The purpose of this research is to test the usefulness of a vocational rehabilitation program
for veterans with a history of felonies who also have a mental illness or have substance
The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BOJS, 2000) reported in 2000 over
225,000 veterans were incarcerated in the nations' criminal facilities; 1 in 5 of these
veterans saw combat during service. Approximately 78,000 veterans annually will be released
from incarceration with 30% of those released from incarceration are re-arrested within 3
months, 44.1% re-arrested at one year, and 67.5% within 3 years. These numbers are higher
with those with serious mental illnesses: 54.3% re-arrest rates at one year and 72% at 3
The living status that many of these veterans with felonies return to is dire. In a survey of
dually diagnosed and mentally ill offenders, 22% of mentally ill offenders and 43% of
mentally ill offenders with substance addiction believed they would be homeless upon release.
Ex-felons often return to more disadvantaged communities where employment is scarce (La
Vigne, Mamalian, Travis, & Visher, 2003). Employers are reluctant to hire those with a
history of incarceration due to biases against ex-offenders or due to legal liability
(Connerley, Arvey, & Bernardy, 2001) or other biases (Holzer, 1996). Overall, employers have
been shown to be less likely to hire ex-convicts than those with little work experience or
those who are receiving welfare benefits (Holtzer, 1996).
The goal of this study is to identify successful vocational re-integration modalities for
mental health and/or substance dependent veterans recently released from incarceration and
those with felony histories. Specific Goals are 1) test time to employment between manual
conditions; 2) test total time employed over the 12 months following training period; and 3)
test economic impact between manual conditions The study will be a controlled 3 group
randomized design. The independent variable will be the amount of vocational services
received. Veterans will be randomly assigned to one of three conditions: 1) Basic vocational
services but no manualized vocational program; 2) self-study of the manualized program; and
3) a full program consisting of the manualized program with vocational staff and peer
vocational support specialists. All veterans enrolled in the study will have access to a
Veteran's Employment Resource Center to provide infrastructure for job search.
Three primary dependent variables will be used. The first is the time till employment. The
second is the total time employed during the 12 months following training. The third will be
the economic impact of the training through differences in services required (e.g. emergency
room visits, food stamps, cost of shelters, costs of rearrests) and income earned. Type of
job skills, job history, and time incarcerated are some of the variables that potentially
will be statistically controlled.
- underemployed or unemployed
- has a mental health or substance dependence diagnosis
- desires to enter the workforce through competitive employment.
- History of at least one felony conviction
Emphasis will be placed on returning OEF/OIF veterans, combat veterans, and women veterans.
Veterans entering the study can be recruited regardless of living situation.
- pursuing disability benefits due to unemployability
- diagnosis of dementia or evidence of severe cognitive impairment
- impaired reality testing due to psychosis
- actively suicidal or homicidal.