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Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

Date Published
April 2, 2013

NIJ funded a multiyear, multisite evaluation of programs funded under a collaborative federal effort — the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI). The goal of the initiative, which started in 2003, was to improve reentry outcomes along five dimensions: criminal justice, employment, education, health and housing.

The purposes of the evaluation, initiated in 2004, were to determine the extent to which participation in SVORI programs improved access to reentry services and programs and resulted in improved outcomes in the areas of housing, education, employment and criminal behavior.[1]

On this page find:

Findings on Access to Reentry Services and Programs

Participation in SVORI programming increased access to reentry services and programs. For example, SVORI program participants were significantly more likely to have reentry plans upon release. The provision of such services, however, significantly decreased after release. This finding was supported by self-report survey data collected from program participants and directors.

Post-Release Outcomes

Results also showed that, compared to non-SVORI participants, SVORI participants showed no discernible differences on outcomes with respect to recidivism, housing, substance abuse, and physical and mental health.

Challenges for those Returning to Society

Persons convicted of a crime who have completed any court-ordered punishment  face important challenges upon returning to their communities. These challenges include finding suitable housing and employment and obtaining affordable health care (including substance abuse treatment and mental health counseling). Results from the SVORI evaluation support the notion that successful reentry to society cannot be tied to one process (such as, in this example, the provision of services).

For a more detailed overview of findings from the SVORI evaluation, see The Multi-site Evaluation of SVORI: Summary and Synthesis (pdf, 176 pages).

What Works for Whom? Ongoing Follow-up Research

In 2009, RTI was awarded funds competitively to complete secondary data analysis on data collected under the multisite SVORI evaluation to identify those programs and services funded under SVORI that improved reentry outcomes for persons who are released from prison. Of particular importance were two questions: "What works?" and "For whom?"

Results indicated that many of the specific reentry services had no effect on housing, employment, substance use or recidivism outcomes, and in some cases the effect actually was deleterious rather than beneficial. However, there SVORI program participation had significant effects on arrests following release. SVORI program participation was associated with a 14 percent reduction in arrests for adult men, 48 percent reduction for adult women, and 25 percent reduction for juvenile males over the fixed follow-up periods.

Read the full report Prisoner Reentry Services: What Worked for SVORI Evaluation Participants?" (pdf, 560 pages).

Detailed Reports and Dataset From the SVORI Evaluation

The multisite SVORI evaluation produced numerous reports that provide in-depth information on different aspects and findings of the evaluation. Information about specific topics can be found in these reports:

NIJ has released data from the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) Multi-site Impact Evaluation. Learn more and apply for access to the data.

Description of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

In 2003, the U.S. Departments of Justice, Labor, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services provided more than $100 million for state programs that facilitate the reentry of adults and juveniles to communities from prisons or juvenile detention facilities.

This funding stream, known as the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI), was a collaborative federal effort to improve reentry outcomes along the following dimensions: (1) criminal justice, (2) employment, (3) education, (4) health, and (5) housing.

Sixty-nine sites received between $500,000 and $2 million over 3 years to develop or expand programs that offered integrated supervision and services to persons convicted of a crime. The objective of the initiative was to promote productive social roles for those released and to reduce the likelihood of their return to crime and imprisonment. The initiative required a multiagency strategy for successfully moving incarcerated persons from correctional control to the community.

SVORI had four specific objectives:

  1. Improve the quality of life and self-sufficiency of those released through employment, housing and family and community involvement.
  2. Improve the health of those released by addressing substance use and physical and mental health problems.
  3. Reduce recidivism through services, supervision and monitoring.
  4. Promote systemwide changes through multiagency collaboration and better case-management strategies.

NIJ's Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

In 2004, NIJ funded a multiyear, multisite evaluation of SVORI programs. It was the largest evaluation funded by NIJ to date. The grant was awarded to Research Triangle Institute International (RTI) and its subcontractor, the Urban Institute, to conduct an evaluation of SVORI across the 69 grantee sites. The SVORI evaluation examined the relationship between access to reentry programming and a number of outcomes including housing, employment and recidivism in multiple programs in various states across the U.S. Subsequent analyses included data on adult males, adult females and juvenile boys.

Research questions were designed to determine the extent to which:

  • SVORI led to more coordinated planning and integrated services among partner agencies.
  • SVORI program participants received more individualized and comprehensive services than comparison subjects.
  • SVORI program participants demonstrated better outcomes than comparison subjects.
  • The benefits derived from reentry programs outweighed the costs.

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Date Published: April 2, 2013