Prison Work and Vocational Programs: A Systematic Review and Analysis of Moderators of Program Success

Alexandra V. Nur, Holly Nguyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Custodial prison work and vocation programs are among the most common programs in United States corrections. However, literature suggests ambiguity regarding their effectiveness in producing desired outcomes. Extant systematic reviews and meta-analyses of these programs are dated, focus on post-release programs, and rely on monolithic effect sizes to determine if these programs ‘work.’ To assess this issue, we conduct a meta-analysis of 31 program evaluations published between 1986 and 2017, focusing on study and program characteristics that moderate conclusions of success. We argue that several issues require attention before researchers can conclude whether and for whom custodial work and vocational programs are successful, including: incomparable outcomes; treatment heterogeneity and treatment effect heterogeneity; program stacking; and conflicting definitions of programs. Implications from this study aid in establishing a cohesive literature to make stronger conclusions about the characteristics of programs and program evaluations that produce effective custodial work and vocation programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-158
Number of pages30
JournalJustice Quarterly
Volume40
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

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