Our evaluation of the Returning Citizens Stimulus initiative is the first study of a conditional cash transfer program specifically designed to serve people in reentry from incarceration.

CEO, with funding from Blue Meridian Partners on behalf of the Justice and Mobility Fund, engaged MDRC to conduct an evaluation of the RCS program. MDRC conducted this evaluation of the RCS program using a mixed-methods approach.

The report presents results from an analysis of the program’s implementation and describes the reentry experiences and outcomes of participants in the five months after enrollment.

These analyses rely on program records, in-depth interviews with participants and staff, and participant surveys conducted approximately two and five months after enrollment in RCS. While the evaluation focuses on the implementation of RCS in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the findings are relevant more broadly, as the program represents a potential model for assisting returning citizens during the difficult reentry period even after the pandemic has subsided.

Key Findings

RCS was launched on a large scale with almost no time for planning. Nevertheless, the program operated relatively smoothly overall, a notable achievement, particularly in the context of the pandemic.

A large majority of RCS participants reached the required milestones and received three payments. This fact means that most participants were connected to employment and financial support services as a result of the program’s milestone structure.

Participants reported that the RCS program helped them feel some level of financial stability in the period following incarceration. Most said that they spent the RCS funds on essential expenses such as rent, groceries, and clothing, and on personal care to prepare themselves for employment.

    The findings presented in this report suggest that RCS may provide a promising model for smoothing reentry from incarceration, and that more research is warranted. The program was implemented well and on a large scale very quickly, with individuals enrolled in large numbers and in varied contexts.

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