New York based employment program helps ex-prisoners transition successfully

Monday, February 6, 2012
Contact: Kenneth J. Wolfe
(202) 401-9215

 The Center for Employment Opportunities  (CEO) Transitional Jobs program significantly reduces recidivism according to a report released by HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Ex-prisoners who had access to CEO’s services were less likely to be convicted of a crime and re-incarcerated. The reductions were particularly large for those ex-prisoners who enrolled in the program shortly after release; they experienced reductions in recidivism up to 26 percent.

“It’s a challenge for ex-prisoners to gain employment and transition back into society successfully after being released from prison,” said George Sheldon, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families. “The CEO program paves the way for those individuals during the most critical weeks following their release, helping them change their behavior patterns in order to live a stable, productive life.”

Based in New York City, 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 return to prison. The recidivism reductions mean that the program is cost-effective — generating between $1.26 and $3.85 in benefits per $1 of cost.

The study uses a rigorous random assignment design: it compares outcomes for individuals assigned to the program group with those who were in a control group. The program group had access to CEO’s jobs and other services, including pre-employment life skills classes, transitional job placement, job coaching, job development, a responsible fatherhood program, and post job placement services. Those in the control group were offered basic job search assistance at CEO along with services generally available in the community.

The three-year final evaluation results found that CEO substantially increased employment early in the follow-up period but that the effects faded over time. The initial increase in employment was due to the temporary jobs provided by the program. Among the subgroup who were recently released, program group members were significantly less likely than control group members to be arrested (49 percent, compared with 59 percent); convicted of a crime (44 percent, compared with 57 percent); or incarcerated (60 percent, compared with 71 percent). Rates of recidivism in the first year were 12 percentage points lower for this program subgroup than for the control group (35 percent, compared with 47 percent); this impact represents a 26 percent reduction in recidivism.

“These results are notable because very few reentry initiatives have been subjected to this type of rigorous evaluation, and, even among those that have, fewer still have produced consistent reductions in recidivism,” said Dan Bloom, director of MDRC’s Health and Barriers to Employment Policy Area. “The study shows that reentry programming can be a good investment for taxpayers. Efforts to extend, confirm, and improve upon these results are now underway.”

The program was evaluated by MDRC, a non-profit, non-partisan education and social policy research organization, based in New York City and Oakland, CA. For more information or to view the full CEO report, please visit the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.


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