Working Out: The Benefits of a Transitional Jobs Program for Ex-OffendersMar 28th, 2012 | By Mike Reddy
Cindy Redcross, Megan Millenky, Timonthy Rudd, and Valerie Levshin
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2012.
As the Republican primaries lumber on, voters and politicians alike have prioritized “job creation” as one of the nation’s most critical objectives. But does society really seek to provide jobs to those with the least likelihood of finding work on their own?
The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) has worked to provide employment to some of the people who have the most difficulty finding jobs: ex-offenders, who are highly represented among the unemployed yet rarely mentioned in political discourse.
The organization recently released a report on its Transitional Jobs Program, an initiative that includes job placement, life skills classes, and other support designed to help participants find and maintain employment.
The report is based on a rigorous, randomized control study conducted by New York City- and Oakland-based MDRC, which found that the program reduced recidivism among participants by 22 percent and had benefits of up to $3.85 for every dollar spent.
The study found a critical window of opportunity for the program to reach participants. In the treatment group, the effect on recidivism was greatest for those who entered the program almost immediately upon release, while the benefits documented for those who delayed participation by three months or more were negligible. Additionally, the impact on arrests, convictions, and incarcerations was strongest during the first year after release while participants were still enrolled in the program.
The effects on employment were less salient, with employment rates differing between control and treatment groups only during the period when transitional employment was provided. Participation in the program was not found to lead to an increase in unsubsidized employment outcomes after termination of transitional work and related support.
While the lasting effect of the CEO initiative remains uncertain, the program has made significant strides in reducing recidivism during the period in which an ex-offender is most likely to return to prison. Furthermore, transitional work placement during this period can provide immediate opportunities to the roughly 60 percent of newly released ex-offenders categorized as unemployed.
MDRC’s Dan Bloom argues:
These results are notable because very few reentry initiatives…have produced consistent reductions in recidivism. The study shows that reentry programming can be a good investment for taxpayers.
By mitigating the ex-offender unemployment rate while reducing annual prison expenditures, the CEO’s Transitional Jobs model is demonstrably effective, socially responsible, and financially sound. What remains uncertain is whether a program designed for the traditionally maligned ex-offender community can attract the necessary political support to be successful.