PROJECTWhat Works in Reentry Clearinghouse


A component of the National Reentry Resource Center, the What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse was created to help reentry policymakers and practitioners identify and understand evidence-based practices and to integrate these practices into reentry efforts by answering the question, What works? The clearinghouse offers online access to important research on the effectiveness of various reentry programs, synthesizes quality research on the effectiveness of different reentry interventions, and uses a ratings system to help visitors make thumbnail assessments on the effectiveness of a given program or practice. Each study included in the clearinghouse is reviewed, summarized, and synthesized by Urban Institute researchers.

Key Findings by Topic

Substance abuse

  • Based on 16 rigorous studies, in-prison therapeutic communities tend to reduce substance abuse recidivism.

  • In-prison therapeutic communities are most effective when they are gender responsive. Studies indicate that gender-responsive therapeutic community treatment significantly improves reentry outcomes for women, while non-gender-responsive therapeutic communities have little to no effect for women.

  • Although mixed, findings from three studies of residential programs for DUI offenders found that such programs can reduce alcohol use and recidivism.


  • Rigorous studies examining the effects of educational programs on reentry outcomes provide mixed evidence about the effectiveness of such programs.

  • Two studies found that postsecondary education programs reduce recidivism; another found that adult basic education may increase employment rates. However, two studies of GED programs did not find statistically significant effects on postrelease outcomes.

  • Evidence on the effectiveness of vocational training programs is mixed, with one study showing positive effects on postrelease outcomes and three studies showing no effects or harmful effects. 


  • Two rigorous studies of the effects of visitation on reentry outcomes suggest that prisons can reduce recidivism by enacting policies that promote visitation by friends and family members.

  • Most studies evaluating the effectiveness of family-based programs for individuals returning from incarceration do not measure postrelease outcomes such as recidivism or employment. Of those that do evaluate postrelease outcomes, most are lacking in rigor. 

Research Areas Crime, justice, and safety
Tags Reentry
Policy Centers Justice Policy Center