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Washington State Inst for Public Policy Correctional Industries Programs for Adult Offenders in Prison Estimates of Benefits and Costs 2005

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Washington State
Institute for
Public Policy
110 Fifth Avenue Southeast, Suite 214


PO Box 40999


Olympia, WA 98504-0999 •

(360) 586-2677


January 2005

In recent years, the Washington legislature has
directed the Washington State Institute for Public
Policy to identify evidence-based programs that
can lower crime and give Washington taxpayers
a good return on their money.1 The purpose of
this short report is to update previously
published findings pertaining to correctional
industries programs for adult prisoners.2
One goal of correctional industries programs is to
give inmates an opportunity to acquire job skills
while in prison. It is thought that increased
employability will enable offenders to obtain and
maintain a job upon leaving prison, and that
successful job market performance in the
community will lower the chance that an offender
will engage in future criminal activity.
Since our review was issued in 2001, one new
evaluation of Washington’s correctional industries
programs has been published. We have also
made some refinements in our benefit-cost model.
This update incorporates these changes.
Research Methods. Our research methods
can be briefly summarized.3 We gathered all
existing program evaluation studies that we
could locate on correctional industries programs
throughout in the United States. We only
considered studies with rigorous research
designs that include a control group and a
treatment group. We then “meta-analyzed”
these studies to estimate the average effect that
correctional industries programs have on
recidivism rates. Even for those studies that met

The Institute’s latest review for juvenile offender and prevention
programs is contained in: S. Aos, R. Lieb, J. Mayfield, M. Miller,
& A. Pennucci. Benefits and Costs of Prevention and Early
Intervention Programs for Youth. Olympia: Washington State
Institute for Public Policy, 2004.
Our previous findings on correctional industries and other adult
offender programs can be found in: S. Aos, P. Phipps, R.
Barnoski, & R. Lieb. The Comparative Costs and Benefits of
Programs to Reduce Crime, v. 4.0. Olympia: Washington State
Institute for Public Policy, 2001.
Our methods are fully described in: Aos et al., 2004, Technical

our minimum research design requirements, we
discounted the effects of studies that had a lessthan-randomized research methodology, since
there is evidence that weaker research designs
are likely to overestimate the true effectiveness
of criminal justice programs.4
Research Results. Unfortunately, we only
found three rigorous evaluations of correctional
industries programs, one of which was of
Washington’s program. Thus, there is a clear
need for additional studies of the effectiveness
of these programs.
Nevertheless, we show in Table 1 that, based
on these three studies, correctional industries
programs can be expected to produce a
statistically significant reduction in the
future criminality of participating offenders.
That is, there is credible evidence that the
programs reduce future crime, although this
conclusion needs to be tested further with new
evaluations of correctional industries programs.
Table 1 shows that the unadjusted effect size
from the meta-analysis is a statistically
significant -.115. To account for the less-thanrandomized research designs, we lower this
effect size to -.084. This is an effectiveness
rate that is comparable to other successful
programs for adult offenders such as drug
courts.5 To put this number in more familiar
terms, we estimate that without a correctional
industries program, about 40 percent of eligible
offenders would be reconvicted for a new felony
within eight years of leaving prison. With
participation in a correctional industries
program, we estimate that the recidivism rate
would be reduced to 36 percent.

M. W. Lipsey. “Those Confounded Moderators in Meta-Analysis:
Good, Bad, and Ugly.” The Annals of the American Academy of
Political and Social Science 587(1) (2003): 69-81.
R. Barnoski & S. Aos. Washington State's Drug Courts for Adult
Defendants: Outcome Evaluation and Cost-Benefit Analysis,
Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2003.

Table 1

Meta-Analytic Estimates of Standardized Mean Difference Effect Sizes
of Effect
in the

Correctional Industries
Programs, and the
effect on:


Results Before Adjusting Effect Sizes
Fixed Effects
Weighted Mean
Effect Size
& p-value

Random Effects








Weighted Mean
Effect Size
& p-value


Effect Size
Used in the
Analysis, see





Footnote: Meta-analytic methods used by the Institute are described in full in: S. Aos, R. Lieb, J. Mayfield, M. Miller, & A. Pennucci. Benefits
and Costs of Prevention and Early Intervention Programs for Youth, Technical Appendix. Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public
Policy, 2004. Adjusted effect sizes reflect the assumptions we make concerning research design quality and whether the program operated
in the "real world" (the adjustments are described in the document listed above).
The studies with sufficient research rigor to be included in the analysis of correctional industries programs:
(1) W. G. Saylor & G. G. Gaes. PREP: A Study of 'Rehabilitating' Inmates Through Industrial Work Participation, and Vocational and
Apprenticeship Training. Federal Bureau of Prisons: Washington, DC, 1996.
(2) K. E. Maguire, T. J. Flanagan, & T. P. Thornberry. "Prison Labor and Recidivism." Journal of Quantitative Criminology 4(1) (1988): 3-18.
(3) E. Drake. Class I Impacts: Work During Incarceration and Its Effects on Post-Prison Employment Patterns and Recidivism. Olympia:
Washington State Department of Corrections, 2003.

Benefits and Costs. Based on these results, and
to provide legislators with a “bottom-line” number,
we estimated the benefits and costs of correctional
industries programs in Washington State. We did
this by employing the benefit-cost model we have
developed in recent years.6 When there is less
crime, taxpayers spend less money on the criminal
justice system. Fewer crimes also mean there are
fewer crime victims. Since our meta-analysis
indicates that correctional industries programs
reduce subsequent crime, our benefit-cost analysis
monetizes the benefits by estimating the present
value of life-cycle avoided costs to both taxpayers
and crime victims. Table 2 presents the results.
We found that a correctional industries program
can be expected to result in $5,171 in benefits
per participant tied to the reduced crime. Of
these total benefits, $2,646 accrue to taxpayers
in the form of reduced criminal justice system
expenditures that will be avoided because
recidivism is lower. There will also be fewer
crime victim costs; we estimate these benefits to
be $2,525 per program participant. We estimate
that the incremental costs to taxpayers of a
correctional industries program is $777 per
offender. This amount pays for the
administrative costs and the opportunity costs of
working capital, while other program costs are
self-supporting. Thus, the overall net gain for
correctional industries programs is estimated to
be $4,394 per participant, or $6.65 in benefits per
dollar of cost.

The model is fully described in: Aos et al., 2004, Technical

Conclusion. We find that correctional
industries programs for adult offenders in
prison can achieve a statistically significant
reduction in recidivism rates, and that a
reasonably priced program generates about
$6.70 in benefits per dollar of cost. To enhance
this conclusion, we recommend that additional
rigorous outcome evaluations be undertaken of
correctional industries programs.
For information, contact Steve Aos:, or 360-586-2740.
Table 2
Summary of Estimated Benefits and Costs of
Correctional Industries Programs
(in 2003 Dollars Per Program Participant)
Benefits to taxpayers in criminal justice
system savings


Benefits of avoided criminal


Total Life-Cycle Benefits


Total Program Costs
Net Present Value
Benefit-to-Cost Ratio


Note: The dollar figures reported here are the present value of life-cycle
benefits to taxpayers and crime victims from the estimated reduction in
crime that correctional industries programs produce, discounted with a
3 percent real discount rate. The program cost estimate is based on the
taxpayer cost to administer Washington’s program and the opportunity
costs of the program’s working capital; the rest of the program’s costs are
covered by income from the goods sold. Benefits are estimated with the
Institute’s benefit-cost model; see S. Aos, R. Lieb, J. Mayfield, M. Miller, &
A. Pennucci. Benefits and Costs of Prevention and Early Intervention
Programs for Youth, Technical Appendix. Olympia: Washington State
Institute for Public Policy, 2004.

Document No. 05-01-1202