Provide Post Release Employment Services
Post-release employment services connect individual offenders, who were trained in Correctional Industries, to long-term employment. Offenders should be engaged in activities in order to promote retention, help with re-employment in the event of job loss, and assist with advancement opportunities.
The goal of post-release employment services is ultimately to reduce recidivism. The approach is as follows:
- To increase employment opportunities available to CI trained offenders who are trying to successfully reintegrate and remain crime-free by gaining and retaining employment
- To encourage employers to make individualized determinations about a person’s specific qualifications, including the relevance of a criminal record, rather than having restrictions or bans against hiring people with criminal records.
Research has shown that ex-offenders have a high risk of unemployment and that an association exists between adult offender unemployment and recidivism (Andrews 1995; Bouffard, et al, 2000). Additionally, offenders themselves consider that securing employment is important to maintaining a crime free existence upon release (Visher et al. 2006).
Individuals with criminal records are often considered a subgroup of the hard-to-employ population because felony convictions can create significant barriers to employment. Statutory limitations on accessing particular professions, employer reluctance to hire individuals with criminal records, and logistical issues resulting from the terms of an individual’s release or supervision are often circumstances that these individual face when looking for career choices and employment.
According to a survey of practitioners, conducted by the National Institute of Correction’s Office of Correctional Job Training and Placement, the most significant job retention factors consist of: matching jobs with offenders’ skills and interest; the offender’s level of social and problem solving skills; and the offender having realistic work expectations (2001).
Employment programs such as Correctional Industries are exceptionally well positioned to address risk factors because of the population coming through their door. CI can provide a pro-social environment that counters negative peer influences and the amount of time individuals spend engaged in antisocial activities. Addressing risk-related attitudes and behaviors help keep individuals from returning to prisons and jail, and makes program participants more employable. These mutually reinforcing benefits underscore the value of developing an approach for working with individuals with criminal histories that integrate best practices from the workforce development and corrections fields.
Employment can make a strong contribution to recidivism reduction efforts because it refocuses individuals’ time and efforts on pro-social activities, making them less likely to engage in risky behaviors and to associate with people who do. Having a job enables individuals to contribute income to their families, which can generate more personal support, stronger positive relationships, enhanced self-esteem, and improved mental health. For these reasons, employment is often seen as a gateway to becoming and remaining a law-abiding and contributing member of a community. Employment also has important societal benefits including reduced strain on social service resources, greater contributions to the tax base, and safer, more stable communities.
Sampson and Laub (1993, 2003) emphasize the importance of social bonds in an individual’s desistance from criminal activity. They explain the effect of education or employment on recidivism as a result of developing bonds to conventional norms that lead to attachment and commitment to conventional society. They argue that life events can serve as turning points for changes in offending behavior and lead individuals to desist from criminal activity.
Brand Your Job Placement Program.
Creating a brand will help market your program and objectives. Your brand should focus on dispelling negative stereotypes of ex-offenders with language, images and information that are positive and reassuring.
- Create marketing material to include brochures, videos, business cards, website, etc. Seek testimonials from satisfied businesses, employers and supportive community leaders.
- Present the CI program to civic organizations, Better Business Bureaus, churches, not-for-profits involved with Reentry, and anyone else who will listen.
- Enlist the support of community and faith-based organizations in developing campaigns to promote offender employment.
Market Employment Opportunities for Ex-Offenders Trained through Correctional Industries.
Determine which industries and employers are willing to hire people with criminal records and encourage job development and placement in those sectors. Target all industrial sectors that utilize transferable skills trained through CI.
- Reach out to employers and educate them on financial incentives, (Federal Bonding Program, Work Opportunity Tax Credit, and Welfare to Work. Research State level programs to see if there are any local or state incentives offered in your area.), technical and soft skills provided by CI, and social and financial benefits to the state of reducing recidivism through employment opportunities.
- Assure employers that the goal is to place qualified applicants, not to overwhelm them with non-qualified employees.
- Promote flexible employer decisions about hiring ex-offenders through relaxing company policies rather than implementing blanket bans. Ask employers to pilot the hiring of a limited number of ex-offenders trained by CI. If that is successful, ask them to consider another pilot.
- When recruiting new businesses, focus on smaller companies, as large companies often have stringent employment policies in place and navigating the maze of personnel policies can be difficult.
- Promote the use of work-release programs as a transition between work inside the prison and work in the community.
- Promote post-release hiring with all PIE Partners. Promote PIE partners’ participation in job fairs.
A senior employment specialist stated that “Big companies tend to have higher standards for applicants, a longer hiring process, and greater reluctance to hire ex-offenders than smaller companies.”
Create Meaningful Partnerships.
- Work with Community Corrections to encourage the employment and retention of ex-offenders. Address any internal policies that may discourage employing ex-offenders, such as frequency of workplace visits or the visibility of firearms and search procedures when supervising officers visit parolees in the workplace.
- Establish transitional work programs that include non-profit, volunteer and community service organizations where participants can gain work experience without competing with other potential employees in the community.
Collaborate with local Employment Security Commissions, One-Stop Centers, community colleges, vocational rehabilitation departments, Division of Social Services, Social Security Administration, and/or Workforce Investment Boards.
An example of a partnership with mutually beneficial collaboration is the Offender Workforce Development Partnership Training Program. In this program, multidisciplinary teams are provided with competency-based training and each team is committed to completing an offender workforce development project of benefit to their community. Several OWDS partnership teams were initiated by correctional industries programs and the training was credited with strengthening ties between correctional agencies and their community partners.
- Engage volunteers from the community to act as intermediaries between employers and ex-offenders. Develop volunteers as Mentors and/or Job Coaches who help prepare offenders for the job search - developing a resume, searching for appropriate jobs, completing the application process, and mock interviews. There are many non-profit organizations involved in offender reentry that can provide these valuable services.
Involve the business community in the CI program. This gives the employers more information about a trained workforce and how to access it. This can be accomplished through:
- Inviting employers to speak to offenders, ex-offenders, staff and board members;
- Participating in employer forums, meetings, and events;
- Inviting employers to observe CI operations to see the training first-hand
- Join the local Chamber of Commerce
- Host prison-based career fairs to involve prospective employers. This allows the offenders to learn about the opportunities that exist in particular industries.
Provide Offender Transition Planning.
- Review offender risk/needs assessments.
- Review job placement opportunities for special populations, such as sex offenders, mental health offenders and gang members.
- Develop employment-based transition plan for the offender.
- Work with offenders and transitional partners to facilitate job searches before offenders are released from prison.
- Encourage employers to meet with prospective employees through visits or multi-media conference calls before the offender is released from prison.
- Prior to release, provide the offender with a portfolio documenting his/her skills and experience. Portfolio should also contain all necessary documentation to obtain employment, e.g. copy of social security card, birth certificates, copies of certificates/diplomas earned while incarcerated, etc.
- Ensure offenders have a well written resume prior to release.
- Provide offenders with open letters of introduction or work verification that include specifics on job skills, equipment used, safety and other job related training received.
- Provide offenders with written information about prospective employers or employment service providers upon release from prison.
Review Employment Laws.
- Research employment laws in your state. There are usually a number of laws that govern the employment of people with criminal records.
- Research occupational licensure and certificate requirements to ensure applicants with felony records are not being unfairly excluded from jobs for which they are qualified but are prohibited from working with no justifiable rationale.
- If possible, lobby to eliminate employment laws that adversely affect the employment of people based on criminal history.
- Obtain compliance verification in conjunction with the Department of Corrections or through external sources.
- Workforce Development Assessments
- Security Audits
- Safety and Environmental Audits
- PIE Assessments
- ACA Audits
- Other assessments, i.e. DOL, education, ISO
- Earnings Rates
- Entered Employment (Number of offenders who are employed in the first quarter after release)
- Employment Retention (Number of offenders who are still employed in the second and third quarters after release)
- Increased Earnings
- Job Placement Rates
- Job Retention Rates
- Partnerships Created and Sustained
- Recidivism Rate
26 states have no standards governing the relevance of conviction records of applicants for occupational licenses. That means they can deny licenses based on any criminal conviction, regardless of history, circumstance or business necessity; 25 states do have standards that require a “direct,” “rational,” or “reasonable” relationship between the license sought and the applicant's criminal history.
Only 10 states prohibit all employers and occupational licensing agencies from considering arrests if the arrest did not lead to conviction, and 3 states prohibit some employers and occupational licensing agencies from doing so.
Andrews, D. The Psychology of Criminal Conduct and Effective Treatment. What Works:
Reducing Recidivism, 1995.
Angel, D., Harney, E. (1997). No One is Unemployable: Creative Solutions for Overcoming Barriers for Employment. Pasadena, CA: Worknet Training Services.
Blakely, L. (2010, Oct. 6). Why I Hire Former Convicts and Gang Members. CBSNews.com.
Bushway, Shawn, and Apel, Robert. “A Signaling Perspective on Employment-Based Reentry Programming,” 2012 American Society of Criminology, Criminology & Public Policy, Volume 11, Issue 1.
Bushway, S., and P. Reuter. “Labor Markets and Crime Risk Factors” Chapter 6 in L.S. Sherman, D. Gottfredson, D. MacKenzie, J. Eck, P. Reuter, and S. Bushway, Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 1997), pp. 6–17.
Council of State Government’s Justice Center. (2013). Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies: Reducing Recidivism and Promoting Job Readiness
Houston, M., ‘A Report from the Office of Correctional Job Training and Placement, National Institute of Corrections, 2001.
Latessa, E. (2012). Why Work is Important and How to Improve the Effectiveness of Correctional Reentry Programs That Target Employment. American Society of Criminology, Criminology & Public Policy, 11 (1).
Menon, R., C. Blakely, D. Carmichael, L. Silver. An Evaluation of Project RIO Outcomes: An Evaluative Report. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University, Public Policy Resources Laboratory.
Rollo, N. (1988) Ninety-Nine Days and a Wake Up: A Post Release (2nd Ed.). Garland, TX: Open, Inc.
Taylor, P. Elizabeth (2010). Employment Retention: A Question of Public Safety. Corrections Today. American Correctional Association.
National H.I.R.E. Network
Conference Board. Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce.
Re-entry Myth Busters
After Prison: Roadblocks to Reentry
National Institute of Justice/National Institute of Corrections – Office of Correctional Education Successful Job Placement for Ex-Offenders: The Center for Employment Opportunities
One Stop Career Centers. Call toll-free 1-877-US2-JOBS (1-877-872-5627)
The National Institute of Corrections’ Office of Correctional Job Training and Placement (OCJTP) was created in March 1995 to cooperate with and coordinate the efforts of other Federal agencies in the areas of job training and placement; collect and disseminate information on offender job training and placement programs, accomplishments, and employment outcomes; provide training to develop staff competencies in working with offenders and ex-offenders; and provide technical assistance to State and local training and employment agencies.
Labor Market Information
Given the rapidly changing nature of the job market, correctional industry directors must have an understanding of labor market information, and know how to access and use Labor Market (LMI) resources in support of their program’s objectives. LMI is essential for identifying industries in demand and developing relationships with employers. While LMI is very useful, it is extremely perishable. What was true yesterday may not be true today. Labor Market Information Worksheet developed by the National Institute of Correction website provides step-by-step guidance with links to relevant websites.
Funded by the Second Chance Act of 2008, and launched by the Council of State Governments Justice Center in 2009, the National Reentry Resource Center provides education, training, and technical assistance to states, tribes, territories, local governments, service providers, non-profit organizations, and corrections institutions.
One-Stop Career Centers provide a variety of no-cost services to job-seekers which are intended to prepare them for the world of work; find suitable job openings; increase occupational skills; increase earnings; and promote job retention. The centers providecore services which are intended to help persons become employed as quickly as possible. These include job search and placement assistance and labor market information. For those who are unable to find a job through core services or need additional help to become self-sustaining, the centers provide intensive services such as counseling and career planning, comprehensive assessments, and development of individual employment plans. Centers also provide support services such as transportation, childcare, house and needs related payments.
Jist Publishing has a selection of books and videos on career and job search topics.
Federal Bonding Program
Work Opportunity Tax Credit
Goodwill Industries Job Placement Information
Excellent website to purchase books and pamphlets directed at Offender Reentry
U.S. Department of Justice. 2010. Career Resource Centers: An Emerging Strategy of Improving Offender Employment Outcomes. Washington, DC: National Institute of Corrections.
U.S. Department of Justice. 2010. How to Build Partnerships with Employers and Market Offender Workforce Development Initiatives. Washington, DC: National Institute of Corrections.
U.S. Department of Labor. Veterans Incarcerated Workbook. Washington, DC: Veterans’ Employment and Training Service/Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program.
CI Models that have Data to Support Success
Utah’s Employment Placement Project
NC Correction Enterprises Hidden Workforce Project
View Video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiHUF6Ue-U0
California Prison Industry Authority
Washington State CI R.I.T.E. Program