Pay for Success Feasibility Assessment of Expanding the Virginia Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Program (VASAVOR) in Fairfax County, Virginia

This report is a Pay for Success (PFS) feasibility assessment of expanding the Virginia Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Program (VASAVOR) in Fairfax County, Virginia. The University of Virginia Pay for Success Lab (PFS Lab) performed substantive research and stakeholder engagement from August to December 2016 on this topic. Pay for Success is a performance-based structure that drives financial resources towards serving local needs and measurably improving lives. The VASAVOR program, as designed, has many components that establish potential for an effective re-entry program for serious and violent offenders. However, for the various reasons described in this report, the PFS Lab does not recommend expanding the program with a PFS framework in Fairfax County, Virginia at this time.

Through PFS, an investor funds a policy solution while an end payor, such as a state or local government, agrees to repay the investment based upon successful outcome achievement. PFS generates social value and monetary savings to government, allows community-oriented organizations to pay for tangible and valuable outcomes, and transfers risk of outcome achievement to external funders. The PFS Lab works with local stakeholders during Project Exploration and Project Development stages to determine whether PFS will benefit their communities. The purpose of Project Exploration stage is to identify a public issue that is a priority for the community to address, research the social and financial benefits that an intervention could provide, and engage with local stakeholders to develop a results-based policy solution.

The VASAVOR Program is a partnership between the Virginia Department of Corrections, the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Service Board, OAR of Fairfax, and the Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board (SkillSource Group). The program seeks to meet the variety of needs that serious and violent offenders face when they return to society, usually after extended sentences in prison. According to OAR Fairfax's 2015 Annual Report, the VASAVOR program served 68 clients in FY15, including 27 new intakes.

To begin our research, we reviewed the existing literature on the effectiveness of anti-recidivism and re-entry programs in Fairfax County. We also compiled information on the macroeconomic factors in the area, current service providers, the background on recidivism rates in the county, state, and country, and analyzed trends in demographics in the Adult Detention Center (ADC) in Fairfax, VA. In addition, we interviewed numerous stakeholders in order to understand the barriers to reducing recidivism rates.

The existing literature demonstrates that programs beginning during incarceration and continuing after release are generally most effective at reducing recidivism.[1] While VASAVOR is designed to follow this model, offenders often only begin services after they have been released into the community. In addition, evidence-based practice suggests that anti-recidivism programs should directly address criminogenic risk. While VASAVOR offers many services, they focus more on drug treatment and employment rather than addressing antisocial behavior or criminal mindset.

The PFS Lab recommends that if VASAVOR is to expand, it must consistently begin services while offenders are incarcerated, continue assistance through release, and address criminogenic risk directly. The program should collaborate with additional property owners who are willing to lease to prior offenders because housing is critical to reducing recidivism. Lastly, VASAVOR should regularly evaluate key outcomes of its program participants such as one and three year recidivism rates and employment stability.

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The PFS Lab thanks all individuals and organizations who contributed to this report.

[1] Ndrecka, M. (2016). The impact of reentry programs on recidivism: a meta-analysis (Doctoral dissertation).