Can recidivism be prevented from behind bars? Evidence from a behavioral program

Incarcerated offenders are offered a wide range of programs to encourage their chances of successful reintegration into society. Little is known, however, about the degree to which such programs improve prisoners’ reentry. In this paper, I study the effects of a cognitive-behavioral program implemented in Quebec, Canada, with a rich micro-level dataset. To manage the econometric issue of inmates’ self-selection into the program, I exploit inmates’ random assignment to probation officers who exhibit varying propensities to recommend the rehabilitation measure. I find large, negative, and significant effects of the program on recidivism, as measured by an inmate’s probability of serving a subsequent sentence: within one year following release, the
program reduces recidivism by up to 18 percentage points. Moreover, the program is shown to decrease the number of future offenses. Further analyses indicate that the most plausible mechanism can be attributed to the program’s success in altering offenders’ preferences towards crime.

Author: William, Arbour
Volume: 2021.07
Publisher: INFER
Year: 2021
No. of pages: 52
Working papers