Developing employment services for criminal justice clients enrolled in drug use treatment programs

Authors: Kendall, E., Muenchberger, H., & Gee, T.
Year Published 2004
Publication Substance Use and Misuse
Volume 39
Number 13
Pages 2491-2511
Publisher Informa Healthcare

Employment is a critical issue in assisting parolees in reintegrating into their communities. However, departments are not typically structured to provide employment services. In addition, parolees often have inadequate work histories or skills to obtain quality employment. Alcohol and drug use and misuse can complicate employment pursuits further. Substance abuse is highly prevalent among offenders, and the research suggests that a substantial majority use illicit drugs.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of four vocational approaches on employment outcomes. The four approaches included (1) job skill development and supported employment, (2) life skill development, (3) job training, and (4) welfare-to-work.


The study was conducted in multiple licensed substance abuse treatment centers in the city of Philadelphia, PA.


The study sample consisted of 245 formerly incarcerated individuals receiving substance abuse treatment.

Data Collection

Programmatic records were reviewed for each of the four interventions for program completion and employment outcomes. In addition, a 12-month follow-up was conducted of 36 consecutive admissions to the Job Skills Development and Supported Employment Program.


There were no separate control or comparison groups. Individuals served as their own controls.


Of the 245 clients, 191 (77.9%) completed their respective program and 134 (54.6%) secured external competitive employment. Sixty percent of those employed following completion of the Job Skills Development and Supported Employment Program received health benefits, and 100% of those who were employed following completion of Job Training had health benefits.

The 12-month follow-up found that 50% of the sample had completed the program and 25% were employed at the time of contact. Parole violations or re-incarcerations were reported for 32% of the sample. Employment rates were significantly higher for those who completed the program.


The four projects show promise for formerly incarcerated clients receiving substance abuse treatment. However, the lack of a consistent funding stream to maintain vocational services is an impediment for expanding services to all offenders. The short duration of various grants limited opportunities to develop a comprehensive system.

Outcomes Employment acquisition
Research Design Quasi-experimental
Peer Reviewed Yes