Over the past 25 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people incarcerated in the nation’s prisons and jails. By 2005, the prison population had risen to 2.2 million, a fourfold increase since 1980. Reentry—the transition from prison to community—presents overwhelming challenges for newly released offenders, limiting their chances for success. Research shows that two-thirds of ex-offenders are rearrested and one-half re-incarcerated within three years of their release.
Almost 700,000 people are released from state prisons each year. Ex-prisoners face daunting obstacles to successful reentry into society, and rates of recidivism are high. Most experts believe that stable employment is critical to a successful transition, but ex-prisoners have great difficulty finding steady work. This report presents interim results from a rigorous evaluation of the New York City-based Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), a highly regarded employment program for ex-prisoners.
In the post-welfare reform world, an important policy question has taken new prominence: how to improve employment prospects for the millions of Americans who face serious obstacles to steady work. These individuals, including long-term welfare recipients, people with disabilities, those with health or behavioral health problems, and former prisoners, often become trapped in costly public assistance and enforcement systems and find themselves living in poverty, outside the mainstream in a society that prizes work and self-sufficiency.
A population of particular interest is youth who have had contact with service systems. These youth tend to experience negative outcomes, such as behavior problems and academic failure. This study has as a particular focus on the mental health of vulnerable youth who have been in contact with service systems, including child welfare, juvenile justice, and runaway and homeless programs.
This paper presents early results from an evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) in New York City, a highly regarded employment program for former prisoners. The evaluation is part of the Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation project, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. The project is led by MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research firm, along with the Urban Institute and other partners.
The New York City-based Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) is a transitional jobs program designed to help former prisoners increase longer-term employment and, consequently, reduce recidivism. Interim results from MDRC’s rigorous impact evaluation of CEO show reduced recidivism in both the first and the second year of follow-up.
This article uses results of a qualitative research project to describe the challenges that incarcerated women face as they return to their communities from jail or prison. Following a descriptive profile of the population, the particular challenges are discussed, focusing on the gender and culturally specific needs that formerly incarcerated women from low-income communities face upon release from correctional facilities in this country.