Does Occupational Training for Offenders Reduce Crime?


Prison Work Program Rated “No Effects” 

Minnesota’s Affordable Homes Program is a prison work program designed to increase the availability of affordable low-income housing while training inmates in the construction industry. The program is rated “No Effects” through the US Department of Justice’s Crime Solutions database. While the program did show some significant effects on participants gaining employment in the construction field, there were no significant effect on other postrelease employment, rearrests for new offenses, felony reconvictions, or new crime reincarceration.

Program Goals

The Minnesota Department of Corrections (MDOC) manages the Affordable Homes Program (AHP), a prison work crew program that trains prisoners in construction, building, and remodeling low-income homes, while they serve time. Established in 1998, AHP was designed to increase affordable low-income housing in Minnesota while providing prisoners with occupational skills and positive work habits to help secure employment after their release from prison.

Target Population

To be eligible for AHP, prisoners must a) be minimum security; b) have no outstanding misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony charges; c) have made no escape attempts in the last 5 years; d) have no history of sexual offenses; e) have no discipline violation in the last 6 months resulting in segregation or extended incarceration; f) pose no risk to the community; g) have a positive attitude; and h) be physically capable of performing the work.

Program Activities

AHP provides hands-on field training designed to help prisoners find employment in the construction industry after their release from prison. Work crews are made up of up to 10 prisoners who are housed in local correctional facilities, such as county jails, in order to be more accessible to the community that they work in.

Prisoners work four 10-hour days a week under the supervision of an MDOC employee who is a master tradesman. Each crew is supplied with a van for transportation and a trailer for their tools. Prisoners are paid an hourly wage that varies from $1.00 to $1.50 and is used to pay restitution, for release money, or is saved in an account until the prisoner is released.

Evaluation Outcomes

Overall, Bohmert and Duwe (2012) found that the Minnesota Affordable Homes Program (AHP) had some significant effect on program participants’ likelihood of gaining employment in the construction field following release from prison. But there were no significant effects on gaining employment in other fields, nor on measures of rearrests, reconvictions, and reincarceration following release from prison. Overall, the preponderance of evidence suggests the program did not have an impact on participants.

Postrelease Employment

The results showed that participants of the AHP were 2.41 times more likely to gain employment in the construction field compared with the comparison group. However, when looking at gaining employment in other fields, there were no significant differences between the AHP participants and the comparison group.

Rearrest for a New Offense

AHP had no significant effect on rearrest for a new offense.

Felony Reconviction

AHP had no significant effect on felony reconviction.

Reincarceration for a New Crime

AHP had no significant effect on reincarceration for either a new crime or a return to prison for any reason.


Note: There is data throughout this site (search “employment”) indicating that training and employment programs reduce future criminality, but not by much. Not all studies (like the one above) show a reduction in recidivism.


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