Center on Race and Social Problems

Allegheny County Jail Collaborative Evaluation Research: Follow-up Study of 300 Inmates

January 1, 2004 to August 1, 2007
Funded by: 
The Human Services Integration Fund

In 1997, the Allegheny County Bureau of Corrections formed a collaborative task force with various social service organizations to effectively return less dangerous offenders back to communities (Allegheny County Bureau of Corrections, 2002.) The collaborative was organized to form partnerships and share resources so that former incarcerated individuals can be assisted with a variety of necessary human services. However, a leading question associated with the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative is its capacity to generate desirable benefits to incarcerated individuals and community residents. Thus, Dr. Yamatani, with consultative assistance of the project’s Co-PIs R. Bangs, L. Davis, and A. Mann, and an advisory committee, designed a unique process and outcome based evaluation study. The project consists of three major evaluative components:

  1. service processes and collaboration practice
  2. intermediary achievement among former inmates (e.g., job training, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, employment, hosing, etc.)
  3. ultimate outcome assessment—post-release criminal behavior and recidivism.

This project is funded for three years with $330,000 from the Human Service Integration Fund, which consists of funds from over a dozen philanthropic foundations in the greater Pittsburgh area.

Study Sample and Measurement Timeframe

The evaluation sample groups consist of:

  • All of the collaborative members/partners, cooperating community based organization's representatives, and project administrator and supervisors;
  • Study sample will consist of 300 male inmates being released from Allegheny County Jail (ages 21 to 45 years old with incarceration of 45 days or more). This sample group will be chosen based on a stratified random selection method-- based on race (150 African American and 150 White inmates). As of August 15, 2005, approximately 200 inmates were recruited (with IRB consent form signatures).

Interaction with Race

According to a review of recent literature in areas of criminal behavior and recidivism, information regarding the effects of life skills and social support networks among formerly convicted individuals is scarce. Some literature supports a notion that life skills development addresses needs of female inmates (Schram and Morash, 2002; Kazura, 2001; and Richie, 2001.) The positive impact of an enhanced social support network is reported by several criminology researchers in recent years (Klein, Bartholomew and Hibbert, 2002; Jacoby and Kozie, 1997 and Slaght, 1999.) Some researchers emphasize the particular importance of social support networks among former female inmates (Parsons and Warner-Robbins, 2002; Dodge and Pogrebin, 2001; O’Brien, 2001; and Harm and Phillips, 2001.) The literature review found no specific information regarding the potential interaction between race and the impact of life skill development on recidivism. A literature on recidivism notes that various aspects of social support networks may act as protective factors for Whites, but not for African-American (Havassy et al., 1995).

However, it is a well-known factor that contextual variables (representing social environmental factors) tend to be significantly different between African American and White adult individuals (e.g., quality of housing, amounts of drug trafficking, rates of home invasion, involvement with CYF, victimization from other offenders, etc.) Thus, specific assessment of the potential interaction effect (by race) will further enhance our understanding of why and how life skill development and enhanced social support networks affect post-release criminal behavior and recidivism.

The project period is from March, 2004 to February, 2007. All selected inmates will be tracked within the 3-year period, with total of three measurements—30 days after release from prison and at subsequent 10 to 12-month interval. Evaluation reports on collaboration and service process, former inmate clients’ intermediary achievements, and post-release criminal behavior and recidivism will be reported on annual bases. Following completion of interim evaluation reports (first two annual reports), group discussion (including departmental/bureau representatives, rehabilitation specialists, community based service provider representatives, program administrator and selected offender participant representatives) will be conducted so that the program can delineate and implement service improvement strategies. A final report will be generated at the end of the third year of the study.

Advisory Committee

The advisory committee for this research project includes Alfred Blumstein (Carnegie-Mellon University), Jonathan Caulkins (Carnegie-Mellon University), Calvin Lightfoot (Former Warden, Allegheny County Jail), Martin, Horn (New York Departments of Correction and Probation), Stephen Ingley (American Jail Association), and Nancy LaVigne (Urban Institute, Washington DC). Other invited participant to this committee include Mark Cherna, Erin Dalton, and Ruth Howze (Allegheny County Department of Human Services), Larry Davis, Ralph Bangs, and Misha Zorich (Center on Race and Social Problems, School of Social Work University of Pittsburgh).

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