Oregon SAC Conducts Evaluations on Earned Time Laws and on Effectiveness of Reentry Centers

JRSA Forum. March 2013. Volume 31, Number 1.

Earned time policies in the state of Oregon have changed multiple times in recent history, affecting how inmate populations accrue time credits that can be used for early release. At the request of the state legislature, the Oregon SAC is examining changes in the earned time laws and evaluating how those changes affect the recidivism rate among various offender groups. In one case, for example, changes to the law applied retroactively to current inmates. In another case changes created a quasi-experimental setting wherein some inmates were eligible for extra earned time before a specified date, while others after that date were not eligible. Findings to date indicate that differences in earned time accrual do not affect recidivism rates for release cohorts within the study period. The evaluation is also using accelerated failure time models to determine if there are differences in survival properties across distinct earned time groups. Release of the final report is expected within the next few months.

The SAC recently completed a preliminary evaluation of three reentry centers in Oregon. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission provided a Reentry Resource Center Grant to Multnomah, Lane, and Klamath Counties starting January 1, 2010. The grant program goals included reducing new crimes and increasing employment and stable housing for offenders released from prison. The centers provide assessment and planning, service coordination, employment and housing assistance, and financial assistance such as bus passes, identification services, or assistance in applying for benefits. This evaluation provides preliminary outcome results of subsequent arrests and charges for reentry center participants and a matched pair control group. For all participants receiving services from the centers, no significant difference was found from the control group in subsequent arrests or charges. These results could be expected because a large number of the participants receive minimal services, such as a referral or employment search assistance. An additional evaluation was conducted for those participants that receive the highest level of services, which includes an action plan and full engagement in available services. For this participant group a marginally significant difference was found in the statutory arrest rate as compared to the control group. The treatment group showed a 25% drop in the arrest rate for statutory crimes. There was no significant difference in the total arrest rate. For new charges, the treatment group showed a 31% drop for the overall charge rate, which was statistically significant.

SAC staff have also been busy responding to legislative data requests now that the legislature is in session. Economist Steven Carter prepares fiscal impact estimates for criminal justice-related bills, and SAC Director Kelly Officer responds to other data requests mostly focusing on justice reinvestment proposals.