... 3 
Rationale ................................................................. 8 
Methodology

9 

Overview of the Economic Evaluation ........................... 9 
Sample ...................................................................10 
Data .......................................................................13 
Analysis ..................................................................22 
Results

31 

The Cost of Discretionary Pre-release Services..............31 
Pre-release Cost Estimates by Domain.........................34 
Sensitivity Analyses of Pre-release Cost Estimates ........37 
Cost-Benefit Analysis Results .....................................37 
Summary of Results .................................................44 
Conclusions

47 

Discussion of Findings ...............................................47 
Implications for Policy and Practice .............................48 
Implications for Future Research ................................52 
References

55 

Appendix A: Program Descriptions

A-1 

Appendix B: Potential Sources of Duplication Bias

B-1 

ix

Exhibits
Number
1.

Page

Criteria and Outcomes of the Site Selection Process
for the Economic Evaluation

11 

Relative Merits of Alternative Approaches to
Measuring Quantity

14 

3.

Administrative Data Availability, by Site

15 

4.

Sources for Quantity of Services Received

17 

5.

Sources for Prices of Services Received

17 

6.

Estimates and Data Sources of Arrest Costs (2007$)

21 

7.

Estimates and Data Sources of Incarceration Costs
per Offender per Night (2007$)

22 

8.

Five Incremental Steps of the Pre-release Services
Cost Estimation Protocol

23 

9.

Conducting CBA: Estimating Net Costs

27 

2.

10. Four Incremental Steps of the Cost-Benefit Analysis
Estimation Protocol

29 

11. Annual Incremental Pre-release Costs of Service
Provision per Offender (2007$)

31 

12. Annual Pre-release Incremental Cost Estimates of
Discretionary Service Provision and Bounds from
Sensitivity Analyses (2007$)

33 

13. Annual Pre-release Cost of Service Provision to Men,
by Domain (2007$)

35 

14. Annual Pre-release Cost of Service Provision to
South Carolina Juveniles, by Domain (2007$)

36 

15. Number of Services Included in the Cost Analysis,
by Site and Domain

36 

16. Results of Sensitivity Analyses on Pre-release Costs
(2007$)

38 

17. Main CBA Findings for the Adult Programs: Monthly
Net Cost per Offender, by Study Period (2007$)

39 

xi

xii

18. Sensitivity Analyses for Cost-Benefit Analysis of
Four Sites for Adult Male Offenders (2007$)

42 

19. Main CBA Findings for the South Carolina Juvenile
Program: Monthly Net Cost per Offender, by Study
Period (2007$)

43 

20. Sensitivity Analyses for the Cost-Benefit Analysis of
the South Carolina Juvenile Site (2007$)

45 

Executive Summary
Decision makers who are in charge of planning and funding
prisoner reentry programs and policies need to know the cost of
reentry services and the benefits that accrue to society as a
result of these services. In 2003, the U.S. Departments of
Justice, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Health
and Human Services established the Serious and Violent
Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI), a large-scale funding
stream that provided more than $100 million to 69 grantees to
develop programming, training, and state-of-the-art reentry
strategies at the community level. The multi-site evaluation of
SVORI examined the initial implementation of 16 different
reentry programming models in 2004–2005. The economic
evaluation focused on offenders reentering society from five
sites: programming for men in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and
South Carolina and programming for juvenile males in South
Carolina.
This report presents the results of an economic evaluation of
the enhanced reentry efforts funded through SVORI. It provides
the results from two separate analyses:
ƒ

Pre-release service cost analysis. A cost analysis
was conducted of those services provided before
prisoners were released into the community in 2004 and
2005. Estimates are provided at the site level and
throughout the course of the 12 months immediately
preceding release.

ƒ

Cost-benefit analysis. A cost-benefit analysis (CBA)
was conducted of enhanced reentry, both pre- and postrelease. The analysis assessed the degree to which
possible reductions in criminal justice costs (arrests plus
incarceration) through enhanced reentry offset the likely
increased service costs. For this analysis, the four sites

ES-1

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

for men were combined, and average monthly cost
estimates are presented.
The findings draw on the most detailed and reliable data
available, and use the same methods across all five sites.

RESULTS
Pre-release service costs vary considerably across sites.
Estimates of the additional pre-release cost attributable to
enhanced reentry varied from $658 per offender for the
Pennsylvania adult program to $3,480 for the South Carolina
juvenile program. Case management contributed largely to prerelease costs. The exception was in Iowa, where the difference
was driven by employment/education/life skills services.
The cost-benefit analysis results showed that at no point after
release were the estimates of differences between the
enhanced reentry and comparison groups statistically
significant. Because the results were generally not statistically
significant, there was no strong evidence either that the SVORI
group cost more or that it cost less than the comparison group
at each of the three follow-up periods.
Enhanced reentry succeeded in providing offenders more
services, both for men and juveniles. For men, the findings
suggested that, even as long as 15 months after release, the
average monthly service cost was $97 higher for those in the
enhanced reentry group than in the comparison group. For
juveniles, the findings suggested that service provision for
enhanced reentry was particularly high within the first
3 months after release. The difference in average monthly costs
for the enhanced reentry and the comparison groups was $330.

CONCLUSIONS
A limitation of the findings is that the estimates were not
sufficiently precise to detect differences in overall criminal
justice costs at any point in time after release. The imprecision
in estimate may be the result of several factors; for example,
the evaluation took place while initial efforts to enhance reentry
were still underway and, thus, services may not have been
sufficiently established to have an effect on criminal justice
costs. Another limitation is that detailed information on the
number and the specific type of service events was not
available. A final limitation is that results may not generalize to

ES-2

Executive Summary

other jurisdictions. There was no reentry model to which
grantees were expected to adhere. The data are for four sites
for men and one for juvenile males, and each of the sites
demonstrably delivered services differently.
The SVORI economic evaluation indicated that enhanced
reentry was successful in delivering services to offenders, both
before and after release into the community. Given the richness
of the SVORI evaluation data, further work assessing the
impact on criminal justice costs may be particularly rewarding.
These future directions will help address gaps in current
knowledge. First, future work is needed to further examine the
degree to which enhanced reentry may be associated with
possible reductions in criminal justice costs. This may be
perhaps most successfully done by using administrative rather
than survey data on arrests and reincarceration and expanding
the analysis to every one of the 16 sites used in the main
evaluation for which reliable data are available. A second likely
fruitful area is to expand the kinds of benefits examined to
include outcomes such as employment.

ES-3

Introduction
THE PURPOSE OF THIS REPORT
Decision makers who are in charge of planning and funding
prisoner reentry programs and policies need to know the cost of
reentry services and the benefits that accrue to society as a
result of these services. In 2003, the U.S. Departments of
Justice, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Health
and Human Services established the Serious and Violent
Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI), a large-scale funding
stream that provided more than $100 million to 69 grantees to
develop programming, training, and state-of-the-art reentry
strategies at the community level. The multi-site evaluation of
SVORI examined 16 different reentry programming models, and
the economic evaluation focused on five of these models to
ascertain the impact, costs, and benefits of reentry
programming. The study focused on offenders reentering
society in 2004–2005 as part of the initial implementation of
enhanced reentry.
This report presents the results of an economic evaluation of
the enhanced reentry efforts funded through SVORI. It provides
the results from two separate analyses:
ƒ

Pre-release service cost analysis. A detailed cost
analysis was conducted of those services provided
before prisoners were released into the community in
2004 and 2005. Estimates are provided at the site level
and throughout the course of the 12 months
immediately preceding release.

ƒ

Cost-benefit analysis. A cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of
enhanced reentry was conducted, both pre- and postrelease. Monthly estimates are provided, and estimates
for all four adult sites are combined.

1

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

A key feature of the economic evaluation is that it leverages
important strengths of the main outcome evaluation:
ƒ

Data are site specific. The economic evaluation follows
the outcome evaluation in recognizing that sites differed
greatly in the way in which SVORI funds were spent.
Thus, information was collected from each site. Because
of concerns about small sample sizes, when using
statistical significance tests, estimates were aggregated
across sites.

ƒ

The design is longitudinal. Offender services were
tracked at several points in time, including before
release into the community (pre-release) and once they
were put back into the community (post-release).

ƒ

A comparison group of individuals received services as
usual. So that the impact of SVORI funding on service
utilization and outcomes could be fully understood, the
experiences of participants receiving services funded
through SVORI have been compared to those receiving
services under reentry as usual.

ƒ

The measures are at the individual (rather than at the
site) level. The most accurate estimates are those that
account for person-to-person variation in service receipt
and criminal justice events, rather than rely on broad,
program-level averages.

Pre-release Service Cost Analysis
This cost analysis examined how resources were spent on
offenders before entering the community from four adult sites—
Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina—and one
juvenile site, South Carolina. Pre-release services are of
particular interest to decision makers, such as those in
departments of corrections, because they are largely within the
direct control of grant recipients. After release, services that
offenders receive are typically provided by a variety of
providers, and decision makers often have less control over
provision and access. Estimates are for the 12 months before
release, that is, annual costs.
Because most corrections agencies understand, at a broad
level, the cost of standard reentry, the most practical
advantage of a cost analysis is to understand the additional
costs of enhanced reentry resources (Drummond, O'Brien,
Stoddart, & Torrance, 2000). Thus, in addition to the cost of
service provision per site, the analysis provided estimates on
the costs per SVORI participant over and above a comparison

2

Introduction

participant. These estimates are referred to as “incremental
costs.” In addition to an estimated incremental cost for the
program as a whole, the results also describe the incremental
costs for specific domains of costs, such as educational
services. Disaggregating the estimates in this manner is
particularly useful because it reflects the way in which
appropriations and budgets are disaggregated and recognizes
that, beyond the SVORI grant, different components of reentry
programs in the community may have different funding
sources. Because of state-to-state variation, separate analyses
for each of the five programs selected for the cost analysis
were conducted.
Cost-Benefit Analysis
The CBA addressed the degree to which expenditures on
services were offset by reductions in the key outcomes of
rearrest and reincarceration. It accounts for the fact that
services—before and after release—are designed to help
offenders contribute positively to society. The analysis
combined the data from the pre-release cost analysis with
estimates of post-release costs, which included costs incurred
by obtaining additional services and those incurred through
rearrest and reincarceration. The analysis then compared, at
key time points, average costs for two groups: those in
enhanced reentry and those in a comparison group. Relative to
the comparison group, the enhanced reentry group would likely
have higher service costs but lower arrest and incarceration
costs, and total costs overall would likely be lower. For this
analysis, all adult sites’ data (the juvenile site data were
analyzed separately) were combined. This is because limited
sample size threatened the possibility of finding statistically
significant results. It also was in keeping with the design of the
main outcome evaluation, which combined all sites in its
analyses.

LITERATURE ON REENTRY COSTS AND
BENEFITS
The challenge to researchers investigating reentry policies and
programs is that the term “reentry” does not refer to a
bounded, defined mission, but rather to the period surrounding
release from jail or prison when issues related to desistance
may be addressed. A CBA of reentry is therefore a CBA of all

3

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

the social service programming associated with reentry, where
the only commonality is the ultimate outcome of interest,
desistance. Reentry programming as it is currently understood
is nascent—the first broad federal funding of reentry
programming began with the SVORI funding in 2003, and
many, if not most, local reentry efforts began concurrently.
A number of challenges exist to conducting useful economic
impact analyses over and above the challenges of identifying
the average treatment effect of the component programs.
These challenges include costs that are often spread across
numerous service providers, organizing entities that coordinate
or facilitate linkages to services (but do not directly provide
services), limited data measuring the amount (dosage) of
services (inputs), and benefits that are diffuse and that may
accrue to many parties not directly affected by the intervention.
The preferred strategy for measuring the total costs of a
criminal justice system–based intervention is the bottom-up
approach. This approach estimates the cost of the intervention
for each individual by adding up the cost of all the services and
goods received by that individual. The total cost is then
calculated by adding up the cost of all the individuals who
participated in the intervention. One recent study tested the
effect of the Maryland Reentry Partnership Initiative (REP) on
crime using a cohort of prisoners released from the Maryland
Transition Center in Baltimore, Maryland, between March 2001
and January 2005 (Roman, Brooks, Lagerson, Chalfin, &
Tereshchenko, 2007; Western, 2006). Retrospective
administrative data compared 229 REP clients to a
contemporaneous cohort of 370 prisoners released from the
Maryland Transition Center to neighborhoods in Baltimore City
that were not in the REP catchment area. Outcomes were
measured during the post-release period, which averaged 38
months. Fewer REP clients (72.0% compared to 77.6%)
committed at least one new crime in the study period. There
were no significant differences in time to rearrest, likelihood of
a new conviction, number of new convictions, or time to a new
conviction. The reduction in new offending was enough to
return about $3 in benefits for every dollar in new costs. The
total net benefit—total benefits minus total costs—to the
citizens of Baltimore from the REP program is about $7.2
million, or about $21,500 per REP participant.

4

Introduction

In practice, few evaluations follow this procedure because the
CBA is an add-on to an impact evaluation. Data that are critical
to the estimation of economic impacts (such as the quantity of
services consumed by the comparison group) are often not
collected, either because they are not relevant to the impact
evaluation or because the reentry program links to so many
different kinds of services that estimating costs and benefits is
impractical. Most CBAs rely instead on top-down estimates of
average cost using an accounting approach.
Another limitation of current studies results from the
dominance of relatively high-cost (or high-benefit) but rare
events (such as an escape or a murder) on costs or benefits. In
cases where outliers explain some or all of the difference in
cost-effectiveness, those effects cannot be modeled using
traditional statistical or econometric approaches. For example,
a recent evaluation using a randomized control trial of a reentry
court in Indiana found about $3 in benefits for every dollar in
costs. However, most of the benefit to the community
($1.3 million of the $1.7 million total) was due to a reduction in
homicides from an expected 0.42 homicides to zero. That is,
half of the program’s benefit is explained by an expectation that
part of a homicide (with an extremely large associated benefit)
was prevented. Excluding these savings reduces the benefitcost ratio to less than two.
Two other important and closely related limitations of the usual
cost-benefit approach to reentry evaluation are worth
considering—the effect of researching “stovepipe” programs
and the effects of programs on communities. As noted, many
reentry programs are designed to bundle services, where
programs that attempt to address the whole range of offender
deficits are hypothesized to be more likely to increase
desistance than programs that focus on a single issue.
However, data limitations often require evaluators to focus on
the costs and benefits of only a single service or a few services
in the bundle, because primary data collection in the evaluation
of a program providing large numbers of services is often
impractical. The net result is that both costs and benefits are
systematically undercounted. Since the extent of the
undercounting cannot be observed with a limited sampling
frame, it is difficult to know how to interpret the resulting
estimates.

5

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

Current approaches also tend to be offender-centric. That is,
cost estimates focus on costs associated with treating and
processing offenders, and benefits estimates focus on avoided
costs from crime prevention, including benefits to victims who
are not victimized and benefits to public agencies that do not
need to expend resources to investigate, prosecute, and
incarcerate offenders for those prevented crimes. This approach
excludes important economic consequences, especially on the
benefits side, from effective reentry programs. As Western
(Western, 2006, p. 355) noted, “[A]n expanded commitment to
prisoner reentry policy has collateral benefits that are also
somewhat invisible. Children and spouses will benefit from the
improved literacy and subsidized employment of their fathers
and partners even if they have trouble finding work.” Other
collateral consequences beyond the offenders’ immediate
families are also excluded, including the offenders’ neighbors
and other residents of their communities, all of whom can
benefit from the successful reintegration of former prisoners.
Thus, CBA of reentry should perhaps consider externalities from
these programs and sum the costs and benefits to those who
are not party to the reentry exchange of services, but
nevertheless experience the consequences. In practice,
measurement of these externalities is extremely difficult.
As a result, the research literature is sparse, and CBAs of
prisoner reentry programs are rare. That said, there is a broad
literature describing the potential efficacy or effectiveness of
various components of reentry. Several reviews of reentry
program evaluations have examined the available research on
what works with regard to reentry and/or rehabilitative
programming (Aos, Miller, & Drake, 2006; Lipsey & Cullen,
2007; MacKenzie, 2006; Petersilia, 2004; Seiter & Kadela,
2003). Among the conclusions of these reviews are that
intensive supervision programs with a clear treatment
component show a sizeable impact on recidivism (Aos et al.,
2006) and that programs focusing on individual-level change,
including cognitive change, education, and drug treatment, are
more effective than those based on a control or deterrent
philosophy (Lipsey & Cullen, 2007; MacKenzie, 2006).
Few reentry programs have been studied using a random
assignment research design. One exception is the evaluation of
the Opportunity to Succeed (OPTS) program. OPTS was
designed to reduce substance abuse relapse and criminal

6

Introduction

recidivism by providing comprehensive, case-managed reentry
services to felony offenders who had drug offense histories. The
evaluation found that OPTS clients had significantly higher
levels of full-time employment during the first year after prison
release. In turn, high levels of employment were associated
with reductions in self-reported commission of person and
property crimes, as well as reductions in drug dealing during a
1-year follow-up period (Rossman, Sridharan, Gouvis, Buck, &
Morley, 1999).
Another exception, Project Greenlight, was developed from
research and best practice models to create an evidence-based
reentry program (Wilson & Davis, 2006). However, an
evaluation of the model and its implementation in 2004 in New
York revealed that the program did not replicate past best
practice. Instead, Project Greenlight modified past practice to
fit institutional requirements, was delivered ineffectively, did
not match individual needs to services, and failed to implement
any post-release continuation of services and support (Marlowe,
2006; see also Visher, 2006; Wilson & Davis, 2006). The
evaluation found that the program participants performed
significantly worse than a control group on multiple measures
of recidivism after 1 year. The evaluators attributed these
findings to a combination of implementation difficulties,
program design, and a mismatch between participant needs
and program content. In response to the evaluation report,
Marlowe (2006) argued that the evidence base for the program
was flawed from the beginning. Rhine and colleagues (2006)
were more optimistic about reentry programming in general,
but argued that Project Greenlight was not sufficiently different
from other failed reentry programs, nor was the treatment
delivered appropriately. In summary, a critical problem for
community-based reentry programs (and the evaluation) is that
they often are not integrated into an overall “continuum of
care” strategy that links prison and community-based
treatment, and they are not managed or monitored according
to procedures designed to help guide or maximize their
effectiveness (Andrews & Bonta, 1998).
Numerous challenges encumber the research assessing the
effectiveness of programs for formerly incarcerated individuals,
whether focused on reentry or general rehabilitation. Foremost
among the challenges is the lack of theoretical models that
articulate behavior change among former prisoners. Within any

7

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

particular substantive area, there are also problems of fidelity
in that a particular service approach may manifest itself in
different ways under different programs and circumstances. As
a result, it is often difficult to generalize research findings from
one program to others, and substantial variability exists among
the outcome variables examined (e.g., employment,
homelessness, health). Finally, there are problems related to
the research itself, as rigorous experimental designs—including
the use of comparison groups (randomly assigned or
otherwise)—are rare in this research literature. There are also
temporal restrictions in this research, where few studies
examine outcomes beyond 1 year.

RATIONALE
This analysis represents one of the first attempts to conduct a
large-scale cost-benefit evaluation of reentry programs.
Additionally, there are at least three contributions to the
literature. First, the evaluation covers one grant mechanism
across several grantees. Even though grantees had
considerable discretion to use the funds as needed, the analysis
uses the same methodology for data collection and estimation
across all sites examined. Thus, estimates can be compared
across sites. Second, this analysis attempts to capture the
considerable diversity of reentry programming exercised by
states. Thus, the analysis is comprehensive. A third
contribution is that the analysis uses well matched comparison
as part of the study design. In the absence of random
assignment to reentry services, such a design is desirable for
drawing inferences about the costs and benefits of enhanced
reentry.

8

Methodology
OVERVIEW OF THE ECONOMIC EVALUATION
The perspective of the analyses—which determines whose costs
and benefits are measured—is the criminal justice system.
State agencies in the criminal justice system underwrite all
services received by offenders (e.g., anger management) and
certainly pay for the law enforcement and court resources used
in rearresting and the prison resources used in reincarcerating
offenders.
For the cost analysis, separate analyses were conducted for
each of five programs selected. Pre-release rather than postrelease costs were detailed because resources are largely within
the direct control of the Department of Correction before
offenders are released. After release, services that offenders
receive are typically provided by a variety of providers, and
decision makers have less control over provision and access.
Estimates are provided at the site level because evidence in the
main outcome evaluation indicates significant state-to-state
variation in programming.
The CBA combines all costs—both pre- and post-release—and
all monetized benefits. The costs of reentry are the value of
resources used in programming to help offenders reenter
society. These costs include the programs, reentry planning,
and case management that occur before release, as well as the
continued provision of services after release. The benefits are
the value to criminal justice agencies of arrests and the number
of days in prison that are avoided because offenders receive
enhanced reentry services. For the CBA all four sites for men
were combined. Combining sites increased the statistical power
for the point estimates. The results indicate whether and the
degree to which benefits outweighed costs.

9

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

SAMPLE
The sample comprises 722 men from four adult sites and 79
juveniles from one juvenile male program.
The five programs included in the economic evaluation are
programs for men in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South
Carolina, and a program for boys in South Carolina. Because
relatively few women participated in services at these sites,
women are not included in the analyses. Detail on each site is
described in Appendix A. All programs had similar goals:
ƒ

Prevent reoffending.

ƒ

Enhance public safety.

ƒ

Redeploy and leverage existing resources.

ƒ

Assist the offender to avoid crime.

ƒ

Help the offender engage in prosocial community
activities and meet family responsibilities.

ƒ

Ensure the sustainability of the program beyond federal
funding.

Each program had a pre-release phase that almost exclusively
provided services within the correctional facility and a postrelease phase that helped secure services for offenders once
they were in the community. Further detail can be found in the
appendix.
The programs were selected for the study by first conducting a
systematic screen of each evaluation site along the following
criteria, summarized in Exhibit 1. Each of the criteria addressed
critical considerations from a statistical, practical, or
substantive point of view.
Criterion 1 was that the sample size should be as large as
possible. To help ensure statistically meaningful results, it was
preferred that the SVORI and comparison samples in each site
number in the hundreds. A common challenge in economic
evaluation is that program cost estimates may vary greatly
across the sample being studied, making it difficult to find
statistically significant results (e.g., Cowell, Broner, & Dupont,
2004; Cowell, Lattimore, & Krebs, in press). The difficulty
stems from the fact that some people consume relatively few
resources, whereas others are associated with relatively high
expenditures. Because the spread of cost estimates around the
measure of central tendency is large, the standard error of

10

Methodology

Exhibit 1. Criteria and Outcomes of the Site Selection Process for the Economic Evaluation

Criterion

Explanation

Final Decision

Large sample size (n)

A statistical consideration. A larger n gives
greater statistical power.

For adult sites with a quasiexperimental design,
anticipated n at baseline must
be greater than 100. Thus at
least one large site—South
Carolina adult—was included.

Strong quasiexperimental or
experimental design

A substantive consideration. A better
Include sites where a strong
counterfactual provides stronger estimates for comparison group can be
policy making.
reliably identified and sites that
randomly assign offenders to
SVORI. Thus the two random
assignment sites—Iowa and
Ohio—were included.

Likely availability of
administrative records

A practical consideration. Administrative
records may provide key metrics for number
of service units received and cost of service.
Important limiters are which services are
covered in the data, which offenders are
covered in the data, for which dates data are
available, and completeness and reliability of
data fields.

Include sites that promise to
have unusually good
administrative data. Thus
Pennsylvania was included.

Juvenile program

A substantive consideration. Little information
exists on the costs and benefits of reentry
programming for juveniles.

Include at least one juvenile
program. This site was South
Carolina juvenile.

estimate is large, which means that statistical significance may
be difficult to achieve.
Mean costs for offenders in the SVORI study may be high
because at least one of three features was present in every
site:
ƒ

Participants had heterogeneous needs.

ƒ

Some offenders received many services and others
received none.

ƒ

The cost per unit of service was high.

Other reports from the SVORI evaluation show the large extent
to which offenders have heterogenous needs (Lattimore,
Visher, & Steffey, 2008). Many offenders, for example, need
substance use treatment. To the extent that services are
provided to those in need, offenders who receive treatment will
have a higher cost than those who do not. Finally, high costs
per service unit will drive up the variation in the data. This is
seen throughout the literature on health services, particularly

11

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

for inpatient or residential services (Cowell et al., 2004; Cowell,
Broner, Hinde, & Aldridge, 2009). In the case of SVORI, this
situation is most likely to manifest itself in the case of
substance use treatment, in which residential services incur a
high cost per offender.
A strong study design also helps increase statistical power
(Criterion 2). The strongest study design is typically a
randomized experiment. Two sites in the study, Iowa and Ohio,
randomized participants into SVORI or a comparison group. In
the case of a quasi-experimental design, a stronger design is
one in which the comparison group is very similar in key
characteristics to the SVORI sample. As documented elsewhere
(Lattimore et al., 2008), a careful selection protocol for the
comparison group at each site paid dividends insofar as
analyses indicated that the SVORI and comparison samples
matched well at baseline across many measures.
The availability of administrative records (Criterion 3) was a
practical consideration. An offender survey was administered to
all participating offenders at each site and at four important
points in time, just before release and at three points in time
after release. This survey could not capture all the preferred
information for the economic evaluation. Sites were thus
selected that had the promise of providing collateral
administrative data on service utilization.
Criterion 4 was that at least one program selected should be
targeted at juveniles. Juvenile justice reentry programming
differs in many ways (conceptualization, approach, funding, and
service provision) from adult criminal justice programming.
Moreover, relatively little is understood about the resources
needed and benefits derived from juvenile justice programs
(Cowell et al., in press).
Five programs met at least one of these criteria. By
implementing random assignment to SVORI or comparison
study conditions, Iowa and Ohio had the strongest possible
design. The two other adult programs—South Carolina and
Pennsylvania—had both a sufficiently large sample size and a
sufficiently strong quasi-experimental sample design. The
South Carolina juvenile program had a relatively large number
of juveniles, could provide administrative data, and was able to
provide particularly detailed budgetary information for the
economic evaluation.

12

Methodology

DATA
The data for analyses came from several sources. Because of
the variation in the types of services and the nature of the data
available, the data sources for service costs were particularly
diverse. Data came from a mixture of the offender surveys,
site-specific documentation, the literature, and expert opinion.
Data on the costs of arrests came from the Bureau of Justice
Statistics (BJS) and the literature, and data on incarceration
came from BJS. All dollar estimates were adjusted to 2007
costs using the Consumer Price Index of the Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS).
The offender survey was conducted as part of the main SVORI
evaluation and contained several questions that were used for
the two economic analyses. The survey instrument was quite
comprehensive and is described more fully in Lattimore et al.
(2008). Data on service use, arrest, and incarceration were
collected at four points in time: 1 month before release and 3,
9, and 15 months after release.
Receipt of Services (Pre- and Post-release)
In estimating pre-release costs per offender and the additional
costs for post-release services for the CBA, a key challenge was
to obtain detailed information on the quantity of services used
by each offender. This challenge is quite common to cost
analyses in criminal justice settings (e.g., Cowell, Broner,
Aldridge, & Hinde, 2009; Cowell et al., 2004; Cowell, Broner,
Hinde, et al., 2009; Cowell et al., in press). This fact has
implications for the design and protocol of the study. As noted
in the conceptual discussion above, the units in which price and
quantity are measured must be compatible. Thus, although
obtaining price information is certainly not straightforward, the
source and method of estimation of price estimates are
contingent on the source of quantity data.
The preferred sources for this report were offender survey data
for the mean quantity of services used and site-specific sources
and the literature for the price of the services. This approach
was determined from several alternatives, each of which was
explored, and these are summarized in Exhibit 2. The most
straightforward of all methods is the simple top-down
approach, whereby the grant funding is divided by the number
of offenders served. This method is commonly used in
economic evaluations in many settings. It requires relatively

13

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

Exhibit 2. Relative Merits of Alternative Approaches to Measuring Quantity

Measure
Budget

Type of Analysis It
Supports
A straightforward, topdown approach

Budget or expenditure A top-down approach
by category
providing more
detailed estimates

Advantages

Disadvantages

• Straightforward
• Consistent across
programs

• Of limited use for decision
making
• Estimates are limited to
only those programs
directly funded with the
grant or budget

• More detailed
information than a
standard top-down
approach

• Not consistent across
programs
• Less detailed than a
bottom-up approach
• Estimates are limited to
only those programs
directly funded with the
grant or budget

Administrative data

A detailed bottom-up
analysis

• Detailed information
• Measures of actual
service provision

• Estimates are limited to
only those programs or
agencies providing data
• Programs vary in
completeness and
reliability of data

Survey data

A detailed bottom-up
analysis

• Available for all
relevant services
• Consistent across
programs

• Relies on self-report
• Measures require
transformations and
assumptions to be used in
economic analysis

little detail on costs, utilization, and client flow. In its simplest
form, the top-down estimate is the amount of the grant divided
by the number of grant recipients. An additional advantage is
that it can be often be implemented the same way across sites
and programs, so estimates can be compared. The drawback of
this approach is that it provides little insight into the
components of the cost. Thus, decision makers are unable to
determine, for example, how changes in the mix of services
may influence costs.
The top-down approach can be enhanced to provide information
on the main components of the costs of a reentry program. This
enhancement requires grant or expenditure information broken
out by these main components and data on the numbers of
offenders served under each of these components. For
example, in preliminary analyses for South Carolina, data on

14

Methodology

the budget of the Department of Corrections was aggregated
into four categories (e.g., educational services). This was then
combined with estimates from the SVORI evaluation offender
survey on the differential service receipt between SVORI
offenders and comparison offenders. With a number of
necessary assumptions, this provided the incremental cost per
offender for SVORI. The drawback of this approach is that the
methods used must be site specific, so the estimates may not
be readily compared across sites.
Administrative data, such as billing or management information
system data, may contain both quantity and price information.
Billing data, for example, may contain data on each service
event for each type of service and the charge or bill for that
service (Cowell, Broner, Hinde, et al., 2009). In the case of the
SVORI evaluation programs, sites were able to provide
administrative data. However, these data did not allow for an
estimation approach that was common across programs, and
for some sites, it was not possible to provide reliable
incremental cost estimates because data on comparison group
members were not available. As shown in Exhibit 3, the
administrative data were neither consistent nor complete across
sites.
Exhibit 3. Administrative Data Availability, by Site

Site

Administrative
Data Available?

Is Service Dosage
Available?

On Both SVORI
and Comparison?

Both Pre- and
Post-release?

Iowa

Yes

Not always

Yes

Yes

Ohio

Yes

No

Yes

No, pre-release only

Pennsylvania

Yes

Yes

No, SVORI only

No, pre-release only

South Carolina
(adult)

No

Not applicable

Not applicable

Not applicable

South Carolina
(juvenile)

Yes

No

No, SVORI only

No, pre-release only

The offender survey that was used to provide information on
quantity of services for this report is described fully elsewhere
(Lattimore et al., 2008). The survey instrument was
administered at four points in time, approximately 3 weeks
before release, and 3 months, 9 months, and 15 months after
release. As part of the survey, each offender reported whether
he received, over a period of time, each of more than 80

15

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

different types of services. The services are categorized into the
following seven domains: coordination services, transition
services, family services, child services, mental health services,
substance use services, and employment/education/life skills
services. The advantages of using the offender survey data are
that the approach is consistent across programs and that all
relevant services are covered. The disadvantages of this data
source are that it relies on self-reported information and
requires additional transformations and assumptions to be used
in the analysis. No information is available on the dosage (or
number or quantity) of services received, and the survey
questions were not intended to cover exclusive services. Thus,
an offender reporting receipt of case management and a needs
assessment may well have received the needs assessment as
part of the case management.
Quantity of Services
Because the survey data only provide information on whether
an offender received a service, supplementary information was
required on the quantity of services received. The preferred
source of information on quantity was site-specific
documentation, obtained from on-site visits and existing
program literature, such as program descriptions, syllabi, or
supporting materials for contracts. Other supplementary
sources included the broader literature and opinions from site
program staff and substantive experts. Sensitivity analyses
(below) varied these and other assumptions to assess the
degree to which the study conclusions depended on them. It
also should be noted that estimates of quantity and price were
obtained only for those services for which there was a
statistically significant difference in the proportion of SVORI and
comparison group participants reporting receipt at each site.
Exhibit 4 documents the sources of data used for each domain.
Price per Service Received
Information on the price for each service came from a
combination of program- and service-specific collateral sources
and the literature. Exhibit 5 summarizes the sources for price
measures used in the analysis. Price data were obtained for
services in which there was a statistically significant difference
between the proportion of the SVORI and the comparison group
participants receiving the service.

16

Methodology

Exhibit 4. Sources for Quantity of Services Received

Service Domain

Source

Coordination services during Site visit report, interviews with site staff, SVORI grant proposal, Reentry
incarceration
Policy Council Web site
Transition services during
incarceration

Site visit report, interviews with site staff, SVORI grant proposal

Family services during
incarceration

Ohio offender services contracts (used in all sites)

Child services during
incarceration

Ohio offender services contracts (used in all sites)

Mental health services

Literature, Ohio offender services contracts (used in all sites), Medicaid
reimbursement rates

Substance abuse services

Literature, Ohio offender services contracts (used in all sites), Medicaid
reimbursement rates

Employment/education/ life
skills services

Ohio offender services contracts, Iowa service documentation (both used
in all sites)

Note: Information was obtained for a service only if the offender survey indicated that the proportion of SVORI
offenders receiving the service was significantly different from the proportion of comparison offenders.
Exhibit 5. Sources for Prices of Services Received

Domain

Source

Coordination services during Interviews with site staff, BLS wage data, SVORI grant proposal
incarceration
Transition services during
incarceration

Interviews with site staff, BLS wage data, SVORI grant proposal

Family services during
incarceration

BLS wage data

Child services during
incarceration

BLS wage data

Mental health services

Literature, Ohio offender services contracts, Medicaid reimbursement
rates, BLS wage data

Substance abuse services

Literature, Ohio offender services contracts, Medicaid reimbursement
rates, BLS wage data

Employment/education/life
skills services

BLS wage data

Note: Price information was obtained all medical services. For all other services, price information was obtained only
if the offender survey indicated that the proportion of SVORI offenders (by site) receiving the service was
significantly different from the proportion of comparison offenders.

Number of Arrests and Nights Incarcerated
Counts of the number of arrests and nights incarcerated came
from the offender surveys. The measure of arrest was the
number of times since the last interview that the respondent
had been booked into jail or prison, as based on responses at
each of the three follow-up interview waves. The measure of

17

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

nights incarcerated was the number of nights incarcerated since
the last interview, as indicated at each of the three follow-up
waves.
The data contained missing values for incarceration days that
should, in fact, be nonmissing, and these items were imputed.
Review of the data and survey documentation suggested that
these missing items were an artifact of the skip pattern in the
offender survey. At 9 and 15 month, surveys respondents who
had been incarcerated before the 3-month follow up were asked
questions on service receipt, but not on arrest and
incarceration. Nine months after release, there were 25 such
respondents, and at 15 months, there were 107.
The imputed number of days incarcerated depended on which
of two categories respondents fell into. The first category
comprised those who had been interviewed in the previous
wave and who had been incarcerated the entire time between
interviews. These people had responded with information on
incarceration in their previous interview. The date of entering
the current incarceration was earlier than the date of their
previous wave’s interview. At 9 months, 16 of the 25
respondents to be imputed were in this category, and at 15
months, 86 of 107 were in this category. These respondents
were thus assigned the number of days from their prior
interview until their current interview as the number of days
incarcerated.
The second category comprised the remainder of respondents
with missing incarceration data but with reported service
utilization data (9 people at 9 months, 21 people at
15 months). They were assumed to have been incarcerated
throughout the period of the previous interview. These people
had not been interviewed in the previous wave and, in the
current wave, reported a date of incarceration before the date
of the previous wave’s interview. These people were thus
assigned the number of days from date of incarceration to date
of interview as the number of days incarcerated.
Alternative data sources were explored, including
administrative data on arrests from the Federal Bureau of
Investigation’s (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC)
and administrative data on reincarceration from states’
Departments of Corrections (DOC). Unfortunately, although the
NCIC data provided reliable counts of arrests for every adult

18

Methodology

site in the analyses, the DOC data were not complete for one
adult site. Because a guiding principle of the analysis was to
use the same data source and approach for all sites whenever
possible, the offender survey data were therefore used to
provide estimates for reincarceration. Moreover, the offender
survey data were also used for rearrests. Offender reports and
administrative records may not agree on counts of criminal
justice events and because arrest and incarceration events are
connected, mixing the two types of sources would likely to lead
to inconsistent counts of arrests and nights incarcerated (e.g.,
some people may have reported nights incarcerated with no
accompanying arrest indicated in the administrative data).
Thus, rather than mix the two types of data on criminal justice
events, offender survey data were used for both arrests and
incarceration.
Cost per Arrest
The costs per arrest were constructed from estimates in three
publications (Cohen, Miller, & Rossman, 1994; Durose &
Langan, 2003; Miller, Cohen, & Rossman, 1993) and Uniform
Crime Reports (UCR) estimates were constructed from the FBI
(2009). The cost per arrest by type of arrest—violent,
nonviolent, and drug—was obtained from Miller et al. (1993)
and Cohen et al. (1994). The estimates included eight major
components of costs, from initial contact, investigation, and
arrest through sentencing. Each individual component had a
raw cost associated with it. For example, on average (in 2007
dollars), it costs $334 to book someone, and a trial costs, on
average, $55,088.
For each of the three types of arrest, each component was then
appropriately weighted according to the number of arrests that
included that component. The weights were taken from
estimates from Durose and Langan (2003), which provides
information on the number of convictions that result from a
guilty verdict at trial.
The cost per type of arrest was then the sum of the weighted
components. For example, 9.9% or about 0.1 of violent arrests
went to trial. Thus, in the estimate of the cost of a violent
arrest, $5,454—which is about 0.1 of the raw cost of $55,088—
was the weighted component for the trial cost of an arrest for a
violent offense. This amount was added to the seven other
weighted components to obtain the cost of a violent arrest.

19

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

To obtain one overall cost per arrest, the costs of the three
types of arrest were aggregated. This aggregation was
necessary because the counts of arrest did not provide a ready
breakdown by type of offense. Although the NCIC data used to
track arrests do include very detailed charge information,
multiple charges can exist for one arrest. Thus, to determine
the type of arrest would have required determining which
charge was most applicable for every arrest with multiple
charges, a task that was beyond the scope of this study. To
aggregate the arrest costs, the estimates were weighted using
UCR estimates for 2007 on the relative proportion of violent,
nonviolent, and drug offenses. Separate weights were
computed for each of the four states included in the study.
The methodology used to calculate the cost of an arrest has a
number of advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is
that the methodology is consistent across the four states in the
study, while also providing some meaningful variation by state.
The methodology also has high scientific integrity in that it uses
an approach that is accepted by researchers and has passed
peer review. Finally, the estimates are very comprehensive in
that they account for resources used in the criminal justice
system at every stage, from the police response to the initial
incident to sentencing at trial. However, one disadvantage is
that many components of the estimates are not derived from
state-specific sources; for example, the cost of a trial covers all
states.
Sensitivity analyses (the methods of which are described
below) used an alternative estimate of the cost of an arrest to
assess the degree to which conclusions were robust to the
specific arrest cost used. Alternative costs drew on BJS (2009)
employment and expenditure statistics to determine each
state’s police and judicial expenditures in 2007. Police costs
were adjusted by subtracting costs for nonsworn employees.
That estimate was divided by the total costs by the number of
arrests for that state in 2007. The advantage of using this
approach is that it is based on state-level data. The
disadvantage is that the estimates will be measured with
significant error. For example, the judicial costs include civil
cases, whereas arrest costs should typically exclude civil cases.
Exhibit 6 presents the arrest costs by state for the main
analyses and for the sensitivity analyses.

20

Methodology

Exhibit 6. Estimates and Data Sources of Arrest Costs (2007$)

Type of Analysis
Main analysis

a

Sensitivity analysis

b

Pennsylvania

South
Carolina
(Adult)

South
Carolina
(Juvenile)

Iowa

Ohio

7,030

7,012

7,088

7,081

7,095

7,091

17,063

8,174

5,224

5,224

Note: Estimates are for the average costs. Costs are rounded to the nearest dollar.
a
Calculated from Cohen et al. (1994); Durose and Langan (2003); and FBI (2009).
b
Calculated from BJS (2009) and FBI (2009).

For sites of adult offender programs, estimates of the cost per
night in prison came from BJS (2009). The estimates are on the
operating expenses, as reported by states to the U.S. Census
Bureau’s annual Survey of Government Finances in 2001
(Stephan, 2004). Expenditures are the amounts paid for prison
operations, including interest on debt and, thus, some capital
costs. The estimates are net of revenue generated from
activities such as farm and industrial production and services.
An average 12% of operating expenses, representing medical
care costs, was deducted from the estimates. As noted above,
medical care service costs for offenders were separately
esitmated. Thus, deducting medical care costs helped avoid
double-counting the cost of medical services.
The BLS data have both advantages and disadvantages for the
analysis. Because the data were available from a single, reliable
source—a federal agency—the data were likely the most
reliable and could be readily compared across states. However,
the BLS estimates may be obsolete. Although estimates were
adjusted for general price inflation, the structure and
technologies underlying costs may change over time. For
example, if a state were to reduce its ratio of guards to inmates
from one year to the next, then costs would decrease faster
than general inflation. Alternative and more recent estimates
were available from individual state sources. These alternative
estimates were used in sensitivity analyses to assess the
degree to which study conclusions were robust to variations in
the estimates used (as described more fully below). For the
juvenile site in South Carolina, no national-level data source
was found. Instead, the analysis used one state-level source for
the estimates. It should be noted that, although the source
claims that a portion of the estimated cost was covered by
county funds (the rest being covered by the state), the full

21

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

amount was used in analyses. Exhibit 7 summarizes the
estimates used in the main analyses and the alternative
estimates that were used in the sensitivity analyses.
Exhibit 7. Estimates and Data Sources of Incarceration Costs per Offender per Night
(2007$)

Type of Analysis
Main analysis

a

Sensitivity analysis

Iowa

Ohio

Pennsylvania

South
Carolina
(Adult)

68

76

90

50

72

b

58

c

76

d

33

South
Carolina
(Juvenile)
137

e

—

Note: Estimates are for the average (per offender) costs. Costs are rounded to the nearest dollar.
a
Source: Stephan (2004).
b
Source: Iowa Department of Corrections (2008).
c
Source: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (2009).
d
Source: Beard (2009).
e
Source: South Carolina Department of Corrections (2008).

ANALYSIS
Pre-release Costs
To estimate the impact of enhanced reentry on the costs of prerelease services, information from the offender survey on
whether an offender received a service was combined with
information from the sites and the literature on the amount of
service received (i.e., dosage) and its cost. To maximize the
utility of this analysis, the results are provided at the site level.
Exhibit 8 summarizes the five incremental steps of the
estimation protocol.
Step 1. Determine Which Services to Include in the
Estimation
Develop and Apply Decision Rules
The offender survey gathered information on a very rich set of
potential services. In the Wave 1 survey interview, for example,
respondents were asked whether they had received each of 41
services. These services were not necessarily exclusive of one
another. For example, a service thought of by the respondent
as anger management may equally have been thought of as
counseling. The analysis included those services for which there
was a statistically significant difference in the proportion of
SVORI respondents endorsing the question and the proportion

22

Methodology

Exhibit 8. Five Incremental Steps of the Pre-release Services Cost Estimation Protocol

of the comparison group endorsing the question. This rule
followed the goal of the study, which was to estimate
incremental costs—the difference between the SVORI group
and the comparison. To apply this decision rule, the analysis
included only those services where the difference between the
mean proportions was significant at the 5% level.
Modify Decision Rules
Finally, in sensitivity analysis the 5% decision rule was modified
to include more services (see Step 5, below).
Step 2. Address Potential Duplication Across Offender
Survey Items
Determine Most Likely Sources of Duplication
A key exercise of the economic evaluation was to diagnose and
address potential sources of double-counting that would occur if
the offender survey responses were used naively to estimate
costs. The offender survey was designed to gather information
across as comprehensive a set of services as possible; the goal

23

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

was to determine needs and whether those needs were met.
Because it was important to minimize respondent burden, the
survey did not explicitly reveal whether any two service items
were received in the same class or service event. For example,
the survey asks separately whether the respondent met with a
case manager and whether the respondent received a needs
assessment. However, the survey data did not indicate whether
the needs assessment was delivered as part of meeting with
the case manager.
This limitation of the survey is a key challenge for the economic
evaluation. In estimating the costs, if service categories are not
exclusive of one another, then the estimates may include
duplicated services. To continue the example, if the cost of case
management is added to the cost of a needs assessment, then
that double-counts the cost of needs assessments received as
part of case management.
The first activity in this step was to assess which measures
were most vulnerable to potential duplication bias. This entailed
consulting site visit reports and other existing documentation
on how SVORI funds were intended to be spent. The result was
a comprehensive set of services that could suffer from
duplication bias. The four categories of potential duplication are
detailed in Appendix B.
After prioritizing the potential types of duplication using the
categorization schema, the offender survey data were
examined by site. The primary method of assessing duplication
was to rely on simple tabulations and cross-tabulations using
Stata software. To help develop the code for these tabulations,
contingency diagrams of likely points of duplication were
developed.
Step 3. Estimate Incremental Pre-release Cost per
Offender
Ensure Compatibility across Data Sources
To estimate the cost per offender it was important to ensure
that prices and dosage were in compatible units. Thus, a
systematic check ensured, for example, that information on the
typical number of group counseling sessions was matched to a
price estimate of a single group counseling session.

24

Methodology

Compute Incremental Cost per Offender
Once all prices and quantities were in compatible units,
estimating the incremental cost per offender was conceptually
straightforward. For each service to each offender, the receipt
of a service was multiplied by the product of the dose and the
price. The cost was summed within offenders and averaged
within SVORI group, the group averages were compated. This
exercise was conducted across all statistically significant
services combined and within service domain.
Step 4. Conduct Sensitivity Analyses
In economic evaluations, sensitivity analyses are used to vary
the assumptions in a model to determine the degree to which
the conclusions are robust. As noted above, some aspects of
the data on price and dosage relied on assumptions.
Importantly, any given cost estimate involves distinct
combinations of these assumptions, and the number of
potential sensitivity analyses increases greatly as the number of
assumptions made in the analysis grows. Thus, all assumptions
made in the analyses at each site were documented. The
assumptions were then ranked by their likely individual impact
on the results and grouped similar types of assumptions.
Finally, combinations of the most important types of
assumptions for the sensitivity analyses were created.
The sensitivity analysis simultaneously varied three different
sets of model assumptions. This analysis provided a maximum
and minimum bound around the estimate. The first set of
assumptions are on the content, scope, and cost of case
management and other key services. Because case
management comprised a large portion of costs (see results
below), any assumptions regarding this service would
potentially have a large impact on cost. These assumptions
include those made regarding whether and the degree to which
services overlapped. In most sites, case management, for
example, was understood to cover numerous reentry activities,
many of which were separate questions in the offender survey.
Thus, to avoid double-counting, these activities would not have
been included as a separate cost.
Set two comprised assumptions on the resources used for each
service included in the analysis. The resource information
included the value of the resources (e.g., the cost of a case
manager) and the quantity of the resource. This quantity

25

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

measure was either the number of distinct events (e.g., the
number of reentry needs assessments) or the composition of
each event (e.g., the number of mental health counseling
sessions and the length of time of each session).
The third set comprised one assumption, the rule that
determined which services were included in the analysis. The
baseline analysis included for consideration only those services
for which there was a significant difference between the SVORI
and comparison group at the 5% level. In the sensitivity
analysis, the significance level was expanded to 10%, thus
widening the scope of services that were included.
Step 5. Provide Bounds of Incremental Costs
The estimates from this analysis were provided within bounds
determined by the sensitivity analysis. A series of iterative
tasks helped fine-tune these bounds. The preliminary estimates
from the sensitivity analyses were arrayed in order of
magnitude. The estimates were then compared to grant
budgets to determine whether the bounds were feasible. The
types of assumptions that gave the largest and smallest
estimates were reassessed at this stage in terms of their
substantive validity and relative importance. The assumptions
were subsequently modified as necessary, and updated
estimates were derived.
The estimates from the iterative process provide maximum and
minimum bounds around the incremental costs. The bounds
provide the range of estimates for incremental costs within
which it can be said with some certainty that the actual cost
lies. The bounds may help decision makers budget for
contingencies appropriately and will be used in further costeffectiveness and cost-benefit analyses. It should be noted that
these bounds are driven solely by the data and the assumptions
used in estimating the costs, so they need not be symmetrical
around the main estimate of incremental cost for the study.
This means that the base incremental cost may be closer to one
bound than another; this emphasizes the fact that the bounds
should not be interpreted as confidence intervals. Confidence
intervals around point estimates are a statistical concept that
draws on the sampling variation in the data and the assumed
statistical distribution from which the data are drawn; they are,
by construction, symmetrical and have a very different
interpretation from the bounds in the sensitivity analyses. By

26

Methodology

the nature of the data, no such sampling variation exists to
estimate pre-release costs. Because the analysis relies heavily
on assumptions, the sensitivity bounds are reported as part of
the main findings on the pre-release cost estimates.
Cost-Benefit Analysis
The CBA follows a protocol similar to that used for the prerelease cost analysis, above. Net costs per offender are the
sum of the costs of three different measures: service costs,
arrest costs, and incarceration costs. These were summed for
every offender in every analysis period (i.e., pre-release and 3,
9, and 15 months after release) for which survey data were
available (Exhibit 9). Note that for the pre-release period,
arrest and incarceration costs were not assessed, because all
offenders were incarcerated. Results are expressed as average
costs per person per month.
Exhibit 9. Conducting
CBA: Estimating Net
Costs

In each analysis period and for each offender, three types of costs were
estimated: service costs, arrest costs, and incarceration costs. The sum is the
net cost per offender per analysis period.

27

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

The estimates of the costs of services used in the CBA combine
post-release with pre-release cost data. The benefits took the
form of averted costs and were simply included in the net cost
estimate. Arrest costs were computed by multiplying the
number of arrests in the period by the cost per arrest.
Similarly, incarceration costs were computed by multiplying the
number of nights incarcerated by the cost per night of
incarceration.
Calculating the net cost per offender was the first of four steps
in the overall CBA estimation protocol (Exhibit 10). The CBA
estimates were reported by combining all four adult sites. This
contrasts with the analysis of the costs of pre-release services,
which were reported at the site level. Combining sites for the
CBA helped improve the ability to find statistically significant
findings, because the number of observations used in the
analyses was increased. The analysis of pre-release costs made
no attempt to establish whether differences found were
statistically significant. Combining sites was also consistent with
the approach of the overall SVORI evaluation. The main
findings for three offender populations studied—men, women,
and boys—are all presented by combining sites. Thus, by
combining all adult sites, the CBA findings can be used in
tandem with the outcome findings of the overall SVORI
evaluation.
The average net cost was taken across all offenders in the two
groups, SVORI and comparison (Step 2). Propensity scoring
was used to adjust for potential confounders. By making
statistical contrasts between the groups receiving enhanced
reentry and the comparison receiving standard reentry, the
analysis accounted for the potential influence of confounders,
examples of which include differences in criminal history and
age.
For the four adult sites combined and the juvenile site,
propensity scores were estimated as part of the main outcome
evaluation and are described more fully in the methodology
report for the evaluation, Lattimore and Steffey (2009).
Propensity scores were used as analytic weights in assessing, at
each period, the difference between the average net costs of
the SVORI and comparison groups. Summarized here is the
approach used to estimate the propensity scores.

28

Methodology

Exhibit 10. Four
Incremental Steps of the
Cost-Benefit Analysis
Estimation Protocol

There were three main sequential steps used to estimate the
propensity scores. First, logistic regression was used to regress
the probability of being assigned to the SVORI group (versus
the comparison). The largest number of possible covariates was
used, including measures of criminal history and demographic
characteristics. Data for all four adult sites were combined, and
a separate analysis was conducted for the juvenile site.
In the second step, the predicted probability of being assigned
to the SVORI group was used to create analytic weights. How
the predicted probabilities were combined depends on the
treatment effect of interest. The treatment effect expresses the
hypothetical experiment being conducted with the analysis. In
the case of the SVORI evaluation, the hypothetical experiment
of interest is comparing when all offenders are hypothetically
offered enhanced reentry to when all offenders are
hypothetically offered standard reentry services. The effect of
interest is known as the population average treatment effect
(PATE). The analytic weights for the SVORI group were the
reciprocal of the predicted probability (p). The analytic weights
for the comparison group were the reciprocal of the quantity
(1 – p).

29

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

In the third step, a balance check was conducted for every
covariate used in Step 1 above (the regression of SVORI
status). The balance check ensures that, for each of the
covariates, the statistical distribution among SVORI and
comparison offenders is similar. If balance is not achieved, then
further steps are needed to correct for potential confounding.
The propensity weights were used in statistical contrasts of the
average net cost for SVORI and comparison offenders at each
of the four analysis periods. The result indicated the degree to
which net costs were lower for enhanced reentry. As described
above for the pre-release cost analysis, sensitivity analyses
were conducted and used those results to put bounds on the
estimates (Steps 3 and 4).
For the juvenile site, South Carolina, the analysis used
propensity scores derived for all four adult sites in the main
evaluation pooled together. Pooling sites ensured that sufficient
statistical power was obtained to derive precise propensity
scores. However, when applied to South Carolina, the
propensity scores gave good balance for only approximately
half of the first-stage covariates (depending on the wave of
data examined). An alternative using doubly robust regression
was explored by estimating, at each of the four waves, a
weighted multivariate regression. In this alternative approach,
the dependent variable was the net cost, and the covariates in
the regression were a SVORI indicator and all variables from
the multivariate regression used to create the PATE weights;
the analytic weights were the PATE weights. However, there
was an insufficient number of observations to support a
multivariate regression. The regression estimates were
implausibly large in absolute magnitude and were bounded by
very wide confidence intervals.

30

Results
THE COST OF DISCRETIONARY PRERELEASE SERVICES
The main results of the pre-release cost estimates are shown in
Exhibit 11. Recall that the main result of interest is the
incremental cost per offender, which is the difference between
the average cost for a SVORI offender and that of a comparison
offender. The main estimates are presented for the year before
release. Recall that the estimates include the following sets of
services: medical, mental health, and substance abuse
services, and any other service for which the proportion of the
SVORI group receiving the service was significantly different
from the comparison. The table shows the estimated cost per
SVORI offender; the estimated cost per comparison offender;
the ratio of per-offender SVORI costs to the comparison; and
the difference between the two, which is the incremental cost.
Exhibit 11. Annual Incremental Pre-release Costs of Service Provision per Offender (2007$)

Cost

Iowa

SVORI
Comparison
SVORI: Comparison ratio
b

Incremental cost

a

Ohio

Pennsylvania

South
Carolina
(Adult)

South
Carolina
(Juvenile)

$3,809

$3,361

$3,497

$2,378

$6,889

$2,646

$1,663

$2,839

$898

$3409

1.4:1

2:1

1.2:1

2.6:1

2:1

$1,163

$1,698

$658

$1,480

$3,480

Note: Estimates are for the average (per offender) costs over the course of 12 months before release. Costs are
rounded to the nearest dollar, and ratios are rounded to the first significant decimal.
a
SVORI: Comparison ratio = SVORI cost divided by Comparison cost. For example, 2.5:1 means that, among those
services included in the analysis, $2.50 was spent on SVORI for every $1 spent on a comparison offender.
b
Incremental Cost = SVORI cost – Comparison cost.

The estimates indicate a considerable range of incremental
costs, varying from $658 per offender for the Pennsylvania
adult program to $3,480 for the South Carolina juvenile
program. This likely reflects considerable variation both in
regular reentry services, received by the comparison group,

31

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

and enhanced programming, provided to the SVORI group.
Variation in reentry programming has been noted in several
other products of the SVORI evaluation, including a report on
men’s pre-release services and offender characteristics
(Lattimore et al., 2008). In that report, offenders at three
sites—Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—reported receiving many
different services, especially those in the SVORI group. In
South Carolina, the reported number of different types of
services received was far lower. However, the report also
indicated significant variation across sites in the kinds of
services that offenders reported receiving. That finding helps
underline the importance of avoiding using the incremental cost
estimate alone to categorize the four sites.
The adult sites, for example, ostensibly seem to be separated
into two groups of incremental costs: Pennsylvania, where the
incremental cost was relatively low ($658), and Iowa, Ohio, and
South Carolina, in which the incremental cost was high
($1,163, $1,698, and $1,480 respectively). However,
examining the absolute level of cost and the ratio of SVORI to
comparison costs indicates that categorizing sites in such a
one-dimensional manner would be misleading. Iowa, Ohio, and
Pennsylvania have similar absolute costs while the South
Carolina adult site has lower absolute costs. The difference in
absolute costs is caused by the difference in the number of
standard services offered to all offenders. In the South Carolina
adult site the typical comparison group receives relatively few
services ($898), whereas in Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania the
typical offender receives more services ($2,646, $1,663, and
$2,839 respectively). The sites can also be grouped by the ratio
of SVORI costs to comparison costs. Iowa and Pennsylvania
have a lower ratio (1.4:1 and 1.2:1 respectively) while the Ohio
and South Carolina adult sites have high ratios (2:1 and 2.6:1,
respectively).
Exhibit 12 shows the bounds from the sensitivity analyses
around each estimate. Although this graphic suppresses the
values behind the display, the values are reported in the text.
Three of the five sites (Iowa, Ohio, and South Carolina juvenile)
have a large range between the maximum and minimum values
around the estimate, shown as the full length of the lines
surrounding the estimate. The other two sites (Pennsylvania
and South Carolina adult) have a very small range. Across all
five sites, the range is greatest for the South Carolina juvenile

32

Results

Exhibit 12. Annual Pre-release Incremental Cost Estimates of Discretionary Service
Provision and Bounds from Sensitivity Analyses (2007$)
$5,000

$4,500

$4,000

Incremental Cost

$3,500

$3,000

$2,500

$2,000

$1,500

$1,000

$500

$0
Iowa

Ohio

Pennsylvania

South Carolina Adult

South Carolina Juvenile

Note: For each site, the incremental cost estimate (reported in Exhibit 11) is shown as a dot. The estimate is the
difference between the SVORI and comparison mean costs of those services included in the analysis. Services
were over a 12-month span of time before release. The maximum and minimum bounds from the sensitivity
analyses are shown as the termini of lines stretching from the estimate. Values are suppressed in the graphic but
reported in the text.

site, at $1,500. Across the adult sites, the range of estimates is
greatest for Ohio at $1,270 followed by Ohio ($821), South
Carolina adult ($256), and Pennsylvania ($77). Providers and
decision makers using these estimates should understand that
alternative assumptions change the estimate of how much
more than the comparison a typical SVORI offender costs. 1

1

The fact that the incremental cost is closer to one bound than
another may be surprising. The asymmetry is because the bounds
are not conceptually the same as statistical confidence intervals.
Standard confidence intervals around point estimates are typically
symmetrical by construction and the point estimate is halfway
between the lower and upper bound. However, sensitivity analyses
follow a conceptually different process from that used to derive
confidence intervals. Sensitivity analyses follow a predetermined
set of rules that need not be symmetric; confidence intervals are a
statistical construct that relies on sampling variation in the data.

33

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

PRE-RELEASE COST ESTIMATES BY DOMAIN
To understand further the variation in incremental cost across
sites, we examined the domains of services included in the
analysis. Exhibit 13 summarizes the incremental cost per
domain of service for the adult sites; Exhibit 14 is for the
juvenile site. Although sites varied insofar as which domains
contributed to the analysis, in all sites, six domains contained
at least one service that was included in the costs: coordination
services, transition services, mental health services, substance
use services, employment/education/life skills services, and
medical/dental services. Thus, in all sites, these six domains
contributed to the overall incremental cost.
In all sites except Iowa, coordination services were the bulk of
the difference in pre-release service costs between the two
groups of offenders (Exhibits 13 and 14). Of these four sites
(five sites minus Iowa), the proportion of the increment
accounted for by coordination services was typically 75% or
higher; for example, in the South Carolina adult site it was 79%
($1,169 as a percentage of $1,480). In Pennsylvania, the
increment disaggregated by service domain is unusual. For the
substance use services domain, the mean costs associated with
the comparison group were, on average, $825 per offender
greater than for the SVORI group. Thus, the proportional
increment in costs due to SVORI was actually greater for the
coordination services domain (increment = $1,556) than the
sum across all domains ($658).
Exhibit 13 also shows that, in Iowa the pattern of service
receipt was quite different from the other sites. In Iowa, the
employment/education/life skills services domain accounted for
40% ($467) of the overall increment per offender. The
coordination services and substance use services domains
accounted for most of the remaining incremental cost.
To help understand why there are differences across sites in
which domains contribute to the incremental cost, we also
examined the number of services in each domain that were
included in the analysis (Exhibit 15). Iowa had an unusually
high number of employment/education/life skills services
included in the analysis. That same domain in Iowa had six
separate services included in the analysis, while no other site
had more than three services from that domain. It should also
be noted that, across all domains, the Iowa site had the largest

34

5
1
—
48
1,182
247
1000
$2,646

1
3
—
41
1,769
714
925
$3,809

SVORI

$162

Comparison

$356

Incremental
Costa
467
−75
$1,163

—
7
641

1

−3

$194

SVORI
159
675
$3,361

23
66
553

—

7

$1,878

Comparison
40
827
$1,664

6
49
275

—

8

$459

Incremental
Costa
119
−152
$1,697

17
17
278

—

0

$1,418

SVORI
8
628
$3,497

—
29
1,112

—

1

$1,720

16
675
$2,839

—
46
1,937

—

1

$164

Comparison

–8
−47
$658

—
−17
–825

—

0

$1,556

South Carolina (Adult)

68
978
$2,378

—
13
103

1

6

$1,208

34
683
$898

—
33
105

0

3

$40

33
295
$1,480

—
−20
−2

1

2

$1,169

Note: Estimates are for the average (per offender) costs. Costs are rounded to the nearest dollar; thus, differences and sums may vary by $1. Dollar signs are
suppressed in central cells of the table.
a
Incremental cost = SVORI cost – Comparison cost.

Coordination services during
incarceration
Transition services during
incarceration
Family services during
incarceration
Child services during
incarceration
Mental health services
Substance use services
Employment/education/life
skills services
Medical/dental
Total

Service Domain

Incremental
Costa

Pennsylvania

SVORI

Ohio
Comparison

Iowa

Incremental
Costa

Exhibit 13. Annual Pre-release Cost of Service Provision to Men, by Domain (2007$)

Results

35

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

Exhibit 14. Annual Pre-release Cost of Service Provision to South Carolina Juveniles, by
Domain (2007$)

Service Domain
Coordination services during incarceration
Transition services during incarceration
Family services during incarceration
Child services during incarceration
Mental health services
Substance use services
Employment/education/life skills services
Medical/dental
Total

SVORI
$5,062
38
—
—
83
591
104
1011
$6,889

South Carolina (Juvenile)
Incremental
Comparison
Costa
$1,592
$3,470
59
−21
—
—
—
—
60
23
730
−139
27
77
942
69
$3,409
$3,480

Note: Estimates are for the average (per offender) costs. Costs are rounded to the nearest dollar; thus, differences
and sums may vary by $1. Dollar signs are suppressed in central cells of the table.
a
Incremental cost = SVORI cost – Comparison cost.
Exhibit 15. Number of Services Included in the Cost Analysis, by Site and Domain

Service Domain
Coordination services during
incarceration
Transition services during
incarceration
Family services during
incarceration
Child services during incarceration
Mental health services
Substance use services
Employment/education/life skills
services
Medical/dental
Total

Iowa

Ohio

Pennsylvania

South
Carolina
(Adult)

South
Carolina
(Juvenile)

5

4

4

5

2

12

2

1

3

1

3
—
3
7

—
1
3
7

—
—
3
7

1
—
3
7

—
—
3
7

6
5
41

3
5
25

1
5
21

3
5
27

1
5
19

number of services (41) included in the analysis. South Carolina
had the next highest number of services (27) included in the
analysis. The large number of services for Iowa reflects the fact
that service provision there is perhaps more aligned than other
sites toward a standard package of services. Hence, offenders
in the SVORI group received the complete package of services
over and above standard reentry programming received by
offenders in the comparison group. In all adult sites—including

36

Results

Iowa—the coordination services domain contained four or five
distinct services. Additional analyses showed that the case
management service in particular contributed to this domain.
For the juvenile site, two distinct services were included in this
domain, and, again, the cost comprised mainly case
management (result not shown).

SENSITIVITY ANALYSES OF PRE-RELEASE
COST ESTIMATES
Exhibit 16 presents the findings from the sensitivity analyses by
site. In economic evaluations, sensitivity analyses are used to
determine the degree to which the conclusions are robust to
any assumptions made in forming the estimates. As noted
above, some aspects of the data on price and dosage relied on
assumptions, and every cost estimate involves combinations of
these assumptions. All the assumptions made were identified
and documented by site. As an example of an assumption, the
available data indicated whether an individual received
individual counseling but did not indicate the number of
sessions that individual received. To estimate the cost for
individual counseling, an assumption was thus made on the
number of sessions received, conditional on receiving the
service at all. In the sensitivity analysis the assumption on the
number of sessions was changed to see how it affected the
costs. The sensitivity analyses thus produce a maximum, a
minimum, and a range (maximum – minimum) around the
estimate.
At $77, the range for Pennsylvania was the tightest of all five
sites. The small range indicates that changing the assumptions
had little effect on the incremental cost of SVORI. South
Carolina adult had the next smallest range at $256, followed by
Iowa ($821), Ohio ($1,270), and South Carolina juvenile
($1,500).

COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS RESULTS
CBA Results for Men
Our CBA provides estimates of monthly net costs (services plus
arrests plus incarceration) at each of the four waves of the
offender survey. In keeping with the main outcome evaluation,
results are not reported by site. Exhibit 17 provides the
estimates of the main findings for the four sites with adult male

37

38

$2,221

$2,679

$2,003

$5,613

Ohio

Pennsylvania

South Carolina adult

South Carolina
Juvenile
$2,797

$646

$2,056

$1,152

$1,870

$2,816

$1,357

$623

$1,069

$845

Compari- Incremental
son
Costa

$6,889

$2,378

$3,497

$3,361

$3,808

SVORI

$3,409

$898

$2,839

$1,663

$2,646

Comparison

$3,480

$1,480

$658

$1,697

$1,162

Incremental
Costa

Base Estimate

$8,360

$2,772

$4,467

$4,527

$5,094

SVORI

$4,044

$1,160

$3,767

$2,188

$3,428

Comparison

Maximum

4,316

$1,612

$700

$2,339

$1,666

Incremental
Costa

Note: The table describes the range of costs per person from the sensitivity analyses. Numbers may not sum or difference because of rounding.
a
Incremental cost = SVORI cost – Comparison cost (per person).

$2,715

SVORI

Iowa

State

Minimum

Exhibit 16. Results of Sensitivity Analyses on Pre-release Costs (2007$)

1,500

$256

$77

$1,270

$821

Range

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

Results

Exhibit 17. Main CBA Findings for the Adult Programs: Monthly Net Cost per Offender, by
Study Period (2007$)

Cost
Number of observations
Services
SVORI
Comparison
Difference
(SVORI – Comparison)
Arrests
SVORI
Comparison
Difference
(SVORI – Comparison)
Incarceration
SVORI
Comparison

One Month
before
Release

Three Months
after Release

Nine Months
after Release

Fifteen
Months after
Release

722

459

484

516

$242
[$229, $256]
$121
[$107, $135]

$315
[$269, $361]
$99
[$71, $128]

$222
[$183, $260]
$117
[$78, $156]

$165
[$138, $193]
$68
[$45, $92]

$121**
[$102, $141]

$216**
[$161, $269]

$105**
[$50, $160]

$97**
[$60, $133]

$384
[$228, $540]
$599
[$77, $1121]

$519
[$410, $628]
$441
[$334, $549]

$565
[$399, $730]
$505
[$386, $624]

N/A

−$215
[−$762, $332]

$78
[−$76, $231]

$60
[−$145, $264]

$1,931
[$1,886, $1,975]
$1,923
[$1,871, $1,976]

$60
[$25, $96]
$66
[$29, $104]

$351
[$273, $430]
$379
[$280, $478]

$648
[$543, $754]
$556
[$442, $670]

−$6
[$57, $46]

−$28
[−$155, $99]

$92
[−$64, $248]

$444
[$273, $616]
$665
[$137, $1193]

$870
[$715, $1,025]
$821
[$657, $984]

$1,213
[$1,013, $1,413
$1,061
[$887, $1,236]

−$221
[−$778, $336]

$49
[−$177, $275]

$152
[−$115, $417]

[$2,124, $2,222]
$2,044
[$1,985, $2,103]

$759
[$580, $939]
$765
[$233, $1,296]

$1,092
[$929, $1,254]
$938
[$772, $1,103]

$1,378
[$1,176, $1,580]
$1,130
[$956, $1,304]

$129**
[$51, $205]

−$6
[−$569, $558]

$154
[−$79, $387]

$248*
[−$19, $516]

N/A
N/A

Difference
$8
[−$62, $77]
(SVORI – Comparison)
Criminal justice (arrest + incarceration) subtotal
$1,931
SVORI
Comparison

[$1,886, $1,975]
$1,923
[$1,871, $1,976]

Difference
$8
[−$62, $77]
(SVORI – Comparison)
Total net cost (services + arrests + incarceration)
$2,173
SVORI
Comparison
Difference
(SVORI – Comparison)

Note: Estimates are for the average monthly (per offender) costs. Costs are rounded to the nearest dollar. Estimates
use propensity score weights, using a population average treatment effect formulation. Each average cost estimate
is presented with a 95% confidence interval in brackets.
**p < 0.05.
*p < 0.10.

39

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

offenders. Statistical significance of the difference between the
enhanced reentry and comparison groups is indicated by
asterisks below the tables in this section. One asterisk indicates
marginal significance (p < 0.10); two asterisks indicate
significance at p < 0.05. A positive estimate indicates that the
group receiving enhanced reentry cost more, on average,
whereas a negative estimate indicates potential cost savings.
The total net cost estimates (bottom set of rows in the tables)
indicate that, as expected, there was a statistically significant
net monthly cost over the 12 months before release (p < 0.05).
At that point, enhanced reentry through SVORI had $129
higher net costs per offender per month. Almost all of this
($121 of the $129 difference) is service programming.
Offenders had almost the same incarceration costs and no
arrest costs in this period. None of the differences in net costs
at each of the three periods after release are statistically
significant at conventional levels. Three months after release,
the average monthly net cost of the two groups was very close.
The $6 cost savings for the SVORI group was small. Nine
months after release, enhanced reentry was associated with
$154 higher monthly costs (not statistically significant;
p > 0.10; 95% confidence interval [CI] = −79,387). At 15
months after release, enhanced reentry was associated with
$248 higher monthly net costs, which is marginally statistically
significant (p < 0.10; 95% CI = −19,516).
The estimates indicate that, throughout the period of study,
enhanced reentry was associated with more resources being
used for services. The difference between the enhanced reentry
and comparison groups in monthly costs for services spiked at
the 3-month interview—at $216 (p < 0.05)—and then
diminished over time. At the 9-month follow-up interview, the
monthly cost difference was $105 (p < 0.05), and at the
15-month interview the difference was $97 (p < 0.05).
The difference between the enhanced reentry and comparison
groups in criminal justice costs—which comprise arrest plus
incarceration costs—is not statistically significant at any of the
three follow-up waves. The estimates indicate that at the
3-month follow-up, the comparison group incurred $221 higher
monthly criminal justice costs, whereas at 9 and 15 months,
the enhanced reentry group incurred higher monthly criminal
justice costs at $49 and $152, respectively. However, because

40

Results

of the lack of precision in the estimate, the sign and magnitude
of any of these findings cannot be reliably interpreted.
Examining the component costs of criminal justice costs—
arrests and incarceration—provides some additional insight. At
no follow-up wave is the difference between the enhanced
reentry and comparison groups statistically significant for either
arrest or incarceration costs. There are notable instances by
wave and SVORI group where the arrest cost or incarceration
cost estimates have particularly wide confidence intervals.
Consider, for example, average monthly arrest costs for the
comparison group 3 months after release. The estimate is $559
and has a wide 95% confidence interval of $77 to $1,129.
The results of the sensitivity analyses for men are presented in
Exhibit 18. These analyses provide minimum and maximum
estimates around the main findings. Overall, the sensitivity
analyses do not change the conclusions from the main findings.
Service costs for the enhanced reentry group were higher at
every wave, with the difference peaking 3 months after release.
As for the main analysis findings, differences in criminal justice
costs were not significantly different at any of the waves. This
holds for criminal justice costs as a whole, as well as for its two
components, arrests and incarceration.
Exhibit 19 shows the main findings for the South Carolina
juvenile reentry site. The differences in monthly service costs
between the SVORI enhanced reentry group and the
comparison were pronounced before release ($282; p < 0.05)
and 3 months after release ($330; p < 0.05). Thereafter,
service costs were similar for the two groups.
At the four sites for adult male offenders, there were no
statistically significant differences in criminal justice costs
(arrest and incarceration costs combined) at any of the followup interviews. Also, the data did not reveal reliable differences
in arrest costs at any of the three follow-up periods. However,
there was evidence that incarceration costs were higher for the
juveniles in enhanced reentry for at least one of the follow-up
periods. Average monthly incarceration costs for juveniles in
the SVORI group were higher than the comparison by $486 at
9 months (p < 0.05; 95% CI = $47, $915) and by $859 at
15 months (p < 0.05; 95% CI = $180, $1,537).

41

42
$1,600
[$1,534,
$1666]
$679
[$154,
$1,204]
$802
[$654,
$950]
$923
[$774,
$1,071]

$1,759
[$1,702,$
1,815]
$624
[$459,
$789]

$928
[$783,
$1,074]

$1,170
[$983,
$1,356]

One month before
release

Three months after
release

Nine months after
release

Fifteen months after
release

$247*
[–$7, $486]

$126
[–$81, $334]

–$55
[–$608, $498]

$159**
[$72, $245]

Differencea

$1,378
[$1,176,
$1,580]

$1,092
[$929,
$1,254]

$759
[$580,
$939]

$2,173
[$2,124,
$2,222]

SVORI

$1,130
[$956,
$1,304]

$938
[$772,
$1,103]

$765
[$233,
$1,296]

$2,044
[$1,985,
$2,103]

Comparison

$248*
[–$19, $516]

$154
[–$79, $387]

–$6
[–$569, $558]

$129**
[$51, $205]

Differencea

Net Cost Base Estimate

$1,489
[$1,269,
$1,708]

$1,227
[$1,043,
$1,411]

$923
[$700,
$1,146]

$2,271
[$2,218,
$2,324]

SVORI

$1,211
[$1,023,
$1,399]

$1,131
[$896,
$1,365]

$915
[$352,
$1,478]

$2,103
[$2,040,
$2,165]

Comparison

$278*
[–$13, $567]

$96
[–$203, $396]

$8
[–$600, $616]

$168**
[$86, $251]

Differencea

Maximum Net Cost

$31

$58

$63

$39

Range

Note: The table describes the range of average monthly (per offender) costs from the sensitivity analyses. Estimates use propensity score weights, using a
population average treatment effect formulation. Costs are rounded to the nearest dollar, and numbers may not sum because of rounding. Each estimate is
presented with a 95% confidence interval in brackets.
a
Difference = SVORI cost – Comparison cost (per person).
**p < 0.05.
*p < 0.10.

Comparison

SVORI

Study Period

Minimum Net Cost

Exhibit 18. Sensitivity Analyses for Cost-Benefit Analysis of Four Sites for Adult Male Offenders (2007$)

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

Results

Exhibit 19. Main CBA Findings for the South Carolina Juvenile Program: Monthly Net Cost
per Offender, by Study Period (2007$)

One Month
before Release

Three Months
after Release

Nine Months
after Release

Fifteen Months
after Release

79

56

62

65

$570
[$467, $672]
$288
[$224, $352]

$430
[$365, $496]
$100
[$65, $136]

$145
[$114, $176]
$121
[$62, $180]

$95
[$63, $127]
$46
[$24, $67]

$282**
[$158, $406]

$330**
[$253, $407]

$24
[–$45, $93]

$49**
[$9, $89]

$453
[–$53, $959]
$150
[–$136, $436]

$844
[$299, $1,389]
$849
[–$442, $2,139]

$341
[$51, $631]
$760
[$265, $1,255]

N/A

$303
[–$302, $908]

–$5
[–$1,457,$1,448]

–$419
[–$1,012, $175]

$4,110
[$4,110, $4,110]
$4,110
[$4,110, $4,110]

$15
[–$8, $38]
$72
[–$65, $209]

$587
[$199, $975]
$101
[–$41, $243]

$1,021
[$380, $1,662]
$162
[$25, $299]

Difference
$0
–$57
[$0, $0]
[–$202, $88]
(SVORI – Comparison)
Criminal justice (arrest + incarceration) subtotal
$4,110
$468
SVORI

$486**
[$57, $915]

$859**
[$180, $1,537]

$1,431
[$660, $2,202]
$950
[–$388, $2,288]

$1,362
[$699, $2,024]
$921
[$390, $1,453]

$481
[–$1,119, $2,082]

$441
[–$439, $1,319]

Cost
Number of observations
Services
SVORI
Comparison
Difference
(SVORI – Comparison)
Arrests
SVORI
Comparison
Difference
(SVORI – Comparison)
Incarceration
SVORI
Comparison

Comparison

N/A
N/A

[$4,110, $4,110]
$4,110
[$4,110, $4,110]

[–$47, $983]
$222
[–$201, $645]

Difference
$0
$246
[$0, $0]
[–$448, $940]
(SVORI – Comparison)
Total net cost (services + arrests + incarceration)
$4,680
$899
SVORI
Comparison
Difference
(SVORI – Comparison)

[$4,577, $4,782]
$4,398
[$4,334, $4,462]

[$387, $1,410]
$322
[–$93, $738]

$1,576
[$807, $2,345]
$1,071
[–$268, $2,410]

$1,456
[$799, $2,114]
$967
[$433, $1,501]

282**
[$158, $406]

577*
[–$110, $1262]

$505
[–$1,096, $2,106]

$489
[–$387, $1,366]

Note: Estimates are for the average monthly (per offender) costs. Costs are rounded to the nearest dollar. Estimates
use propensity score weights, using a population average treatment effect formulation. Each average cost estimate
is presented with a 95% confidence interval in brackets.
**p < 0.05.
*p < 0.10.

43

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

The number of observations in the juvenile data varies from 56
observations at 3 months post-release to 79 observations
before release. This number proved too low to yield reliable
results in additional multivariate analyses that control for
potential confounders (e.g., age). The low number of
observations also likely contributes to the large confidence
intervals around many of the estimates.
The results of the sensitivity analyses for the juvenile site are
presented in Exhibit 20. These analyses do little to change the
main conclusions, either with regard to overall costs or to each
of the three components of costs (i.e., services, arrests, and
incarceration).

SUMMARY OF RESULTS
The main metric of pre-release costs for each site is the
incremental cost—that is, the difference in the average cost for
a SVORI offender and a comparison offender before release
from prison. The results indicate a considerable range of
incremental costs for the 12 months before release. Costs
varied from $658 per offender for the Pennsylvania adult
program to $3,480 for the South Carolina juvenile program.
Two other metrics of cost—reflecting the absolute level of
service provision and the ratio of SVORI costs to the
comparison—also indicate substantial variation across sites.
Finally, estimates of the ratio of SVORI to comparison costs
were particularly high for the South Carolina adult program.
There, for every dollar spent on the services included in the
analysis for a comparison offender, approximately $2.60 were
spent on a SVORI offender.
The domain that contributed most to the difference in prerelease costs seems to be case management. The exception
was in Iowa, where the difference was driven by employment/
education/life skills and substance use services. This finding is
reflected in the sensitivity analyses. These indicate that there is
a large range around the base estimates, and the results seem
particularly sensitive to changes in case management costs.
The CBA results confirm that enhanced reentry through SVORI
resulted in more resources being spent on services to
offenders. For men, the greater service cost persisted
throughout all three follow-up waves. For South Carolina

44

$4,347
[$4,293,
$4,402]
$224
[–$72, $521]
$800
[–$194,
$1,795]
$729
[$328,
$1,131]

$4,575
[$4,487,
$4,664]

$663
[$283,
$1,043]

$1,236
[$611,
$1,861

$1,312
[$679,
$1,944

One month before
release

Three months after
release

Nine months after
release

Fifteen months after
release

$583
[–$193,
$1,358]

$436
[–$782,
$1,653]

$439*
[–$63, $940]

$228**
[$121, $335]

Differencea

$1,456
[$799,
$2,114]

$1,576
[$807,
$2,345]

$899
[$387,
$1,410]

$4,680
[$4,577,
$4,782]

SVORI

$967
[$433,
$1,501]

$1,071
[–$268,
$2,410]

$322
[–$93,
$738]

$4,398
[$4,334,
$4,462]

Comparison

$489
[–$387,
$1,366]

$505
[–$1,096,
$2,106]

$577*
[–$110,
$1,262]

$282**
[$158, $406]

Differencea

Net Cost Base Estimate

$1,474
[$817,
$2,131]

$1,621
[$853,
$2,389]

$1,012
[$502,
$1,523]

$4,800
[$4,682,
$4,918]

SVORI

$979
[$445,
$1,513]

$1,110
[–$230,
$2,450]

$358
[–$55,
$771]

$4,450
[$4,375,
$4,525]

Comparison

$495
[–$381, $1,372]

$511
[–$1,090,
$2,112]

$654*
[–$29, $1,338]

$350**
[$206, $493]

Differencea

Maximum Net Cost

$671

$75

$215

$122

Range

Note: The table describes the range of average monthly (per offender) costs from the sensitivity analyses. Estimates use propensity score weights, using a
population average treatment effect formulation. Costs are rounded to the nearest dollar, and numbers may not sum or difference because of rounding. Each
estimate is presented with a 95% confidence interval in brackets.
a
Difference = SVORI cost – Comparison cost (per person).
** p < 0.05.
*p < 0.10.

Comparison

SVORI

Study Period

Minimum Net Cost

Exhibit 20. Sensitivity Analyses for the Cost-Benefit Analysis of the South Carolina Juvenile Site (2007$)

Results

45

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

juveniles, greater service costs were seen before and 3 months
after release; 9 and 15 months after release their difference in
service costs was not statistically significant.
Estimates of net costs—which combine service costs with
criminal justice costs—were imprecisely estimated. Because the
results were generally not statistically significant, there was no
clear evidence either that the SVORI group cost more or that it
cost less than the comparison group at any of the follow-up
periods.
Sensitivity analyses varied key assumptions underlying the
services, arrest, and incarceration cost estimates. The
summary of those analyses indicate that those results did little
to change the conclusions reached in the main findings.
Because the service costs in particular relied on many
assumptions, considerable attention was given to the sensitivity
analyses for service costs.
Even if the analyses were to entirely set aside the service cost
estimates and focus on criminal justice costs alone, the results
of the CBA remain equivocal. The estimates of differences in
criminal justice costs between the enhanced reentry and
comparison groups were not statistically significant for any of
the follow-up waves for either men or juveniles. We discuss the
implications of these findings and directions for future research
in the Conclusions section.

46

Conclusions
DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
In an environment of heavily scrutinized state budgets,
information on how much reentry services cost should be of
great use to policy makers, providers, and researchers. In
2003, the U.S. Departments of Justice, Labor, Housing and
Urban Development, and Health and Human Services
established SVORI, a large-scale program providing more than
$100 million to 69 grantees to develop programming, training,
and state-of-the-art reentry strategies at the community level.
The multi-site evaluation of SVORI examined 16 different
reentry programming models, and the economic evaluation
focused on five sites to ascertain the impact, costs, and
benefits of reentry programming. This report presents the
results of an economic evaluation of the enhanced reentry
efforts funded through SVORI. It provides the results from two
separate analyses: an analysis of service costs before release
and a cost-benefit analysis that spanned both before and after
release.
The results should be understood in the context of the study’s
potential limitations. The analyses of the juvenile data faced
two particular challenges that limit the interpretation of their
findings. First, there were too few observations to provide
precision on the estimates, even with unadjusted comparisons
of means. A second limitation was that analytic weights were
derived from all four adult sites to attempt to control for
potential confounders in the South Carolina site. The covariates
at that site were not balanced when using these propensity
weights, meaning that potential confounding from other
covariates remained. Additional multivariate regression could
not yield reliable estimates, because the sample was
insufficiently large.

47

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

As noted throughout the report, the data used to measure
service utilization in all sites were not ideal. Rather than
tracking detail on the number of days, events, or units of each
service received by each offender, the data indicated only
whether an offender reported receiving a specific service.
Moreover, the raw data cannot indicate the context of receiving
each service; for example, the raw data do not reveal whether
an offender receiving group mental health counseling and anger
management received both in the same session. To address
both of these limitations, the data were supplemented with a
number of sources, including interviews with providers and
stakeholders on typical service provision, syllabi of classes and
programs, expert opinion, and the literature.
Two additional data limitations pertain to the measures of
criminal justice events. First, the offender survey provided
counts of the number of bookings at each interview wave. Each
booking event was assumed to be associated with one arrest.
Although this assumption is unlikely accurate in the event of
every booking, no additional data were available to fine-tune
the mapping between booking and arrests. In the absence of an
alternative estimate of the ratio of arrests-to-bookings in
published literature or reports, this assumption was not varied
in the sensitivity analyses. A second limitation was that the
survey did not distinguish between a count of jail and prison
nights; all nights incarcerated were assumed to be nights in
prison. This assumption was also not varied in the sensitivity
analyses.
A final limitation is that the results may not be greatly
generalized from the sites included in the analysis. The nature
of the funding mechanism gave grant recipients considerable
lattitude in how to spend the funds. Moreover, the sites were
selected because they were particularly strong in at least one of
four design criteria, Although this reasoning increased the
chances of finding interpretable results, it also set the sites
apart from other sites in the analysis.

IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY AND PRACTICE
The study focused on offenders reentering society in 2004–
2005, a period during which states were beginning to
implement enhanced reentry. Since that time, many of the
states conducting reentry have developed their programs

48

Conclusions

further. This ongoing evolution of programming, to some
degree, means that the target of any evaluation is constantly
moving. Nevertheless, the results of the evaluation are
instructive because it examined an unprecedented, one-time
injection of funding across states.
Although all states received additional funding in the range of
$1 million to $2 million, what states did with those funds to
enhance reentry clearly varied and likely depended on several
factors, such as the status quo of reentry services before the
SVORI grant (e.g., Lattimore et al., 2008), the vision of
decision makers on how additional funds should be spent, the
idiosyncrasies of the population being targeted for services, the
state and local policies that shaped the operating environment
for those services, and the numerous constraints that service
providers and departments of corrections faced in enhancing
service receipt. The focus of this report on incremental costs—
meaning the resource difference between business-as-usual
and enhanced reentry in 2004–2005—helps account for the
baseline differences in states at the time of reentry. Among the
adult sites, the results indicate a considerable range of
incremental costs, varying from $658 per offender for the
Pennsylvania adult program to $3,480 per offender in South
Carolina’s juvenile program.
The domain that typically contributed most to the difference in
pre-release costs was case management, indicating that case
management was the service most heavily targeted for
enhanced reentry. The exception was in Iowa, where the
difference was driven by employment/education/life skills
services. This finding is reflected in the sensitivity analyses.
These analyses indicate that there is a large range around the
base estimates, and the results seem particularly sensitive to
changes in case management costs.
The CBA provided estimates of net costs, which combined
service, arrest, and incarceration costs. At none of the three
points studied after release were the estimates of differences
between the enhanced reentry and comparison groups
statistically significant. This finding holds for both men and
juveniles. Because the results were generally not statistically
significant, there was no strong evidence either that the SVORI
group cost more or that it cost less than the comparison at
each of the follow-up periods.

49

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

Enhanced reentry through SVORI succeeded in providing
offenders more services for both men and juveniles. This was
apparent not just for the pre-release period, but also after
release, when the state had far less control over offenders’
actions. For men, the findings suggested that, even as long as
15 months after release, the average monthly service cost was
$97 higher for those in the enhanced reentry group than in the
comparison. For juveniles, the findings suggested that service
provision for enhanced reentry was particularly high within the
first 3 months after release. The difference in average monthly
costs for the enhanced reentry and the comparison groups was
$330.
The natural variation in the data perhaps limits the ability to
detect differences in costs between the groups. Despite having
several hundred observations in the data for men, the criminal
justice costs have wide 95% CIs or high standard errors of
estimates. The reason for this statistical imprecision is likely the
large variation across offenders in their individual costs of
arrest and incarceration. Some people are arrested a lot,
whereas others are not arrested at all; likewise, some people
are incarcerated for almost the entire study period, whereas
others are not incarcerated at all. When expressed in dollar
terms, this gives a large standard deviation. That, in turn,
drives a large standard error of estimate of the mean.
The estimates in this report should be put in context of the
broader literature on economic evaluations of programs for
offenders and the policy environment within which SVORI was
operating. With regard to the context of the broader literature,
consider the findings in the literature on the costs and benefits
of providing basic substance abuse programming. Such
programming targets a high-need population, like the one
examined by this evaluation, with a clearly defined, evidencebased regimen of services. Also, unlike any other prison-based
service, such as case management, there are a number of
published peer-reviewed studies available in the literature on
substance abuse services. The drawback of comparing to
substance abuse programming is that it is fairly expensive;
however, it is only one service, whereas reentry programming
is intended to cover many services. McCollister et al. (2003)
used detailed methods to derive cost estimates for the Amity
program in California in the early 1990s. The authors found
that the program typically lasted just under 1 year before

50

Conclusions

release and cost $3,886 per offender and that the aftercare
program was cost-effective. b
Daley et al. (2004) examined the Connecticut substance abuse
programming in the mid-1990s. The authors examined four
tiers of programming ranging from a low-intensity, week-long
daily drug education class to a therapeutic treatment
community, similar to the Amity program. The estimates (in
adjusted 2007 dollars) ranged from $250 for the drug
education class to $7,533 for attendees and $20,520 for
completers of the therapeutic community. The authors found
that the more resource-intensive tiers of programming—such as
the therapeutic community—were cost-beneficial.
Both McCollister and Daly came to conclusions that support the
programs being studied, perhaps because the programs were
well-funded demonstration projects. Given that the additional
resources leveraged by SVORI amounted to no more than
$1,200 per offender in adult sites, the pre-release findings
suggest that the grant funds were spread thin over the
reentering offender population. This gives context to the finding
of equivocal results, which indicated that the data did not
indicate differences in criminal justice costs between the
enhanced reentry and comparison groups.
In addition to understanding the context of findings from the
literature, it is also important to understand the context of the
policy environment in which SVORI and its evaluation took
place. The evaluation took place during the first years of sites’
implementation of enhanced reentry. Developing and
implementing the panoply of services for a comprehensive
reentry program within a prison environment is likely to take
time to fully realize. The results presented here and in
accompanying reports of the broader evaluation (e.g.,
Lattimore et al., 2009) indicate that additional funding can, at a
minimum, lead to an increase in the types and amounts of
necessary services that are provided to men and juveniles
before and after release from prison. The findings are, thus,
consistent with sites establishing a foundation upon which to
build better programs. Winterfield, Lindquist, and Brumbaugh
(2007) reported in 2006 that most states, according to surveys
b

The estimate was $2,708 in 1993 dollars; inflation was adjusted for
using the CPI (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). All estimates
quoted from the literature were similarly adjusted.

51

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

of the SVORI program directors, were continuing to build on the
programs that they had established with SVORI grant funds.

IMPLICATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
Because of the richness of the study data, future research will
likely be fruitful. The arrest costs examined in this report did
not distinguish by type of arrest. Although information on the
cost per arrest by type was available, project resources did not
allow for uniquely coding each arrest event by type. Such an
exercise could alter the findings if there was a statistically
significant relationship between being in the SVORI group and
arrest type.
Other areas of future research include further examination of
the administrative sources of criminal justice events. Recall that
administrative incarceration data were not reliable for one of
the four adult sites. To maintain cross-site integrity in approach
and to ensure consistency between arrest and incarceration
data sources, the study used offender survey data. A different
analysis might use only administrative data on criminal justice
events and expand the analysis sites to all sites in the broader
SVORI evaluation that have reliable data.
Future work should also consider whether insights can be
gained by alternative statistical approaches to modeling costs.
It is unclear whether differences in costs would be
demonstrated if alternative and more sophisticated modeling
approaches were adopted. Future work may explore fitting
different statistical distributions on costs, thereby transforming
the cost estimates (by using, say, the natural logarithm of
costs). Other work may separately model the probability of an
event occurring in a period and the number of times it occurs
conditional on the event occurring at all. For example, one
might model being arrested at all in a study period and then
the number of arrests conditional on being arrested at all.
A final avenue of future work would be to alter the perspective
of the economic evaluation. Recall that perspective addresses
whose costs and whose benefits are evaluated, and in this
analysis the perspective is the criminal justice system. Findings
in the main analysis suggest that employment is improved by
enhanced reentry, for example. The perspective might be
expanded from the criminal justice system to the broader
perspective of all taxpayer-supported resources. Although it

52

Conclusions

answers a different research question than that addressed in
this report, such an analysis may be of great importance to
policy makers. Broadening the perspective widens the number
of outcomes that must be monetized and included in the
analysis. Thus, considerably more project resources may be
required to appropriately address the question.
The extensive SVORI evaluation data set provides an
opportunity for future research to explore each of the above
questions. The evaluation also has set in place an infrastructure
and approach on which future analyses should build.
Importantly, as reentry planning evolves and grows from the
preliminary stages examined in this evaluation, future research
should update the findings described in this report.

53

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Aos, S., Miller, M., & Drake, E. (2006). Evidence-based adult
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Beard, J. A. (2009). Costs and population, 2009-10 budget
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Cowell, A. J., Broner, N., & Dupont, R. (2004). The costeffectiveness of criminal justice diversion programs for
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Drummond, M. F., O'Brien, B., Stoddart, G. L., & Torrance, G.
W. (2000). Methods for the economic evaluation of
health care programmes (2nd ed.). Oxford, England:
Oxford University Press.
Durose, M., & Langan, P. A. (2003). Felony sentences in state
courts, 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Justice
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Federal Bureau of Investigation (2009). Crime in the United
States, 2007. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from
http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/index.html
Iowa Department of Corrections (2008). FY2008 annual report.
Retrieved July 29, 2009, from
http://www.doc.state.ia.us/Documents/2008AnnualRepo
rt.pdf
Lattimore, P. K., & Steffey, D. M. (2009). The Multi-Site
Evaluation of SVORI: Methodology and analytic
approach. Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI
International.
Lattimore, P. K., Steffey, D. M., & Visher, C. A. (2009). Prisoner
reentry experiences of adult males: Characteristics,
service receipt, and outcomes of participants in the
SVORI Multi-site Evaluation. Research Triangle Park, NC:
RTI International.
Lattimore, P. K., Visher, C. A., & Steffey, D. M. (2008). Prerelease characteristics and service receipt among adult
male participants in the SVORI Multi-site Evaluation.
Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI International.
Lipsey, M. W., & Cullen, F. T. (2007). The effectiveness of
correctional rehabilitation: A review of systematic
reviews. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 3,
297-320.
MacKenzie, D. L. (2006). What works in corrections: Reducing
the criminal activities of offenders and delinquents. New
York: Cambridge University Press.
Marlowe, D. B. (2006). When "what works" never did: Dodging
the "scarlet M" in correctional rehabilitation. Criminology
and Public Policy, 5(2), 339-346.
McCollister, K. E., French, M. T., Prendergast, M. L., Sacks, S.,
& Hall, E. A. (2003). Is in-prison treatment enough? A
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Miller, T. R., Cohen, M. A., & Rossman, S. B. (1993). Victim
costs of violent crime and resulting injuries. Health
Affairs (Millwood), 12(4), 186-197.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (2009).
Monthly factsheet: June 2009. Retrieved July 29, 2009,
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e%202009.pdf
Petersilia, J. (2004). What works in prisoner reentry? Reviewing
and questioning the evidence. Federal Probation, 68(2),
4-8.
Rhine, E., Mawhorr, T., & Parks, E. C. (2006). Implementation:
The bane of effective correctional programs. Criminology
and Public Policy, 5(2), 347-358.
Roman, J., Brooks, L. E., Lagerson, E., Chalfin, A., &
Tereshchenko, B. (2007). Impact and cost-benefit
analysis of the Maryland reentry partnership initiative.
Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
Rossman, S. B., Sridharan, S., Gouvis, C., Buck, J., & Morley,
E. (1999). Impact of the opportunity to succeed. OPTS
aftercare program for substance-abusing felons:
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Seiter, R. P., & Kadela, K. R. (2003). Prisoner reentry: What
works, what does not, and what is promising. Crime &
Delinquency, 49(3), 360-388.
South Carolina Department of Corrections (2008). Cost per
inmate fiscal years 1988-2008. Retrieved July 29, 2009,
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Stephan, J. J. (2004). State prison expenditures, 2001. (NCJ
202949). Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Justice
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Visher, C. A. (2006). Effective reentry programs [Editorial
introduction]. Criminology and Public Policy, 5(2), 299302.
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Winterfield, L., Lindquist, C., & Brumbaugh, S. (2007).
Sustaining adult reentry programs after SVORI. The
Multi-site Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender
Reentry Initiative: Reentry research in action. Retrieved
December 18, 2009, from http://www.svorievaluation.org/%5Cdocuments%5Creports%5CRRIA_20
07_Adult_Sustainability.pdf

58

Appendix A:
Program
Descriptions
IOWA
Background
The Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) received a
$2 million grant and established the Keys Essential to Your
Success (KEYS) program in Polk County. It served male and
female adult offenders returning to Polk County from any state
correctional facility. Similar to other states, Iowa has
experienced a dramatic increase in its prison population over
the past few decades. State officials attribute this increase to a
high prevalence of recidivism among returning adults, in
addition to other factors. Polk County, which includes the city of
Des Moines, was targeted for intervention because it is the
largest county in the state of Iowa and accounts for a
significant percentage of annual prison admissions. Moreover,
the county had community-based resources already in place to
assist in offender reintegration, making the area ideal for
SVORI resources.
The program engaged a host of services and resources,
focusing on creating linkages and fostering coordination among
existing institutions to address the needs of returning adults
who presented the greatest risk for reoffending. Services were
aimed at increasing employment, reducing substance use, and
improving mental health among offenders. The services—
rendered both pre- and post-release—were intended to address
the criminogenic patterns of returning adults while increasing
their prosocial skills and ensuring offender accountability.

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An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

Eligibility Criteria
The project drew participants from any state correctional
institution who had been identified as returning to Polk County
following release. In addition, returning adults must have been
ƒ

between the ages of 18 and 48 for women or between
the ages of 18 and 40 for men,

ƒ

assessed with a Level of Service Inventory (LSI-R) score
of 25 or higher,

ƒ

confined for at least 12 months,

ƒ

given a tentative discharge date at least 18 months from
the beginning of the project start date,

ƒ

identified as having specific employment needs, and

ƒ

identified as having a mental illness and/or issues with
substance abuse.

Eligible participants were transferred to Newton Correctional
Facility and Correctional Release Center, Fort Dodge
Correctional Facility, or the Iowa Correctional Institution for
Women. These three sites were chosen because they already
had the programmatic and resource capacities necessary to
address vocational development and treat mental health and
substance abuse disorders.
Description of Services
Offenders who met the eligibility criteria were chosen randomly
by the Iowa Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning
to either enter KEYS or be part of the comparison group.
Comparison subjects came from the three correctional
institutions listed above, as well as the Fort Des Moines
Community Correctional Center and the Women’s Residential
Correctional Facility. The treatment group received a life skills
curriculum prior to release and intensive case management in
the community. The comparison group received conventional
in-prison programming and parole supervision. Intervention for
the KEYS participants proceeded in three phases: (1) the
incarceration phase, which lasted approximately 12 weeks prerelease; (2) the transition phase, which spanned offenders’
return to the community, at which point they initially reported
to their case manager, employment counselor, and parole
officer; and (3) the after-care phase, which continued for
12 months following release.

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Appendix A — Program Descriptions

The IDOC was the lead agency under the KEYS project. The
IDOC manages eight judicial Departments of Correctional
Services (DCSs) throughout the state, which administer
services to offenders. The Fifth Judicial District DCS, which
encompasses Polk County, provided the services either directly
or through contractual agreements with outside agencies to
program participants. Among the pre-release services were risk
and needs assessments, case management, mental health
counseling, education and housing assistance, and anger
management. Post-release services included, among other
things, life skills training, family counseling, transportation
assistance, and other unmet needs such as clothing and food.
The incarceration phase included a 12-week life skills class
taught in the three correctional institutions for 17.5 hours each
week by Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC)
employees. The course included presentations from the Iowa
Workforce Development group, the Institute for Social and
Economic Development, and other local and community
organizations. Reentry case managers from DMACC visited
participants between one and three times to develop a release
plan based on their risk and needs assessment.
At release, participants were placed under the supervision of
parole officers assigned to the KEYS program by the Fifth
Judicial District. During this time, the returning participants
received a suite of services (managed by DMACC employees)
identified during their risk and needs assessment. Case
managers focused on mentoring, education, and employment.
To facilitate a smooth transition back into the community, every
offender spent roughly 3 hours with their case manager in the
first month after release. The participants spent less time with
their case managers in subsequent periods. Most participants in
KEYS participated in a work-release program, while others were
released directly into the community. Participants who were not
employed attended Job Club three times a week, as well as two
1-hour group classes a week. An additional employment
program paid, in full or in part, the first 3 months of wages for
the offender who found employment. The program’s goal was
to provide incentives to employers who were willing to hire
SVORI clients.
Reentry planning for the comparison group started at intake
with a risk and needs assessment. The results of the

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An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

assessment were used to develop a case plan and
transition/release plan. These plans laid out what services
would best benefit the offender; services could include
education, vocational training, and motivational enhancement.
At 6 months prior to release the offenders were transferred to a
minimum security/transition facility near the release
community. During the last 6 months of the sentence the
offender focused on life skills, meaningful work, family
reunification, and release planning.
Ohio
Background
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC)
received a $1,998,014 grant with which it implemented the
Community Oriented Reentry (CORE) program. CORE is a
comprehensive approach to helping serious, violent, high-risk
and high-need incarcerated offenders between the ages of 18
and 35 return to their communities and families. All offenders
in the program must have served at least 12 consecutive
months in confinement. CORE’s goals were to assist offenders
returning home to avoid recidivism, find stable housing, receive
substance abuse and mental health treatment, sustain longterm employment, reunite with their families, and become
productive, law-abiding citizens in their communities.
Prior to receiving the SVORI grant, the ODRC’s reentry program
consisted of basic programs and services that varied by
institution. These programs did not include reentry teams,
family involvement, or coordinated outreach into the
community to which the offender would return. In 2002, a
strategic document by ODRC concluded that community
participation, collaboration, and partnerships were integral to
the success of reentering offenders. This document was used as
a template of change for the CORE program.
Eligibility Criteria
CORE services were directed to adult high-risk/high-need
offenders (spanning substance abuse, mental health, education,
and employment) who were convicted in and returning to Allen,
Cuyahoga, and Franklin counties. Additionally, offenders were
ages 18 to 35 at the time of release, incarcerated for a
minimum of 12 consecutive months, and on community
supervision for at least 1 year. The comparison group had the

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Appendix A — Program Descriptions

same eligibility criteria as the CORE participants and was
selected from the pool of eligible and voluntary offenders during
the randomization process in the enrollment period.
Description of Services
The program emphasized effective connections with the Adult
Parole Authority and community service providers and linking
participants to needed resources such as medical care and
housing before they were released to avoid a delay in services.
CORE worked through 12 institutions that were returning
offenders to three counties. Each facility had slightly different
programming and catered to different populations, as
necessary.
CORE activities began about a year before release and
comprised screening and needs assessments, the development
of accountability plans, and service programming in the facility.
After release, CORE comprised an accountability plan meeting
and needs assessment, several post-release meetings, and a
post-release assessment. Each offender was initially processed
through a reception center, during which a risk assessment was
administered. If the inmate scored as being at high risk and in
high need, the individual was eligible for enhanced reentry via
CORE. Inmates volunteering to enter CORE were randomly
assigned to either CORE or a control group. Pre-release services
were delivered at the facility housing the inmate. CORE
delivered regular reentry services by offering a reentry
management team (RMT), comprising a community case
manager, an institutional case manager, a parole officer, and
treatment staff. The RMT met monthly to discuss the offender’s
forthcoming reentry plan. Once the offender began CORE, the
RMT administered a more focused needs assessment,
developed a service plan with the offender, and helped the
offender access needed services. Two employment services in
particular were funded with the SVORI grant. The same
providers offered services to both the CORE and control group
inmates, but CORE participants had priority over other
prisoners for services. For example, for substance abuse
treatment, preference was given to CORE inmates. Medical and
dental services also were available if needed, and CORE
participants did not receive priority with these services.
At release, both CORE participants and individuals in the control
group were placed under community supervision. A community

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An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

reentry coordinator conducted intensive case management with
CORE participants and worked closely with the parole officer
and community service providers. Within 72 hours of release,
the CORE participant met with the case manager and parole
officer to review the reentry plan to ensure that all needs were
being met. The main difference between CORE and the control
services in the period after release was that CORE participants
had access to financial assistance, resources for securing
documents, and public transportation vouchers. Additionally,
CORE participants had priority for all post-release services
provided by an agency or organization that had a contract with
ODRC. For the first 3 months after release, the RMT conducted
weekly meetings with CORE participants. The RMT during postrelease had the same constituents as pre-release except it
excluded most of the institutional staff. Six months postrelease, the frequency of the RMT meetings was typically
reduced to meeting with the CORE participant every other
month.
Pennsylvania
Background
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections received a grant of
$1,990,990 and established the Erie Pennsylvania Reentry
Project (EPRP), which focused on adult offenders returning to
Erie County from September 2003 through 2006. This county
was targeted because of both the volume of offenders returning
to this geographic area and the higher than average recidivism
rates of the returning adults. Erie typically has relatively high
unemployment and poverty rates, due, in part, to declines in
manufacturing jobs for low-skilled and minority laborers. The
socioeconomic challenges in Erie are particularly detrimental to
a returning offender population that has limited skills, has
minimal work experience, and is disproportionately minority.
Eligibility Criteria
The project intended to serve both male and female adults from
any of the secure state correctional institutions (SCI) who
indicated they were returning to Erie County upon release.
Project participants were identified by staff members within the
state institutions and, in addition to their Erie residence, must
have been between the ages of 18 and 35 upon release or rerelease on state parole by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation
and Parole (PBPP). Entry into the program was voluntary; yet,

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Appendix A — Program Descriptions

following the offenders’ enrollment in EPRP, program
participation became a special condition of release.
Offenders selected for the program were those receiving the
highest LSI-R scores and/or those who had already violated the
conditions of their parole—two indicators of substantial risk of
recidivating. Offenders selected for the comparison group were
those who met the eligibility criteria but who did not volunteer
for SVORI. The comparison group thus comprised state
parolees, state re-parolees (those who had violated their parole
and served an additional portion of their original sentence),
technical parole violators with community parole center
placements, and pre-release individuals between the ages of 18
and 35 who were returning to Erie County.
Description of Services
To address the needs of the adults returning to Erie County and
thereby reduce the rate of recidivism, the EPRP provided a
continuum of services pre- and post-release. Among the prerelease services were risk and needs assessments, substance
abuse and mental health treatment, medical and dental
services, and life and parenting skills training. The post-release
services included risk and needs assessments, education,
housing assistance, and mentoring.
To leverage existing resources, the Greater Erie Community
Action Committee (GECAC) was the point of contact for all
services rendered in the EPRP. The GECAC has been providing
services to Erie County residents for more than 30 years with
the goal of eliminating poverty and improving life quality. In
fact, adults returning to Erie County from prison have received
GECAC services for several years. GECAC provides a
complement of services appropriate for ex-offenders, including
drug and alcohol treatment and employment training, which
were supplemented under the SVORI grant.
Eligible participants were initially transferred to Albion SCI
(men) or Cambridge Springs SCI (women) to begin the threepart EPRP programming. Phase 1 occurred while offenders were
in prison at Albino SCI or Cambridge Springs SCI and continued
for approximately 1 year. During this phase, a case manager
(community service specialist) and a parole officer met with
offenders to prepare them for their impending release and to
provide details about their participation in the program. Phase 1

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An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

also included the delivery of services previously mentioned,
such as risk and needs assessments and job readiness training.
Following this phase, all EPRP participants were paroled to a
community corrections facility in Erie County (Phase 2). Men
were generally paroled to the Erie County Community
Correctional Center (CCC), which is a state-run CCC that
provides housing and services to parolees. Women were
paroled to Gaudenzia, which is a privately operated CCC that
also provides housing and treatment services to parolees.
Occasionally, men who have been identified as having
substance abuse problems are paroled to Gaudenzia as well.
The majority of service receipt took place in Phase 2. GECAC
provided services to parolees or contracted with other agencies
to provide services directly to the program participants. As
mentioned, these services included life skills training, mental
health and substance abuse counseling, and general case
management. The average length of stay for EPRP participants
in these facilities was 90 days. This service provision continued
through the final phase (Phase 3), when clients were released
from the CCC into the community.
Individuals in the comparison group were paroled to Gateway
Erie, a secure community corrections facility that provides
housing and limited residential treatment. Gateway Erie
provides a portion of the services to its residents, but most
services are delivered by an external provider following referral.
Referred services are financed either by the offender or the Erie
County Department of Public Welfare.
South Carolina (Adult Program)
Background
The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) used a
$1,000,002 grant to fund the Going Home program. Before
receiving the SVORI grant, the SCDC’s reentry program
consisted of services that were on a “first come, first serve”
basis. Most inmates were required to take educational and
vocational training components, and if substance abuse and
mental health issues were identified during an offender’s needs
assessment, those services were provided as well. There was
little collaboration among state agencies on prisoner reentry
issues and, as a result, a smooth transition from correctional
institutions back to the community was difficult to achieve.

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Appendix A — Program Descriptions

Because the SCDC had experienced budget cuts over the past
several years, the inmates were receiving less of the vital
services they needed. Reentry programs had substance abuse
and mental health counselors to address specific health needs
but did not have transition coordinators to coordinate services
and organize transition plans. There was a disconnect in
services and transition planning, and although the services may
have been available to most individuals, SCDC lacked a single
process to ensure that an offender going through reentry could
access all the services that he or she needed.
Eligibility Criteria
The target population was male inmates ages 17 to 35 who
were classified as high risk and had a requirement for
community supervision in South Carolina and a minimum of 1
year of incarceration remaining. Offenders were identified
during a risk and needs assessment conducted by SCDC staff at
Reception and Evaluation Centers, where all offenders are
directed before being sent to correctional institutions. Entry into
Going Home was voluntary.
The program was statewide and served offenders no matter
where the inmates needed to continue their post-release
treatment. Offenders were first placed in Reception and
Evaluation Centers where they were assessed to see if they
would be eligible to participate in Going Home prior to entering
correctional facilities. If offenders were deemed eligible and
volunteered to participate in Going Home, they were then sent
to one of seven correctional institutions.
Description of Services
The pre-release phase for Going Home lasted 18 months, on
average. Information from needs and risk assessments was
used by transition coordinators to create each offender’s
individual action plan (IAP). The IAP always involved a life skills
class, education courses, and counseling and assessment from
the Vocational Rehabilitation Department. Life skills classes
concentrated on key areas such as lifestyle change and attitude
adjustment. The program had a set 8-week curriculum, with
classes averaging 60 to 90 minutes in length. The transition
coordinator—one of which was located at each of the seven
Going Home facilities—provided the reentry services that were
not provided by formal agencies or classes and often managed
a caseload of 50 individuals. The transition coordinators also

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An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

were responsible for identifying community resources from the
counties surrounding their facility.
A key element of the program was the transition team. This
team consisted of the transition coordinator, a representative
from the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and
Pardon Services, a classification caseworker, the participating
offender, associated institutional staff, and, where appropriate,
a member of the participating offender’s family. The transition
team was designed to provide better communication among all
parties regarding the participating offender’s reentry. The
transition team actively participated during the participant’s
pre-release phase and met once a month to discuss the
participant’s progress.
Comparison inmates received only education and services from
the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation during their prerelease phase, and, when needed, received substance abuse
and mental health services. Case management for this group
was handled by classification case managers whose main
responsibility was to classify offenders and manage caseloads
of approximately 250 to 350 inmates.
The main difference in post-release services between Going
Home participants and the comparison group was that the
transition coordinator during pre-release had actively identified
existing community resources to match the participant’s needs
after release from the correctional institution. Both Going Home
participants and comparison inmates were under the
supervision of a parole officer after release. However, parole
officers were not aware of Going Home and, therefore, did not
distinguish participants from comparison inmates. Stakeholders
indicated that the SVORI grant did not appear to affect postrelease supervision in any way.
South Carolina (Juvenile Program)
Background
The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ)
received a $999,989 grant with which it implemented the
Reintegration Initiative. The program targeted indeterminately
sentenced juvenile offenders to be conditionally released to the
community after serving sentences ranging from 3 months to
54 months. A third of the indeterminately sentenced juvenile
offenders possessed a prior commitment to custody, and more

A-10

Appendix A — Program Descriptions

than 80% had four or more delinquency referrals to the family
courts. Although the program’s main aim was to reduce
recidivism, the SCDJJ also sought to make the transition from
correctional institution to the community more seamless.
Eligibility Criteria
Reintegration Initiative participants could come from any of the
state’s secure, long-term facilities, but they had to reside in
Orangeburg, Dorchester, Calhoun, Florence, York, Spartanburg,
Marion, or Kershaw Counties for post-release. The participating
facilities included four maximum-security institutions and any
medium-security community corrections facility.
Eligible offenders were those aged between 14 and 18
committed to and released from any of South Carolina’s secure,
long-term, or wilderness camp SCDJJ facility for a serious or
violent crime or a technical violation related to a serious or
violent offense. Additionally, those eligible must have been
assessed as high risk, indeterminately sentenced for a
minimum sentence of 3 to 6 months, determinably sentenced
for at least 90 days with probation supervision to follow
release, returning to one of eight counties on release, and
supervised by a SCDJJ community caseworker. Finally, juvenile
offenders selected to participate in the Reintegration Initiative
participated on an involuntary basis. Incoming juvenile
offenders who were required to transfer to an adult facility at
the age of 18 were excluded.
The comparison group was selected based on the abovementioned criteria, except that they were incoming juvenile
offenders that were returning to counties that were not
participating in the Reintegration Initiative. Possible offenders
who were returning to counties with similar demographic and
juvenile criminal history statistics were comparison subjects.
Description of Services
The Reintegration Initiative set a goal to create collaborative
partnerships, and in doing so, the SCDJJ obtained memoranda
of understanding with 26 state and local partners. At the local
level, each county created a planning and review team that
consisted of the county’s key partners.
Juvenile offenders were first assessed at one of three regional
evaluation centers and then assigned to a program. Within a
week of enrolling a juvenile offender into a correctional facility,

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An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

a community caseworker met with the participant’s institutional
caseworker to construct a plan for initial treatment. Within 30
days of arrival, the institutional reentry team, consisting of the
institutional caseworker, security staff, educational staff, a
psychologist or psychiatrist, classification staff, and a
community caseworker, met to discuss and review the
development plan that was formulated at the regional
evaluation center and developed a more comprehensive reentry
plan. The institutional caseworker and the community
caseworker were responsible for service coordination while the
participant was committed to the institution.
Beginning 90 days before an offender’s release, the community
caseworker and the institutional caseworker coordinated the
transition from pre-release to post-release. An aftercare
treatment plan was completed during this phase, and important
dates and times for school admission and appointments with
service providers were included. The level of supervision and
the role of a community support team also were established in
the plan.
At release, the community caseworker met with the participant
and the participant’s family to review the aftercare treatment
plan and parole guidelines. For at least 90 days after release,
the community caseworker assisted the participant with school
or vocational job program enrollment and scheduling of
appointments. The community caseworker had the
responsibility of overall service coordination, monitoring
participant progress, and implementing graduated incentives
and sanctions. A separate planning and review committee
reviewed cases monthly. To enter the final phase of reentry,
individuals had to be in compliance with the conditions of
release and school or job attendance. The final phase of reentry
lasted as long as a participant was under parole supervision or
SCDJJ probation, typically from 6 months to 2 years. The
intensive supervision and community services were gradually
phased out, and the community support team assumed the
primary support to the participant and the family. A community
caseworker continued to monitor the participant’s progress and
maintained contact with the participant’s school, vocational
program, or employer.

A-12

Appendix B:
Potential Sources of
Duplication Bias
Four possible levels of duplication in assessing service costs
were identified:
1. Duplication is unlikely. The rule of including in the
analysis only services with a statistically significant
difference between the proportion of SVORI and
comparison recipients helps eliminate some potential
areas of duplication. Consider, for example, if after
eliminating services with no significant difference in
receipt, the only question remaining in the employment
domain is a question on receipt of employment
readiness services. There is, therefore, unlikely to be
any duplication between that service and any other. If
the analysis had included all employment and education
services, the potential for duplication would have been
higher.
2. Duplication is within domain but only via a gate
question. For example, “Have you received any
educational services?” is a gate question: a participant is
only asked about the type of educational services if he
endorses this question. One strategy in the presence of
gate questions is to assume that one standard type of
educational service was received. This approach solves
the problem of potentially double-counting any
educational services that are, thereafter, endorsed. It
also means only one price is required, although it has
the limitation that different types of education services
could have different prices.
3. Duplication is within domain and does not involve a gate
question. For example, services described as “drug
education” and “group counseling” are both found within

B-1

An Economic Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

the substance use services domain. They may be
delivered in the same class or in separate classes.
4. Duplication is across domains, where ostensibly different
services in different domains are actually provided in the
same event. For example, an offender could be receiving
residential treatment for substance use, which is part of
the substance use services domain. Group counseling
might be part of the residential treatment, which is in
the mental health services domain. The offender would
answer that he received both services. If these were
both provided in the residential treatment stay, costing
both services would overestimate the incremental cost.

B-2

 

 

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