The Department of Justice (DoJ) issues “Second Chance” grants to help nonprofits and state and local agencies to deliver services, with grantees reporting data to DoJ. However, DoJ hasn’t noted factors that could have influenced participants’ successes or conclusions to justify budgets, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Second Chance grants, issued by DoJ, help nonprofits and agencies deliver services such as employment and housing assistance to individuals reentering society after serving prison time. Grantees reported data to DoJ in the GAO report — like how many program participants found employment and housing.

DoJ then publishes the data to “highlight program successes and justify budgets, but didn’t note other factors that could have influenced participants’ success or what conclusions, if any, can be drawn about program effectiveness from the data.”

From fiscal years 2019 to 2020, DoJ awarded $136 million in these grants, equating to 144 grants being awarded to entities assisting individuals reenter society after serving their prison sentence.

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“DoJ has two approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of the reentry grants on individuals’ success at reentering the community and avoiding recidivism,” GAO wrote. “First, DoJ is funding an evaluation designed to provide evidence of the effectiveness of three selected grantees. Second, some grantees are required to evaluate their programs, and others may choose to do so.”

According to DoJ, these evaluations are due following the end of the grant period, and it is too soon to know if these evaluations will show regarding grant effectiveness. Grantees are required to submit performance data to DoJ, with the agency publishing the data in fact sheets reviewed by GAO.

DoJ, though, did not identify limitations of the data or discuss conclusions that could or could not be drawn from the data in the products.

GAO recommends that DoJ “ensure products that include Second Chance Reauthorization Act performance data clearly identify the limitations of those data.” DoJ concurred with the recommendation.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.