Employment and Re-Entry:
The CEO Model

Sam Schaeffer described CEO’s experience in training and preparing ex-offenders for jobs in cooperation with businesses and industry.

Mr. Schaeffer noted that, “While we recognize that people coming home from prison face multiple barriers to successful re-entry, including sobriety, mental health and housing, we have proven than an employment intervention — delivered at that critical moment exactly postrelease — can lead to increased public safety and attachment to the labor market for some of the hardest-to-serve people in this population.” His organization has demonstrated that the right employment intervention, delivered at the right time to the right individual, can lead to long-term desistance from crime and, in turn, contribute to healthier families and safer communities.

CEO was established as an independent nonprofit organization in 1996, and since that time it has served between 2,000 and 3,000 people each year in New York City. In 2009, CEO began to replicate its evidence-based model across the country, demonstrating that their model can be implemented in diverse jurisdictions and for differently sized communities. To date, they provide employment services to men and women leaving incarceration in 12 cities in 4 states, with more than 4,500 clients enrolled and 2,300 full-time jobs secured.

Mr. Schaeffer’s organization serves those who are at the highest risk of returning to prison, with the chief executive noting that risk is determined by a host of static and dynamic factors, but key drivers are youth, criminal justice history and education. Today’s data-based systems allow for increasing accuracy in predicting recidivism, which allows parole systems and nonprofit providers to target those most in need. At CEO, 43% of participants are young adults,with 47% being parents; 50% have no prior work experience, and only 10% have an education beyond high school.

2.3 MILLION people are incarcerated in the US

Cost $64.3 BILLION every year

650,000 of those in state prisons will return home

Approximately 400,000 are at risk of returning to jail after release

More Work Increases Public Safety

People coming home from prison face multiple barriers. Most are returning without skills and competencies to match demands in the economy, and they lack the confidence to be successful. Such individuals are excluded from many lines of work, and their conviction presents a strong stigma to employers. Unemployment is over 60% for parolees in many states (NY: 62%), and 89% of parole violators were unemployed at the time of arrest. For those who can find jobs, incarceration history reduces wages by 11% and annual earnings by 40%. Research has shown that for every dollar of increased wages, recidivism decreases.

Targeting High-Risk Offenders

Simply placing an individual in a job is a silver bullet for reducing criminal behaviors, according to research reported by the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Mr. Schaeffer demonstrated how a lack of targeting compromised outcomes for more than 50 programs in Ohio, which serve all prisoners from low-risk to high-risk offenders. About one third of the programs showed a reduction in the rate of new felony convictions; another third had no effect; and a little more than one-third displayed an increased rate of new convictions, which were principally driven by lower-risk prisoners. When the same programs enrolled only targeted, high-risk participants, there were better outcomes for most programs.

Employment interventions are critical in reducing recidivism, but they must be tailored to an individual’s risk and need.

The CEO Model

CEO partners with public agencies in offering jobs to high-risk, recently released ex-offenders. The program works directly with the states, engaging the State Departments of Corrections and Labor. “We go where the need is,” Mr. Schaeffer emphasized.

“We give the participants their steel-toed boots, a photo ID, a job placement and a mentor,” Mr. Schaeffer said. They are supervised by a CEO coach, and our organization pays their wages during this mentoring period. After 2-to-3 months of good performance, CEO helps participants apply for and land their own jobs, and continues to provide retention support for 1 year. The jobs are in-service industries, warehouse work, and small- and medium-sized businesses. Employment most definitely has a transformative capacity.

The CEO program produced significant reductions in subsequent arrests, convictions for new crimes, incarceration days, and overall recidivism for program participants for the 3-year span post-release.

 The CEO Model

Benefits of the CEO Model

The positive impact of the CEO program affects the individual lives of the ex-offenders and their families, stabilizes their communities and improves public safety while also avoiding the significant costs of recidivism.

With effective targeting of recently released and higher-risk ex-offenders, the reduction in subsequent prison days translates into taxpayer savings of $8,336 per participant.

Discussion

Sen. Eduardo Bhatia (PR): You showed data on some programs in which the crime rate increased? What happened in programs that didn’t work to reduce crime?

Mr. Schaeffer: A critical element of CEO’s success has been that we focus solely on individuals at high risk. When you mix low-risk and high-risk people in programs, you expose the low-risk to bad role models. That’s what we learned from those programs.

Mr. Levin: People coming home from prison face many hurdles and need support from community-based agencies for housing and other services. Many former offenders return home to temporary, volatile housing with family members who are wary of them. CEO pays ex-prisoners on a daily basis so they can bring money home to their families, allowing them to show good faith and potentially reducing the volatility of their housing situation.

Other Criminal & Social Justice System articles.

 

Sam Schaeffer
Chief Executive Officer
Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO)

 

“CEO does one thing for one population; we provide employment services to men and women leaving incarceration.”

Sam Schaeffer

 

The right employment intervention, delivered at the right time to the right individual, can lead to long-term desistance from crime and, in turn, contribute to healthier families and safer communities.

 

CEO provides employment services to men and women leaving incarceration in 12 cities in 4 states, with more than 4,500 clients enrolled and 2,300 full-time jobs secured.

 

For every dollar of increased wages, recidivism decreases.

 

Employment interventions are critical in reducing recidivism, but they must be tailored to an individual’s risk and need.

 

The CEO program produced significant reductions in subsequent arrests, convictions for new crimes, incarceration days, and overall recidivism for program participants for the 3-year span post-release.

 

 

With effective targeting of recently released and higher-risk ex-offenders, the reduction in subsequent prison days translates into taxpayer savings of $8,336 per participant.

 

Sen. Eduardo Bhatia

Senate Presidents’ Forum

Phone: 914.693.1818

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