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Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Project Transitional Jobs for Ex-Prisoners: Early Impacts from a Random Assignment Evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) Prisoner Reentry Program. John Jay College of Criminal Justice Prisoner Reentry Institute March 2008

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Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ ProjectTransitional Jobs for Ex-Prisoners:Early Impacts from a Random Assignment Evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) Prisoner Reentry Program

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Prisoner Reentry Institute

March 2008

Presentation by: Dan Bloom


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Reentry and Employment

  • Wide range of barriers to successful reentry, but most experts believe employment is crucial.

  • Two types of labor market challenges:

    • Characteristics that make ex-prisoners hard-to-employ (limited work and education, health problems, etc.)

    • Additional impact of incarceration (legal barriers, employer discrimination).

  • Few proven employment models for this group.

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Enhanced Services for the Hard to Employ Project

  • Funded by US DHHS (with US DOL) to test promising employment strategies for groups facing serious barriers to steady work.

  • Led by MDRC, with Urban Institute and other partners.

  • Four sites, each targeting a different type of hard-to-employ population; like four separate studies.

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The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO)

  • One of the largest and best known employment programs for ex-prisoners.

  • Started by the Vera Institute of Justice; independent since 1996.

  • Serves approximately 2,000 parolees annually.

  • Uses a transitional jobs (TJ) model; TJ widely seen as promising for ex-prisoners:

    • Source of legitimate income in critical post-release period.

    • Opportunity for staff to identify, correct workplace issues.

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The CEO Model: Immediate Work

  • Participants placed in CEO work crews (TJs) within one week after enrollment; supervised by CEO staff.

  • Work 4 days/week; paid daily.

  • Day 5: Meetings with job coach, job developer, fatherhood program, etc.

  • When deemed “job ready,” receive help finding permanent job, then retention services after placement.

  • Participation in CEO is voluntary for most, but meets a parole condition to seek or maintain employment.

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The CEO Evaluation

  • During 2004-2005, ex-prisoners who showed up at CEO were assigned, at random, to:

    • Program group: Regular CEO program, or

    • Control group: Limited job search assistance.

  • Random assignment only in weeks when there were more participants than slots.

  • Sample size: 977 (P: 568; C: 409)

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The CEO Evaluation: Target Group

  • Evaluation targets a subset of CEO’s population: parolees who showed up at CEO after referral by regular parole officer.

  • Other key CEO populations in special programs were not included in the study for contractual reasons.

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Data Now Available

  • Baseline data (self-reported).

  • Data on quarterly UI-covered employment (not earnings) in New York State.

  • Criminal justice data: arrests, convictions, parole status, and incarceration in NYS prisons.

  • Data from CEO Management Information System.

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Characteristics of Participants

  • Average age: 33

  • Over half are fathers; few live with children.

  • 2/3 African-American; 1/3 Latino.

  • 43% no high school diploma or GED.

  • 81% ever worked.

  • Average of 7 prior convictions; 5 years in prison.

  • Time since release:

    • 40% came to CEO within 3 months after release from state prison; model was designed for them.

    • 60% came to CEO longer after release (not expected).

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Participation in CEO Activities

  • Good test:

    • 79% of program group completed initial 4-day life skills class.

    • 72% of program group worked in a CEO work crew.

    • Average of 8 weeks in work crew.

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Impacts on Employment and Recidivism: Background

  • In addition to full sample, two groups are studied:

    • Recently released ex-prisoners: enrolled within 3 months after release (n=377; P=222, C=155)

    • Not recently released ex-prisoners: enrolled more than 3 months after release (n=551; P=314, C=237)

  • Currently have 1 year of follow-up (3 planned)

  • Reincarceration data do not yet include local jails.

  • Employment data include CEO jobs and non-CEO jobs but can’t yet distinguish (will be able to later).

  • Statistical significance levels: *=10% **=5% ***=1%

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Impacts for Full Sample

  • Large but short-lived increase in employment.

  • Small but statistically significant declines in two key recidivism measures (felony convictions; incarceration for new crime); no impacts on other measures.

  • But overall results hide a potentially important pattern.

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Employment Impacts for Recently Released: initially large but decline

Statistical significance levels: *=10% **=5% ***=1%

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Recidivism Impacts for Recently Released: large in many areas

Statistical significance levels: *=10% **=5% ***=1%

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Employment Impacts for Not Recently Released: faster decline

Statistical significance levels: *=10% **=5% ***=1%

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Recidivism Impacts for Not Recently Released: none

Statistical significance levels: *=10% **=5% ***=1%

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Summary of Subgroup Findings

  • Recently released group:

    • Large but short-lived increase in employment.

    • Substantial decreases in felony convictions, parole revocation, incarceration for new crimes, overall incarceration.

    • Rare to see recidivism impacts in random assignment study.

  • Not recently released group:

    • Employment impacts similar, but decay faster.

    • No impacts on recidivism measures.

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Coming Attractions

  • Up to 3 years of follow-up.

  • Additional data:

    • Survey of 500-550 sample members.

    • NYC jail data.

    • Individual-level earnings data and employer ID #s.

    • Child support payment data.

    • Implementation data.

  • Report planned for 2008.

  • The Joyce Foundation has developed another 4-site random assignment evaluation of TJ programs in Midwest.

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