Temporary Absences From Prison in Canada Reduce Unemployment and Reoffending: Evidence for Dosage Effects From an Exploratory Study

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Abstract

Temporary absences (TAs) from prison are intended to assist gradual reintegration. TAs can be either escorted (ETA) or unescorted (UTA). This exploratory study examined who received TAs, ETAs, and UTAs in Canadian federal prisons and the impact of these absences on community outcomes. The sample included 27,098 offenders released to the community between April 1, 2005 and March 31, 2011. Propensity scores for receiving TAs were used to control for group differences in outcome analyses. Participation rates were 22% for ETAs and 4% for UTAs. The strongest predictor was sentence length: Offenders with longer prison sentences were more likely to receive TAs. Other key predictors included moderate risk, higher motivation level, and fewer problems with institutional adjustment and on prior periods of community supervision. Participation was related to significantly lower levels of unemployment, returns to custody for any reason, and returns to custody for a new offense. Furthermore, a significant dosage effect was found for all TAs and ETAs: The more TAs the offender received, the less likely they were to return a custody. Absences from prison play an important role in gradual reintegration to the community, and the more the offenders participate in, the better the outcomes.

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