Giulio Zanella, University of Adelaide - Prison Work and Recidivism

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Melbourne Institute Seminar Series

Title: Prison Work and Recidivism

Abstract: Does employing inmates in prison jobs reduce reincarceration? I investigate this question applying quasi-experimental and structural methods to administrative data on the universe of convicts released from Italian prisons between 2009 and 2012. I find that a standard deviation increase in average annual hours spent in a paid, unskilled prison job (200 hours per year) reduces the reincarceration rate by about 10 percentage points one year of release. This effect persists after three years of release, implying a rate of return on government funds allocated to prison work programs in the order of 50%. Structural estimation of a model formalizing the institutional context and the convict's problem upon release reproduces the quasi-experimental finding and indicates that the "training effect" of prison work (slower depreciation of an inmate's earnings potential during imprisonment) accounts for most of the drop in the reincarceration rate.

Presenter: Giulio Zanella, University of Adelaide

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