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Marcella Alsan, Arkey Barnett, Peter Hull et al., Something Works in U.S. Jails: Misconduct and Recidivism Effects of the IGNITE Program, National Bureau of Economics Research Economics of Crime Working Group Meeting, Spring 2024 (Feb. 1, 2024).

Abstract: A longstanding and influential view in U.S. correctional policy is that "nothing works" when it comes to rehabilitating incarcerated individuals. We re-examine this hypothesis by studying an innovative law-enforcement-led program recently launched in the county jail of Flint, Michigan: Inmate Growth Naturally and Intentionally Through Education (IGNITE). We develop a new instrumental variable approach to estimate the effects of IGNITE exposure, leveraging quasi-random court delays that cause individuals to spend more time in jail both before and after the program's launch. We find that IGNITE exposure dramatically reduces both within-jail misconduct and post-release recidivism. Qualitative evidence suggests a cultural change within the jail as a key mechanism.