The effectiveness of service work: An analysis of recidivism

Ronit Nirel*, Simha F. Landau, Leslie Sebba, Bilha Sagiv

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The Israeli "service work" law of 1987 enables a court to commute prison sentences of up to 6 months to service work in the community. This paper examines the correctional effectiveness of this new sanction by comparing the rate of recidivism (over a period of 14 months) among 407 offenders sentenced to service work to that of 950 comparable offenders sentenced to imprisonment. As the research design is quasi-experimental, an adjustment for confounders is carried out using the propensity score (PS) methodology. The estimation of the odds ratio of recidivism with respect to sanction comprises two steps: (a) the PS, which is the conditional probability of assignment to a particular sanction given a set of confounders, is estimated by a logistic model; and (b) the conditional probability of recidivism, given the PS and other covariates, is estimated by a second model. The findings indicate that before an adjustment for the systematic differences between the two sanctions was carried out, the odds for recidivism among prisoners were 2.4 times higher than the odds for service workers. After the adjustment, the odds ratio was reduced to 1.7. This estimate indicates that the service work sanction has a considerable correctional effect. The need to address additional criteria for the effectiveness of service work (e.g., net-widening) is emphasized.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)73-92
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Quantitative Criminology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The present analysis is a continuation of a project supported by the Israel Ministry of Police. The additional analysis was performed with the assistance of the Law Faculty and of the Wexler Fund. The authors wish to thank the Chief Scientist of the Ministry, Professor Israel Barak, and the project monitor, Ms. Idit Hakimi, for their continued support throughout the course of the project. Thanks are also due to Ms. Havi Murad and Ms. Natalia Zibel for their assistance in the statistical analysis.


  • Community sanction
  • Correctional effectiveness
  • Israel
  • Observational study
  • Propensity score


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