Exploring a New Resource: A Paper Released Today from the Council of State Governments Justice Center Offers “Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies”

By Caitlin C. Schnur, Workforce Research and Policy Fellow, National Transitional Jobs Network
and Jonathan Philipp, Research and Policy Assistant, National Transitional Jobs Network 

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Each year, more than 650,000 individuals return to their communities from prison while millions more return home from jail.  With overflowing correctional facilities and crunched state budgets, criminal justice policymakers and practitioners are increasingly working to ensure that returning citizens are not reincarcerated following their release.  As a part of these successful reentry efforts, securing employment for formerly incarcerated individuals is critical—not only do returning citizens need immediate income to meet their basic needs, but incarcerated individuals who have been asked about their post-release plans report that being employed is crucial to their ability to stay crime-free.  Despite wanting or needing to work, returning citizens face numerous barriers to employment including limited work histories, low educational attainment, and parole-mandated curfews or mobility restrictions.  It’s not surprising, then, that employment providers who are focused on serving the chronically unemployed consistently serve large numbers of individuals with criminal records.  

With the shared service population among the corrections, reentry, and employment fields—and the scarce resources available to serve these vulnerable individuals—it’s clear that integrated interventions that reduce recidivism and improve employment outcomes are necessary.  Up until now, however, criminal justice and workforce development policymakers and practitioners who recognize the need for collaboration have lacked a tool to guide integrated service provision.  But don’t worry: today, an important new paper from the Council of State Governments Justice Center, written in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Department of Labor, will make this much-needed collaboration a lot easier while also helping to improve public safety and employment outcomes for returning citizens.

Here’s an overview of what you can find in this new resource, “Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies: Reducing Recidivism and Promoting Job Readiness”:

I. What Works to Reduce Recidivism:  Laying the groundwork for the rest of the paper, Section I presents evidence-based guiding principles that can help reduce individuals’ likelihood of reincarceration and promote successful reentry.  Employment professionals can draw from these principles to improve outcomes for returning citizens.

II. Proven and Promising Practices for Improving Outcomes for Hard-To Employ Individuals: Section II starts off with an overview of employment program components to improve outcomes for individuals with barriers to employment, including individuals with criminal records.  Going a step further, this section then reviews five service delivery principles that have been proven to reduce recidivism and can be applied to employment interventions.

III. The Resource Allocation and Service-Matching Tool: Bringing the paper together, this final section introduces the Resource-Allocation and Service-Matching Tool, which is based on an individual’s risk of reoffending and job readiness.  By using this tool to assess job seeking individuals with criminal histories, employment program components and service-delivery strategies can be tailored to their risk for criminal activity and complemented by corrections interventions.  This tool will help guide the development of integrated service responses across the corrections, employment, and reentry fields.

On Thursday, September 26, 2013 from 9:00 a.m. EST to 12:30 p.m. EST, the Council of State Governments Justice Center will present the paper via a special forum hosted by the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C.  Although this event is invitation-only, it will be live-streamed here so that you won’t miss any of the action!  The forum will feature a discussion by expert panelists from the reentry and employment fields, including the National Transitional Jobs Network’s own Amy Rynell, who served as an advisor on the paper.  On the same day, the Council of State Governments Justice Center will also launch the Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies Online Toolkit.  The one-stop toolkit will feature resources that can help policymakers and practitioners adopt the strategies discussed in the paper as well as information on common barriers to employment for individuals with criminal records.  On September 26, we’ll post links to the live-streaming forum and the online toolkit via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

So, get excited—and get reading!  We’re confident that “Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies” will make it easier for corrections, workforce, and reentry stakeholders to navigate coordinated planning and service delivery issues; ensure that resources are focused on the right people, with the right interventions, and at the right time; and, perhaps most importantly for individuals, families, and communities, reduce rates of reincarceration and joblessness.
 

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About National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity is dedicated to ending chronic unemployment and poverty. We believe that every person deserves the opportunity to succeed in work and support themselves and their families. Through our field building, we provide support and guidance that fosters more effective and sustainable employment efforts. Our policy and advocacy work advances solutions to the systemic issues that drive chronic unemployment.

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