A number of jurisdictions have adopted vocational education and employment programs intended, among other aims, to reduce recidivism among adult correctional populations. Because of the well-established links between low educational attainment, unemployment and crime, these programs do seem to target a risk factor for recidivism. Whether, in fact, they are effective in reducing future offending behavior is still open to question. This review assesses the empirical status of the effectiveness of vocational education and employment programs by drawing conclusions based upon systematic rankings of methodological rigor of individual program evaluations. Evaluation research in vocational education/job training, community employment, and correctional industries program areas was assessed. Based upon rankings of methodological rigor and specific decision criteria for assessing overall empirical support for program effectiveness, several types were identified as generally successful at reducing offender recidivism, including vocational education, multi-component correctional industry, and community employment programs. The pervasive lack of rigorous program evaluation in this area limits the kinds of conclusions that can be drawn and points toward a clear research agenda for providing stronger evidence on the effectiveness of vocational education and correctional work programs.
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