Recidivism Reduction


Focus Areas

  • Criminal Justice
  • Education

“Evidence suggests we have to do more to help this population of students increase their independence and reach their fullest potential. Our ability to intervene and establish the value of individuals by creating a solution that will release our students from poverty is why we created the Recidivism Reduction program.”

Lakia Osborne, The Excel Center Regional Director, Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana

The Issue

Education is powerful, but Indiana has a high school dropout problem. In 2020, 22% of Indiana students did not finish high school on time. And those who don’t complete high school have significantly worse labor outcomes than their peers. Young adults with a high school diploma earn about 77% more than those without.

It’s not unusual for adults who dropped out of school as teenagers to seek out a second chance to earn their diploma. But adult learners have unique needs, often balancing school with otherwise busy lives that include full-time work, managing a household, and caring for children. 

Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana created a solution that meets these adult learners where they are. The Excel Center is a tuition-free, public charter high school tailor-made to help adult learners complete their state-certified high school diploma. And the special support that Excel Center schools provide pays big dividends. LEO’s study of The Excel Center model in Indiana found that graduates are more likely to be employed, enroll in post-secondary school, and earn more than their peers who didn’t complete.

Yet among the evidence of the success of their model, the Excel Center team noticed a particular group lagging behind. Students with a history of criminal justice involvement weren’t experiencing the same education and employment boosts. Nationally, more than two-thirds of people released from incarceration are rearrested within three years and half are reincarcerated. This trend means that many Excel Center students and graduates with a history of criminal justice involvement are unable to fully capture the benefit of a high school diploma.

And they are the ones who perhaps need it the most. Finding employment with a criminal record is daunting, especially for the quarter of formerly incarcerated people who hold no high school diploma. Education that can lead towards steady employment is a big part of a person’s reintegration into full community life after incarceration. 

Schools like the Excel Center, already designed to meet the unique needs of individual students, might hold the key. Can special programming for justice-involved students help them overcome the barriers standing between them and a diploma, chart a new path forward, and disrupt the cycle of recidivism that keeps so many in poverty

The Intervention

The Goodwill Excel Center of Central & Southern Indiana is taking on this challenge with its Recidivism Reduction program specifically designed to support students with a history of criminal justice involvement. Each student in the program is paired with a Goodwill Guide, a mentor to help them prepare for and find employment, explore the possibility of expungement, and navigate the challenges of building a life post-release. Program participants can work with their Guide for up to a year after they graduate. 

Students in the program also take part in regular small group workshops to develop skills and strategies aimed at decreasing their likelihood of recidivism and increasing their ability to gain sustaining employment after graduating from the Excel Center. These workshops provide an additional benefit--giving justice-involved students a supportive network of peers who have walked in their shoes, understand the challenges they face, and are similarly committed to a new path forward.

Research Question

What impact does career and reintegration coaching for justice-involved students have on recidivism rates, educational attainment, and employment?

Intended Outcomes

  • The Excel Center’s Recidivism Reduction program will increase educational attainment for students with a history of involvement in the criminal justice system.
  • Students in the program will have reduced recidivism rates and increased earnings, employment, and credit scores.

Research Study Design

LEO’s study of The Excel Center’s Recidivism Reduction program is a randomized controlled trial (RCT). Students enrolled at The Excel Center who have reached a 10th-grade equivalency and have a history of criminal justice involvement are eligible for the program. 

Because the program does not have the capacity to serve every eligible and interested student, a lottery is used to determine who receives services. Students who are randomly chosen to receive services are enrolled in the Recidivism Reduction program and become part of the treatment group. Students not randomly chosen for services become part of the control group and still have access to The Excel Center’s typical suite of services. 

At the conclusion of the study, LEO’s research team will compare outcomes for both groups to understand how the Recidivism Reduction program impacts students’ recidivism rates, earnings, and employment