Former Prisoners

People who have spent time in prison often have difficulties finding work and establishing independent lives after their release. MDRC is testing the effectiveness of programs to help former prisoners overcome barriers to employment and reduce their chances of rearrest.

The Latest
Working Paper

This study analyzes the per person cost of a subsidized employment program for enrollees in Minnesota’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families who could not otherwise find employment, and the costs of other services that all sample members may have received. The program’s primary goal was to move participants into unsubsidized employment.

Working Paper

A voluntary program in San Francisco arranged interviews for disadvantaged job-seekers and offered employers temporary wage subsidies to hire them. This study analyzes the one-year, per person program costs and the cost of non-program services, including education and training. The analysis indicates that the program was likely cost-beneficial from society’s perspective.

Key Documents

What Have We Learned, What Are We Learning, and Where Should We Go from Here?

Each year, the more than 600,000 people released from prison face numerous obstacles to successful reentry into society, starting with the challenge of finding stable work. What does existing research say about the effectiveness of work-focused programs for ex-prisoners?


CEO, a transitional jobs program for former prisoners in New York City, had its strongest effects for participants who were at highest risk of recidivism, for whom CEO reduced the probability of rearrest, the number of rearrests, and the probability of reconviction two years after entering the program.


The 700,000 incarcerated prisoners released each year face considerable obstacles to successfully reintegrating into their communities, and many return to prison. While state and federal agencies have mounted ambitious prisoner reentry initiatives, this policy memo from our “Looking Forward” series explains that there is still much to learn about what works.