WASHINGTON D.C. — Pamela K. Lattimore, Division for Applied Justice Research senior director for research development at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, testified June 15 on successful models of employment for justice-involved individuals before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor at its Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act reauthorization hearing.
Lattimore testified that education and workforce re-entry programs offer a solution to the employment and educational needs of those involved with the justice system—offering transformative opportunities that can lead to a better life for the individuals and their families and safer communities as criminal activity is reduced or prevented.
“We know that correctional education programs are effective. We need to know more about the types of programs that work, for whom specific programs are most effective, and how much education is needed to improve the chances for meaningful employment. And we need to understand how education and employment skills fit within the constellation of overall needs of justice-involved individuals such as substance abuse and mental health treatment, housing, transportation, and childcare,” Lattimore said. “Federal support to attain positive outcomes for justice-involved individuals will not only help them and their families but will make our communities safer and increase our nation’s supply of skilled labor providing a substantial return on investment.”
Lattimore drew upon her extensive experience as an expert on prisoner reentry and multisite, multiyear evaluations of corrections programs and initiatives. Her work has included evaluations of an innovative vocational program for youth in North Carolina prisons and multisite, multimethod evaluations of federal initiatives including the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative and the Second Chance Act. Prior to joining RTI, she worked at the National Institute of Justice for a decade conducting research on criminal behavior and overseeing NIJ’s corrections research portfolio.
Suggestions Lattimore made in her hearing testimony about programs and interventions for justice-involved individuals based on her research findings included:
- Program offerings in correctional facilities should be sufficient to ensure that participants are able to earn credentials that will lead to living-wage employment with career advancement opportunities.
- Earning while learning programs should be encouraged to increase program participation and completion rates as well as support meeting financial obligations following release.
- Robust evaluations are needed that are realistic and support improvement in the quality and effectiveness of education and employment programs for justice-involved individuals.
- While correctional education programs are proven to be effective, more research is needed on the types of programs that work; for whom specific programs are most effective; how much education is needed to improve the chances for meaningful employment; and how education and employment skills fit within the overall needs of justice-involved individuals such as substance abuse and mental health treatment, housing, transportation, and childcare.
- The success of education- and employment-focused reentry programs should not be singularly measured by recidivism but also by their impact on learning, credentials earned, employment, and wages.