Jobs not Jails: Formerly Incarcerated Youth in the Workforce

CEO provides an intensive job coaching and development program for formerly incarcerated youth to connect them with the workplace and help them overcome employer discrimination.

About You

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Location

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n/a

Your idea

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Year the initative began (yyyy)

2005

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Plot your innovation within the mosaic of solutions

Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Market failures and shakeups displace young men’s opportunities

Which of the principles is the primary focus of your work?

Create credible choices and opportunities

If you believe some other barrier or principle should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic:

Disconnected Youth and the Workforce
Almost three million 16-to 24-year-olds nationwide are “disconnected”: out of school and out of the workforce, neither employed nor looking for jobs. Some are coming out of jail or prison, others aging out of foster care. Many are already parents themselves.
Their numbers vary starkly by race. Many more African American and Latino young people are disconnected than Non-Hispanic Whites and Asians. African American and Latino youth who have left school hold fewer jobs than young Whites and Asians.
Yet attachment to the workforce at a young age may be the best predictor of long-term labor market success. If young people do not hold jobs, they are much more likely to enter or remain in government systems – including criminal justice and public assistance.
Such jobs do exist. American industries face growing skill shortages, which can mean well-paying jobs for young, skilled workers. CEO's place in the mosaic is to help re-connect the disconnected.

Name Your Project

Jobs not Jails: Formerly Incarcerated Youth in the Workforce

Describe Your Idea

CEO provides an intensive job coaching and development program for formerly incarcerated youth to connect them with the workplace and help them overcome employer discrimination.

Innovation

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Describe your program or new idea in one sentence.

CEO provides an intensive job coaching and development program for formerly incarcerated youth to connect them with the workplace and help them overcome employer discrimination.

What makes your initiative uniquely positioned to create change in your community?

CEO provides formerly incarcerated individuals with immediate work for immediate pay, lifeskills training, job coaching and placement into permanent full time jobs. Most participants are male (93%) and the largest age group of participants is 18-25 years old (25%). Almost three million 16-to 24-year-olds nationwide are “disconnected”: out of school and out of the workforce, neither employed nor looking for jobs. Some are coming out of jail or prison, others are aging out of foster care. Many are already parents themselves. Yet attachment to the workforce at a young age may be the best predictor of long-term labor market success. If young people do not hold jobs, they are much more likely to enter or remain in government systems – including criminal justice and public assistance. Our Young Adult Program helps these young men prepare for, find and keep jobs. Participants receive specialized help on everything from writing a resume to discussing their conviction and incarceration in a job interview.

Describe how you organize and carry out your work?

Participants meet twice a week regarding job readiness and job searches. Meetings include group problem-solving about current issues (job, family, community), job skills (timeliness, communicating with supervisors, budgeting) and anything that makes it hard to hold a job (unstable housing, children). Participants can visit job coaches and CEO’s Youth Center anytime. There are youth transitional work sites close to CEO. The supervisors teach skills and coach on proper workplace behavior. The workload is lighter – to ease into the workplace and build confidence.

What is your plan to scale and expand your innovation into your community and beyond?

CEO is working with the NYS Division of Parole to recruit more young adults into the program. CEO is also looking at expanding the entire CEO model into other counties in upstate New York. Most importantly, CEO's Learning Institute has designed manuals to allow other communities to replicate the entire CEO model. CEO has provided technical assistance to organizations in the U.S. and abroad to replicate this employment model for formerly incarcerated individuals. CEO is also forming relationships with youth-serving agencies in order to receive more direct referrals.

What other resources, institutional, or policy needs would be necessary to help sustain and scale up your idea?

CEO is committing additional resources to expand the Recruitment and Outreach department. The department will work to increase referrals from Parole offices and from youth-serving agencies. As more youth are referred, all aspects of the CEO model require resources to expand -- from more slots on work crews to more resources for job coaching, matching individuals with jobs and helping them retain their jobs.

Impact

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Describe your impact in one sentence, commenting on both the individual and community levels.

Young Adult participants are 140% more likely to be placed in a job and overall CEO participants are 50% less likely to be reincarcerated.

What impact has your work achieved to date?

The first goal of the Young Adult Program is to keep participants engaged at CEO past nine days of transitional work in order to ensure that staff will have more time to work with them. CEO’s research arm, the Learning Institute found that in 2007, Young Adult Program participants were1.6 times more likely to remain at CEO past nine days of transitional work than young adults who did not participate in the specialized program. The Learning Institute also found that Young Adult Program participants were 1.4 times more likely to be placed in a job than regular CEO participants of the same age group. While this analysis is not definitive, the initial evaluation of CEO’s Young Adult Program suggests its approach – of providing a personalized, supportive, coaching environment for young people who are disconnected from the workforce – is successful. By taking a holistic approach, incorporating a nurturing environment that addresses social as well as employment issues, the
program consistently aids disconnected youth with employment.

Number of individuals served

About 47% of 18-to 25-year-olds at CEO are enrolled in the Young Adult Program. Youth who have significant work experience or a training certificate are generally exempted – as are participants who have a resume, interview clothes, stable family life and the ability to maturely articulate their goals. All 18-to 25-year-olds entering CEO are instructed to attend an orientation for the Young Adult Program. Staff members interview each individual for 20 to 40 minutes using a customized assessment tool. Staff members identify which participants can perform successfully in the regular CEO program, and which might instead benefit from the Young Adult Program. Approximately 80 percent of CEO’s young adults attend the orientation and about 65 percent of those assessed are enrolled. Each year between 250 and 300 people participate in the Young Adult Program. Participants in the Young Adult Program are overwhelmingly male and African American or Latino.

Community impact

Individuals in the Young Adult Program are all recently released from incarceration, mostly for felonies, are overwhelmingly male (97%) and African-American or Latino (91%). The average highest grade level completed for participants is 9.77. Employers are less likely to hire individuals with criminal records than any other group of disadvantaged workers – and this effect increases when age, race and education are also factored. Communities that were impacted by the initial offense and the loss of the individual’s contribution during incarceration are further burdened by the lack of employment prospects when the individuals return home. The inability to find employment is not only linked to the individual’s earnings and ability to pay taxes or child support; but also to the probability of committing another felony. CEO helps hard-to-employ young men prepare for and obtain jobs – reversing these trends for individuals and communities.

Society at large

As labor laws increasingly discriminate against individuals with felony records, CEO successful graduates are a reminder of the contribution that formerly incarcerated people can make in society. People with jobs commit fewer crimes -- making communities safer and families healthier -- and allowing government to invest not in incarceration, but in other programs like education.

What measure do you use to gauge your impact and why?

CEO holds itself accountable for rates of life skills graduation, job start readiness, job placement and six-month and one-year job retention. CEO's research and learning arm, the Learning Institute analyzes these measures and their impact potential for re-incarceration and long-term employment on both young adult participants and the general participant population. Preliminary findings indicate that one year after enrolling into a three-year random-assignment longitudinal evaluation, participants who entered CEO shortly after release from incarceration were significantly less likely to be reincarcerated.

This Entry is about (Issues)

Sustainability

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How is your initiative currently being financed and how would you finance further expansion and/or replication?

The initiative is being financed by a mix of public and private sources including: The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Clark Foundation, The Pinkerton Foundation, New York State Division of Parole, and New York State Division Probation and Correctional Alternatives. As CEO expands the Young Adult Program, it will continue to seek a combination of public and private funders.

Provide information on your current finances and organization:

a. Annual Budget = $14,792,527 budget for FY 2008
b. Annual Revenue = $14,792,527 budget for FY 2008
c. sources of revenue
Payment for work crews = 45%
Government grants for job coaching, job development and other services = 33%
Foundation and other private grants for programs including Young Adult Program = 22%
d. full time staff = 130
part time staff = 11
volunteers = 15

Who are your potential partners and allies?

CEO participants are regularly placed with 200 different employers in fields ranging from retail, warehouses and restaurants to driving, construction and computers. CEO works closely with the NYS Division of Parole and other government agencies to recruit young adults and place them in transitional work. CEO also has a robust referral network to agencies that provide education, health and housing.

Who are your potential investors?

The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Clark Foundation, The Pinkerton Foundation, New York State Division of Parole, New York State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives are all potential investors in the program; as are other foundations and local and state government agencies.

The Story

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What is the origin of this innovation? Tell us your story.

In 2004, while developing a Business Plan funded by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, CEO discovered that participants who did not end up being placed in a permanent job tended to leave the program sooner rather than later. Of young CEO participants who left without being placed, 60 percent left within the first two weeks. CEO began to explore how it might more effectively engage young people, keeping them longer in transitional employment and other programming to build skills for permanent unsubsidized jobs. CEO created its Young Adult Program in 2005, to serve this group: clients, ages 18 to 25, who have little or no employment history or educational background, lack self esteem, positive attitude, maturity, motivation, and/or who have high barriers to regular full-time employment, such as unstable housing or lack of family and peer support.
During transitional work, participants experience – sometimes for the first time – what it means to get to work on time, take direction from a supervisor, work steadily throughout the day, be appreciated as a co-worker, and express themselves to supervisors and co-workers effectively and respectfully. After an average of two to three months of transitional work, CEO places people in permanent jobs.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers marketing material.

CEO provides immediate, effective and comprehensive employment services to individuals returning home from prison and jails to New York City. Our highly-structured and tightly-supervised programs help participants regain the skills and confidence needed for a successful transition to a stable, productive life. Starting with vocational training and transitional employment, CEO then works to place participants in full-time, permanent employment, and follows up with them for a year after placement. Over the past 10 years, 10,000 people have been placed in full-time jobs.