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Breaking the Recidivism Cycle: Pathways to Employment after Prison

Jobs/ Employment

Guest blogger Earl Johnson is the Director of the Office of Family Assistance at ACF.

Image of open hand cuffs.The statistics on recidivism are alarming. According to the 2006 national study, Confronting Confinement: a Report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons indicates that 67 percent of former prisoners are rearrested and that 52 percent are re-incarcerated within three years of their release.

When the head of the household ends up in prison, the whole family suffers. Things might not get better when the breadwinner is released, because it’s tough to find a job in a slow economy if you have a record. So the vicious cycle of imprisonment, release, unemployment, and re-arrest remains unbroken.

Right now, the United States spends more than $60 billion dollars per year on corrections.  Approximately 700,000 prisoners are released from state and federal prison each year.  It certainly makes more sense to prepare them for productive careers than to wait for them to reoffend and once again burden the overcrowded prison system.

As indicated in a study funded by OPRE, New York City’s Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) Transitional Jobs program seems to have found an approach that may provide a positive alternative.

CEO is a comprehensive employment program for ex-prisoners who are returning to the community. The program provides temporary, paid jobs and other services in an effort to improve participants’ labor market prospects and reduce the odds that they will go back to prison.

The OPRE study showed that ex-prisoners who had access to CEO’s services were less likely to be convicted of a crime and reincarcerated. The reductions were particularly large for those who enrolled in the program shortly after release; in this group, the recidivism rate dropped by as much as 26 percent.  

Further, the study showed, the program is cost effective generating between $1.26 and $3.85 in benefits per $1 of cost.

Bottom line: CEO’s reentry program appears to demonstrate promising results for taxpayers and may likely be a boon for men and women seeking a better future.

For more information on the program and the studies referenced in this blog, click on the links provided above.







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