THE EFFECTIVENESS OF SERVICE WORK: AN
ANALYSIS OF RECIDIVISM
Ronit Nirel (1) Simha F. Landau(2) Leslie Sebba(2) and
(1) Statistics Department
(2) Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.
The Israeli "Service Work'' law of 1987, enables a court to
commute prison sentences of up to six months to service work in the community. This paper
examines the correctional effectiveness of this new sanction by comparing the rate of
recidivism (over a period of 14 months) among 407 offenders sentenced to service work to
that of 950 comparable offenders sentenced to imprisonment.
As the research design is quasi-experimental, an adjustment for confounders is carried out
using the propensity score (PS) methodology. The estimation of the odds ratio of
recidivism with respect to sanction comprises two steps: (a) the PS, which is the
conditional probability of assignment to a particular sanction given a set of confounders,
is estimated by a logistic model; and (b) the conditional probability of recidivism, given
the PS and other covariates, is estimated by a second model.
The findings indicate that before an adjustment for the systematic differences between the
two sanctions was carried out, the odds for recidivism among prisoners were 2.4 times
higher than the odds for service workers. After the adjustment, the odds ratio was reduced
to 1.7. This estimate indicates that the
service work sanction has a considerable correctional effect. The need to address
additional criteria for the effectiveness of service work (e.g., net-widening) is
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