The Hoosier Initiative for Reentry Employment (HIRE) program provides employment assistance to Indiana residents with felony offenses. This study examined whether HIRE participants (n = 328), who obtained jobs after release from prison in 2014, had lower recidivism rates than the comparison group of all offenders released from Indiana prisons in 2014 (n = 17,901).

HIRE is an employment program in Indiana for felony offenders provided through the state employment assistance program called WorkOne and funded by the state and federal government. Initially, the program provides employment services over 15 weeks, focusing on soft skills and job readiness skills. HIRE also refers previously incarcerated people to community organizations for additional resources they might require. The program provides job search assistance and job placement. After placement, the program provides about one year of job coaching and other services to improve employment retention. Program records indicate that participants placed in employment in 2014 typically worked in production and manufacturing and earned $9.67 per hour.

The authors used a statistical model to compare recidivism outcomes of people who HIRE placed into jobs with the outcomes of people who HIRE did not place into jobs. The authors used HIRE program data and Indiana Department of Corrections data on all people released from a state prison in 2014. The data included 328 people who were placed in a job through the HIRE program (the treatment group) and 17,901 other released prisoners who were not placed in a job through HIRE (the comparison group).

Across both groups, most people were male (85 percent), about 35 years old, and white (68 percent in the comparison group and 76 percent in the treatment group). The average length of prison stay was 27 months for the treatment group and 17 months for the comparison group. Fewer than half the people were high school graduates or had obtained a general education diploma.

Major Findings & Recommendations

The study found a statistically significant relationship between job placement through HIRE and recidivism: HIRE participants who were placed in a job were less likely to be reincarcerated for any reason between one and two years after release than comparison group members. The study did not find a statistically significant relationship between job placement through HIRE and reincarceration for a new offense.

In interpreting these findings, the authors cited the importance of noting statistically significant existing differences between the treatment and comparison groups before the intervention. For example, the authors noted differences in the groups’ average length of incarceration and the types of crimes for which people were convicted. These existing differences between the groups and other potential unobserved differences—and not the HIRE program—could explain the observed differences in outcomes.