Post-release employment services connect incarcerated individuals who were trained in Correctional Industries (CI) to long-term employment. While working with CI, incarcerated individuals have the opportunity to be engaged in activities in order to promote retention, help with re-employment in the event of job loss, and assist with advancement opportunities after release.
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 individuals 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 previously incarcerated individuals have a high risk of unemployment and that an association exists between adult incarceration, unemployment, and recidivism (Andrews 1995; Bouffard, et al, 2000). Additionally, incarcerated individuals themselves consider that securing employment is important to maintaining a crime free existence upon release (Visher et al. 2006).
People 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 these individuals 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 the individuals’ skills and interests, level of social and problem solving skills, and the job seeker having realistic work expectations (2001).
Correctional Industries are exceptionally well positioned to address risk factors due to the culture of the population coming through their door. CI provides an authentic work and pro-social environment that counters negative peer influences and the amount of time individuals spend engaged in antisocial activities while incarcerated. Addressing risk-related attitudes and behaviors help reduce violence in prison, keep individuals from participating in potentially unproductive prison behavior, reduce individuals returning to prisons and jails, and make 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.
Post release 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 or associating 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 a valuable member of a community. Employment also has important societal benefits including reduced strain on social service resources, greater contributions to the economy and tax base, and safer, more stable communities.
1. Brand your job placement program
Creating a brand will help market your program and objectives. Your brand should focus on dispelling negative stereotypes of previously incarcerated individuals 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.
Educate local media so they can share CI job training and programs, released individual success stories, and valued employer partnerships.
Present the CI program to governmental agencies, civic organizations, Better Business Bureaus, churches, local community organizations, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and not-for-profits involved with Reentry.
Enlist the support of community, successful program participants, support services agencies and faith-based organizations in developing campaigns to promote employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals.
2. Market employment opportunities for previously incarcerated individuals 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. Broaden opportunities based on individual career goals by expanding the knowledge and understanding for specific employers not limited to known “Fair Chance” employers.
Reach out to employers and educate them on financial incentives, (Federal Bonding Program, Work Opportunity Tax Credit, and Welfare to Work), technical and soft skills provided by CI, and social and financial benefits to the state of reducing recidivism through employment opportunities.
Promote flexible employer decisions about hiring previously incarcerated individuals
Ask employers to pilot the hiring of a limited number of previously incarcerated individuals trained by CI.
Promote collaboration with work-release programs as a transition between work inside the prison and work in the community.
Promote post-release hiring with Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) and non-PIECP partners
Promote participation in job fairs
3. Create meaningful partnerships
Work with Community Corrections to encourage the employment and retention of previously incarcerated individuals. Address any internal Department of Corrections policies that may discourage companies employing incarcerated individuals, such as frequency of workplace visits or the visibility of firearms and search procedures when supervising officers visit the workplace.
Align with post release transitional work programs to include, non-profit, volunteer and community service organizations where participants can gain additional training and work experience.
Collaborate with local WorkSource Centers, community colleges, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of Social Services, Social Security Administration, and/or Workforce Investment Boards for employment-related services.
Engage volunteers from the community to act as intermediaries between CI Job training programs, employers, and previously incarcerated individuals.
Develop volunteers as mentors who help prepare individuals in developing a resume, searching for appropriate jobs, completing the application process, and conducting mock interviews. There are many non-profit organizations involved in incarcerated individual 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 staff, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, and board members
Participating in employer forums, workgroups, meetings, mock interviews, job fairs, and employment events.
Inviting employers to tour CI facilities and observe operations to see the training first-hand.
An example of a partner with mutually beneficial collaboration is the Workforce Development Partnership Training Program (WDPTP). In this program, multidisciplinary teams are provided with competency-based training and each team is committed to completing a workforce development project of benefit to their community. Several WDPTP teams were initiated by Correctional Industries programs and the training was credited with strengthening ties between correctional agencies, community partners and local businesses, both large and small.
4. Provide post-release transition planning
To create an individualized release plan, the following steps should be considered:
Review risk/needs assessments
Review job placement opportunities for incarcerated individuals including special populations
Develop an employment-based transition plan
Review internal DOC policies and work with individuals and transitional partners to facilitate job searches
Encourage employers to meet with prospective employees through visits, mock interview fairs, via phone calls, or multi-media conferences before the individual is released
5. 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
6. Obtain compliance verification.
Compliance may be obtained through audits or assessments such as:
Workforce Development Assessments
Safety and Environmental Audits
Other assessments, i.e. DOL, education, ISO
Entered employment (number of released CI workers who are employed in the first quarter post-release)
Time to employment (number of days)
Employment retention (Number of CI workers who are still employed in the second and third quarters after release)
Job placement rates
Job retention rates
Employment partnerships created and sustained
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.
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.
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 (2 nd Ed.). Garland, TX: Open, Inc.
Taylor, P. Elizabeth (2010). Employment Retention: A Question of Public Safety. Corrections
Today. American Correctional Association.
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.
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.
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.
One Stop Career Centers
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 provide core 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. Call toll-free 1-877-US2-JOBS (1-877-872-5627) https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx
National and State Specific Labor Market Information