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Replication Validation of the Employment Retention Inventory: An Assessment Tool of the National Institute of Corrections

This report summarizes findings from the Urban Institute’s replication validation of the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Employment Retention Inventory (ERI). This study was conducted under NIC Cooperative Agreement Award 16CS04GKU7 to determine the ERI’s ability to identify workforce detachment risks for employed and unemployed justice-involved populations in Indiana, New York, and Massachusetts. This study also examined practitioners’ use of the ERI in diverse community correctional settings.

From June 2017 to July 2018, 185 employed and 148 unemployed people participated in the study, completing the ERI during check-in meetings with NIC-trained Employment Retention Specialists. Most study participants were living in the community under probation or parole supervision or with a history of justice involvement; others were incarcerated in state prison. ERI baseline responses were quantitatively compared with employment outcomes approximately 3 to 6 months later for all participants. The relationship between employment and recidivism was also examined. Qualitative interviews with ERI-trained professionals provided insight into the instrument’s use in practice

Items in the ERI showed strong content and construct validity, meaning the tool conceptually covered the key domains related to employment retention, particularly for community-based participants. Predictive validity analyses demonstrated that the ERI yielded “good” and “excellent” performance ratings in predicting unemployment 3 to 6 months later for those in community settings. Analyses of the ERI’s validity for incarcerated participants were insufficient due to small sample sizes. For all participants, bivariate analyses supported a linkage between employment experiences and recidivism. ERI practitioners expressed that the instrument had strong utility and potential for their work.

Overall, validation analyses coupled with practitioners’ feedback suggests that the ERI, when implemented with motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral techniques learned through NIC’s Employment Retention Specialist training, could be a useful case management tool for community correctional populations.