The Second Chance Act and Other Ongoing NIJ Research Projects

Sidebar to the article Improving Access to Services for Female Offenders Returning to the Community by Marie Garcia with Nancy Ritter

The Second Chance Act (SCA) was signed into law in 2008. The SCA authorizes federal agencies to award grants to state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victims support and other services to people returning to the community from prison or jail. The goals of the SCA are to increase re-entry programming and improve outcomes for offenders returning to their families and communities. (For more information about the SCA, visit the National Reentry Resource Center Exit Notice.)

The SCA directs NIJ to evaluate the effectiveness of demonstration projects funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). In fiscal year 2010, NIJ awarded $10 million for re-entry-related research:

  • Evaluation of the BJA Second Chance Act Adult Demonstration Projects
    Social Policy Research Associates will perform a $3 million, multi-year, multisite evaluation of seven SCA adult demonstration sites. The evaluation will include impact, process, outcome and cost assessments of re-entry services. It also will include an implementation study of three adult demonstration sites that are not included in the full-scale evaluation.
  • Evaluation of the BJA Reentry Courts Program
    Northwest Professional Consortium, Inc., is performing a $3 million, 42-month, multisite evaluation of BJA's Reentry Courts Program. A process evaluation will document and compare program models and implementation. An impact evaluation will examine re-arrests, reconvictions, violations and returns to incarceration. Cost-benefit analyses will look at the cost to the public of program interventions versus "business as usual."
  • Evaluation of the Multisite Demonstration Field Experiment: What Works in Reentry Research
    In an effort to provide rigorous evidence of what works in re-entry, NIJ awarded $3 million to MDRC to conduct tests of promising re-entry interventions, strategies or programs. Re-entering offenders will be randomly assigned to receive the experimental treatment or to receive "business as usual" re-entry services (or some other clearly defined control treatment).

NIJ has also given additional funding for Alfred Blumstein and Kiminori Nakamura's research on hiring ex-offenders. The $247,000 project continues their previous research into calculations of "redemption time," the amount of time that an individual with an arrest record has stayed "clean" (i.e., no additional arrests) and could be considered "redeemed" with respect to his or her criminal record. The researchers are testing the robustness of the previous findings, and looking at out-of-state arrests and racial differences. The work is increasingly relevant because of the large number of people who are handicapped in finding employment by stale criminal records.

Date Created: March 26, 2012