The Effects of Intensive Postrelease Correctional Supervision on Recidivism: A Natural Experiment

Published date01 August 2021
Date01 August 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2021, Vol. 32(7) 740 –763
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0887403421998430
The Effects of Intensive
Postrelease Correctional
Supervision on Recidivism:
A Natural Experiment
Grant Duwe1 and Susan McNeeley1
In July 2018, the Minnesota Department of Corrections revised the criteria it uses
to place soon-to-be-released prisoners on intensive supervision by shifting from
mostly offense-based conditions to those based exclusively on risk. In doing so,
this policy change provided a unique opportunity to evaluate not only the impact
of intensive supervision on recidivism but also whether risk-based policies lead to
better outcomes. Using Cox regression and negative binomial regression on a sample
of 1,818 persons released in 2018, we found that intensive supervised release (ISR)
significantly reduced the hazard for general, felony, and violent reoffending. We
also found, however, that ISR significantly increased the risk of a technical violation
revocation. The findings from our cost–benefit analysis showed that, despite the
relatively high costs it incurred, ISR was a cost-effective intervention because it
reduced reoffending for those with a higher risk of committing serious, violent crimes.
intensive supervision, recidivism, parole, risk
Since the 1980s, intensive supervision programs have become popular, as they are
believed to reduce prison populations while, at the same time, meting out punishment
and ensuring public safety. Only a handful of studies have evaluated intensive super-
vision programs, and even fewer have specifically examined intensive supervised
release (ISR) designed for persons leaving prison. While a few studies suggest
1Minnesota Department of Corrections, St. Paul, USA
Corresponding Author:
Grant Duwe, Research Director, Minnesota Department of Corrections, 1450 Energy Park Drive,
Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA.
998430CJPXXX10.1177/0887403421998430Criminal Justice Policy ReviewDuwe and McNeeley
Duwe and McNeeley 741
intensive supervision can be more effective than standard supervision (DeVall et al.,
2017; Jalbert et al., 2010; Lowenkamp et al., 2010; Veysey et al., 2014), most find no
difference in reoffending based on supervision type (Deschenes et al., 1995; Erwin,
1986; Gendreau et al., 2000; Hyatt & Barnes, 2017; Nath et al., 1976; Petersilia &
Turner, 1990; Turner et al., 1992).
The Minnesota Department of Corrections (MnDOC) began offering ISR in 1990
as directed by the Minnesota Legislature. The statute identifies four goals of intensive
supervision in Minnesota: to punish those released from prison, to protect the safety
of the public, to facilitate the employment of the released prisoner, and to require the
payment of restitution to the victim(s) of the released prisoner’s crime. Prior to July
2018, ISR placement was based primarily on factors relating to offense type and risk
level. In July 2018, the MnDOC adopted criteria for ISR assignment that are based
entirely on recidivism risk. Since that time, ISR placement has been reserved for
persons whose risk for violent recidivism places them in the top 15%. In particular,
ISR assignment is based on the Minnesota Screening Tool Assessing Recidivism Risk
2.0 (MnSTARR 2.0), which predicts recidivism within a 3-year follow-up period, and
the Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool-4 (MnSOST-4), which predicts sex
offense recidivism within a 4-year follow-up period—both of which have been devel-
oped and validated on samples of Minnesota prisoners (Duwe, 2014a, 2019a; Duwe
& Rocque, 2017).
The change in ISR policy represents a natural experiment that provides a unique
opportunity to examine the effects of ISR relative to standard supervision. Since July
2018, there have been Minnesota prisoners released to standard supervision who, prior
to July 2018, would have been placed on ISR. Likewise, there are also prisoners released
to ISR since July 2018 who would have been placed on standard supervision before
July 2018. This policy change thus provides a compelling counterfactual that we use to
estimate what would likely happen to released prisoners in the absence of ISR.
To evaluate the effectiveness of intensive supervision, we examine 12-month recid-
ivism outcomes for those released from Minnesota prisons in 2018—6 months before
and after the policy change. Of the 7,857 prisoners released in 2018, there were 1,818
releases who met either the pre-July 2018 ISR criteria or the post-July 2018 criteria.
Using Cox regression and negative binomial regression on the 1,818 releases, we iso-
lated the impact of ISR on recidivism by controlling for known risk factors of reoff-
ending. Furthermore, to determine whether ISR is a cost-effective intervention, we
carried out a cost–benefit analysis. By evaluating the effects of ISR, the results add to
the scant literature on the effectiveness of intensive supervision programs, especially
those designed for people re-entering the community. Moreover, the findings further
inform policy and practice related to ISR and intensive supervision more broadly.
Prior Research on Community Supervision
Effectiveness of Intensive Community Supervision
Much of the research on intensive supervision has focused on probation, or has com-
bined probation and parole. Studies evaluating intensive supervision as an alternative

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