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NIJ Evaluations of the Second Chance Act

Date Published
April 26, 2022

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-391) authorizes the provision of federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victim support and other services to individuals returning to the community from prison or jail.

The Second Chance Act aims to reduce recidivism and enhance public safety by increasing reentry programming and improving outcomes for individuals returning to their families and communities.

Title V of the First Step Act of 2018 directs NIJ to examine the effectiveness of grants used by the Department of Justice, specifically the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), to support reentry and recidivism reduction programs at the State, local, Tribal, and Federal levels. Since fiscal year 2010, NIJ has awarded approximately $17 million in Second Chance Act funds for reentry-related research. See the table “Ongoing NIJ Evaluations of Second Chance Act Projects” for more information on NIJ-funded Second Chance Act grants and the table “Completed NIJ Evaluations of Second Chance Act Projects” for information on completed NIJ-funded Second Chance Act evaluation projects.

Ongoing NIJ Evaluations of Second Chance Act Projects
Title Awardee Award Amount Award Number
Assessing the Effectiveness of the Second Chance Act Grant Program through a Phased Evaluation Approach Using an Implementation Science Mixed Methods Approach Georgia State University Research Foundation, Inc. $2,142,620 2020-CZ-BX-0014

Description: The applicant proposes to conduct a three-phased evaluation of at three sites implementing the Second Chance Act (SCA) program. Phase I will consist of a formative evaluation. The applicant proposes to determine if an outcome/impact evaluation is feasible at the SCA grantee site. It also seeks to assess the overall SCA goals to determine if the objectives are clear and if the site has a well-defined mechanism for measuring these objectives. The applicant will conduct evaluability assessments (EAs) and the data for the EAs will include program documents, administrative records, expenditure and revenue data, program reports, key informant interviews, training and technical assistance provider reports, and site visit program observations. The applicant also seeks to capture differences between purposeful and unintended deviations from program fidelity. Each site will also be assessed in terms of their feasibility to participate in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). The applicant intends to use data from the EAs to create practitioner-oriented articles highlighting the barriers to implementing rigorous, evaluable programs. The applicant intends to use the Corporation for National and Community Services (CNCS) evaluability assessment tool to guide these assessments. The tool captures organizational, program, and evaluation readiness for each site. Phase II will entail the development of the site-specific evaluation design. The applicant intends to implement an RCT, but if an RCT is not feasible, the appropriate quasi-experimental design will be determined. Finally, Phase III will consist of the implementation of the evaluation plan. The applicant intends to use a 36-month follow-up period to assess participant outcomes.

Completed NIJ Evaluations of Second Chance Act Projects
Title Awardee Award Amount Award Number
Evaluation of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention FY2010 Second Chance Act Juvenile Offender Reentry Demonstration Projects Urban Institute $1,997,100 2012-RY-BX-0013

Urban Institute assessed five juvenile SCA grantees funded in FY2008 to implement comprehensive reentry programs for high-risk youth, as well as to provide policymakers, practitioners, and funders with empirical evidence on the effectiveness of these programs in reducing recidivism and improving reintegration outcomes for young people. The sites included Sacramento, California; Oakland, California; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Houston, Texas; and Tidewater, Virginia. Results show all sites attempted to implement key SCA elements, including prerelease service coordination and collaborative reentry planning; however, common challenges during the grant period prevented fidelity to program design. Changes in states’ juvenile justice administration in three program sites - California, Texas, and Virginia - also impeded intended implementation. The impacts evaluation included two of the sites. There was some indication of program benefit in Virginia, but it was not robust. The Oklahoma site showed lower recidivism during the treatment period, but it did not reach statistical significance.

See details about award 2012-RY-BX-0013 and access resulting reports.

Evaluation of the FY2011 BJA Second Chance Act Adult Offender Reentry Demonstration Projects (Focus Area 2) Research Triangle Institute $3,534,589 2012-RY-BX-0001
Description: RTI assessed the implementation, effects and cost-effectiveness of eight adult reentry programs funded by BJA in FY2010 and FY2011. Researchers assessed whether the programs achieved the primary goals of reducing recidivism and increasing public safety, as well as increasing employment and education opportunities, reducing violations of conditions of release, and other outcomes of interest.

See details about award 2012-RY-BX-0001 and access resulting reports.
An Evaluation of BJA Second Chance Act Adult Demonstration Projects Social Policy Research Associates $3,656,357 2010-RY-BX-0003
Description: SPR is conducting a 36-month evaluation of seven Second Chance Act adult re-entry demonstration projects funded by BJA in 2009. The evaluation includes impact, process and outcome analyses and cost assessments of re-entry services provided by the sites.

Interim results from an implementation study of 10 Second Chance Act grantees found that many faced challenges in serving persons convicted of a crime due in part to the difficulty in developing re-entry programming. Programs that were able to overcome such challenges were able to cultivate strong relationships with community-based and other agencies and welcome a rehabilitative philosophy of the re-entry into society of convicted persons.

See details about award 2010-RY-BX-0003 and access resulting reports. 
Evaluation of the FY2011 BJA Second Chance Act Adult Offender Reentry Demonstration Projects (Focus Area 1) Urban Institute $399,433 2012-R2-CX-0032
Description: The Urban Institute conducted an intensive, comprehensive evaluability assessment (EA) of the 10 BJA Second Chance Act adult re-entry demonstration projects funded in FY2011. The EAs assessed each site's capacity and readiness for evaluation across multiple domains. Data on training and technical assistance needs were collected.
Read an abstract and access the executive summary for the FY2011 Second Chance Act Adult Offender Reentry Demonstration Projects Evaluability Assessment.

See details about award 2012-R2-CX-0032 and access resulting reports
An Evaluation of BJA's Second Chance Act FY2010 State, Tribal and Local Reentry Courts Program Northwest Professional Consortium, Inc. $2,998,850 2010-RY-BX-0001
Description: Northwest Professional Consortium, Inc., completed a multisite evaluation of the program. Researchers are using a process evaluation to document and compare program models and implementation; an impact evaluation to examine rearrests, reconvictions, violations and returns to incarceration using pre/post archival data; and cost-benefit analyses to calculate avoided public costs by comparing program interventions to "business-as-usual" conditions.

See details about award 2010-RY-BX-0001 and access resulting reports.

Date Published: April 26, 2022