Joyce Foundation Reentry Transitional Jobs Report 2009
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The Joyce Foundation’s Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration testing strategies to help former prisoners f ind and keep jobs and stay out of prison july 2009 contact information Whitney Smith The Joyce Foundation 70 West Madison, Suite 2750 Chicago, IL 60602 312.782.2464 email@example.com www.joycefdn.org Dan Bloom MDRC 16 East 34th Street New York, NY 10016 212.532.3200 firstname.lastname@example.org www.mdrc.org Written by: Dan Bloom, MDRC Design: Jasculca/Terman and Associates, Inc. why is successful prisoner reentry a national imperative? The number of people incarcerated in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the last three decades. Today, more than 2 million people are incarcerated in federal and state prisons and local jails, and almost 700,000 people are released from state prisons each year. Corrections costs exceed $65 billion per year, with most of this total borne by state and local governments. Men and women released from prison often face daunting obstacles as they move back to their communities. They frequently have difficulties finding jobs and housing, and experience problems reconnecting with family and other social supports. In addition, former prisoners are concentrated in a relatively small number of distressed urban neighborhoods that lack resources to assist in the reentry process. Not surprisingly, many end up returning to prison, a disastrous result for them, their families and communities, taxpayers, and public safety. The most recent national statistics show that two-thirds of those released from prison are rearrested, and half are reincarcerated within three years of release. In many cases, people return to prison not because they commit new crimes, but rather because they violate the rules of parole supervision. Prisoner reentry has attracted increasing attention in recent years, as states seek ways to reduce recidivism and control surging corrections costs. While most experts believe that stable employment is critical to a successful transition from prison to the community, there is little hard evidence about which program practices are effective at promoting successful transitions or reducing recidivism. table 1: prisoners in state or federal prison per 100,000 u.s. residents, 1925 to 2004 600 prisoners per 100,000 500 400 300 200 100 0 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 Source: Steven Raphael and Michael Stoll (eds.) “Do Prisons Make Us Safer? The Benefits and Costs of the Prison Boom,” Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 2008 table 2: surveys of government f inances, 1986 – 2001: expenditures for total state corrections in 2001 constant dollars year total state corrections total (in 1000’s)1,2 cost per resident 3 1986 $15,595,807 $65 1987 $16,521,216 $68 1988 $18,420,811 $75 1989 $20,309,744 $82 1990 $22,606,549 $91 1991 $24,641,313 $98 1992 $25,388,942 $100 1993 $25,698,979 $100 1994 $27,926,979 $107 1995 $30,650,599 $117 1996 $31,425,488 $119 1997 $32,652,718 $120 1998 $33,862,569 $123 1999 $33,365,328 $128 2000 $36,193,618 $128 2001 $38,164,541 $134 Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, June 2004; “State Prison Expenditures, 2001”; U.S. Department of Justice Note: Correctional expenditures may be underreported. Interviews with State budget officials by the U.S. Census Bureau for this report produced a revised estimate of State prison costs of $29.5 billion for FY 2001, 1.1% higher than the 2001 Survey of Government Finances. 1 US Census Bureau. Censuses of Governmental Finances, 1986–1996, Tables 11 and 12; and unpublished data compatible with this series for 1997 through 2001. 2 Economic Report of the President, February 2003. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Chain-type price indexes for gross domestic product, 1959–2002, Table B-7. 3 US Census Bureau, Estimates of the Population of the United States to July 1, 1990, Current Population Estimates and Projections, Series P-25, No. 1064. US Census Bureau, US Population Estimates by Age, Sex, Race and Hispanic Origin: 1990-1995, PPL-41. Unpublished data 1996–2001, compatible with Resident Population Estimates for Age, Sex, Race and Hispanic Origin. The number of people incarcerated in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the last three decades. what is the transitional jobs reentry demonstration and why is it signif icant? A number of states have launched multi- The TJRD project is one of the largest and faceted prisoner reentry initiatives – often most rigorous evaluations of employment with a strong emphasis on helping people programs for former prisoners since the find jobs after they leave prison – and the 1970s. The results, available in mid-2010, federal government has provided special should provide solid evidence about the funding to support these efforts, most effectiveness of transitional jobs, which recently through the Second Chance Act will inform both public policy and program of 2008. Unfortunately, however, there is practice at the federal, state, and very little rigorous evidence about which local levels. strategies are effective at helping former prisoners find and keep jobs. The TJRD project was developed by the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, whose The Transitional Jobs Reentry mission includes reducing poverty and Demonstration (TJRD) seeks to help violence in the Great Lakes region. The fill this gap in our knowledge by testing project is also supported by the JEHT innovative employment programs for former Foundation1 and the U.S. Department of prisoners in Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Labor. The funders are supporting both and St. Paul using a rigorous, random- the employment programs and a careful assignment research design. In each city, evaluation being conducted by MDRC, along one employment program is built around with the Urban Institute and the University transitional jobs (TJ)—temporary, subsi- of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of dized jobs that provide participants with Public Policy. The National Transitional Jobs a source of legitimate income, support Network is providing technical assistance services, and work experience as they to the project. return to the community. The transitional jobs programs in the study are being evaluated against a second set of simpler, less expensive programs called “job search” (JS) assistance programs that help participants look for work but do not provide subsidized jobs. Ultimately, the study’s goal is to determine whether transitional jobs programs are an effective strategy for increasing employment and reducing recidivism among men recently released from prison. 1 The JEHT Foundation ceased operations in January 2009. The TJRD project is one of the largest and most rigorous evaluations of employment programs for former prisoners since the 1970s. why provide former prisoners with transitional jobs? Stable employment appears to be critical Transitional jobs are also being evaluated to a successful transition into the community, in other major U.S. cities by the U.S. Depart- but former prisoners often have charac- ment of Health and Human Services and teristics that place them at the back of the MDRC. Early results are now available from employment queue—for example, low levels a random assignment evaluation of the New of education and limited work experience. York City-based Center for Employment African-American men are heavily overrep- Opportunities (CEO), one of the largest and resented in the prison population, and they most experienced transitional jobs programs may also face employment discrimination for former prisoners. During the first two upon release. Finally, state laws bar many years of the study’s follow-up period, CEO former prisoners from obtaining licenses significantly decreased crime convictions, to work in specific occupations, and studies reincarceration, and other measures of have found that many employers are quite recidivism — a result rarely found in rigorous reluctant to hire people with criminal evaluations. CEO substantially boosted records. Several studies have tracked employment, though the increase faded employment rates for former prisoners over time, after participants left the during the year following release, typically transitional jobs. finding that fewer than half are employed at any point. Transitional Work Corporation (TWC), Transitional jobs are seen as a promising another large-scale transitional jobs employment model, both for former pris- program that mostly serves long-term oners and for other hard-to-employ groups. welfare recipients. TWC significantly Transitional jobs programs rapidly place reduced welfare receipt and welfare participants into temporary, subsidized jobs, payments during an 18-month follow-up. usually in nonprofit or government agencies, Like CEO, it produced a very large, provide intensive support, and then help but relatively short-lived increase in participants find permanent jobs. When employment, driven mostly by the targeted to recently released former transitional jobs. prisoners, transitional jobs provide a source of legitimate income during the critical period just after release, and also provide program staff with an opportunity to identify and address workplace problems before participants move to the regular labor market.2 2 For more information on the transitional jobs model, Another study is testing Philadelphia’s see the National Transitional Jobs Network’s website: www.transitionaljobs.net. Several studies have tracked employment rates for former prisoners during the year following release, typically finding that fewer than half are employed at any point. how is the tjrd project designed? The TJRD project was designed from the what difference a program makes. Many start as a rigorous evaluation to discover evaluations track program participants and the difference transitional jobs can make compare their outcomes (for example, their in the trajectories of former prisoners. In employment rates) with those of people each of the four sites, the research team is who did not participate in the program. comparing a transitional jobs program with But if people are not assigned to the a basic job search assistance program. program or the comparison group through Former prisoners who agreed to be in a random process, one can never be sure the study were assigned at random to one the two groups were similar from the start. program or the other. The project was in- For example, it is quite possible people who tended to serve about 400 men in each site choose to enroll and participate in programs – 200 in the transitional jobs program and have different levels of motivation or support 200 in the job search assistance program. than those who do not, and that these dif- The random assignment process created two groups of people – called the TJ and JS or more than the programs themselves. groups – that were similar at the time they In addition to measuring how the transitional entered the study. If differences emerge jobs programs affect employment and between the two groups over time – for recidivism, the TJRD evaluation will include example, if one group is more likely to work three analyses. First, it will analyze how the or less likely to return to prison – one can programs operate and assess their costs. be fairly certain that this is because the Second, it will include a series of in-depth two groups received different kinds of interviews with about 25 study participants employment services, not because their to gain a more detailed understanding characteristics differed from the start. of their experiences after leaving prison. Thus, by tracking the two groups over time, And, third, it will provide an opportunity to the TJRD evaluation will be able to assess learn about the operation and impacts of whether the transitional jobs programs led transitional jobs and job search assistance to different employment and recidivism programs in a range of environments. outcomes than the job search assistance There are important differences across programs, and whether one strategy or the four cities, for example, in labor market the other was more effective for particular conditions, population characteristics, and subgroups of former prisoners. criminal justice practices. A random assignment design can provide unusually reliable information about ferences will affect their outcomes as much Frank’s Story “Frank” was born to a young mother and into a household of substance abusers and distributors. He began stealing goods and selling marijuana when he started high school. By the time he was 17, he was dealing cocaine. He was first incarcerated in his early twenties, and then spent much of his adulthood cycling between prison and streets. He was released from his last term at age 44 in the winter of 2008. Upon his release Frank sought out temporary employment agencies to try to begin building a work history. He expressed concerns about adjusting successfully to the world of work. “You get these ideas that, well, ain’t nobody going to give me a chance because of my criminal background and my criminal record. It upsets you and it puts you in a bad place in your mind, and you get to thinking, maybe I should do this, or maybe I could pick up a bag and start working at it again.” “If you try to do it by yourself with a background like mine, it’s depressing. It’s not good, and you’ve got to take a lot of no’s. But, if you can get networking with a group of people, whether it be churches, organizations that offer re-entry programs, you’ve got a base of people that’s trying to work at the same goal, trying to help you. So, that would be a better shot.” He balanced his comments about how important this social connection was with discussion of the staff in the TJRD-sponsored program. As he stated: “I was already kind of teetering. My thoughts were teetering. I didn’t actually put any physical acts in, but I was starting to have bad ideas or bad thoughts. So, without [the TJRD program] and the direction that they’re pointing me in, I don’t think it would have been good.” which programs are participating in the project? In mid-2006, the Joyce Foundation However, there are also important conducted a competition and ultimately differences in the transitional jobs models. selected four sites to participate in the In Detroit and St. Paul, TJ participants are project. Each site received about $600,000 employed directly by the Goodwill agency over three years, and the grantees were also running the program, and they work in expected to raise funds from state or local existing Goodwill enterprises. In Detroit, agencies to support their programs. The most work in a light manufacturing plant, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and in St. Paul most work in jobs related Departments of Corrections are all active to collecting, processing, and selling partners in the project and are providing merchandise in the agency’s retail stores. funding to support the employment In Chicago, most of the Safer Foundation programs. TJ participants work in garbage recycling 3 Table 3 shows the organizations that are operating the transitional jobs and job search assistance programs in each city. In three of the cities, separate organizations are serving the TJ and JS groups, while in Chicago, the same organization serves both groups. There are some basic similarities across the transitional jobs programs. All provide participants with temporary, minimum-wage jobs that offer 30 to 40 hours of paid work each week; all aim to identify and address behavior or performance issues that emerge at the work site; all provide a range of ancillary services and supports to participants; and all help participants look for unsubsidized jobs to follow the transitional jobs, often with the help of job developers who reach out to employers to identify job openings plants operated by Allied Waste Industries under contract to the City of Chicago;4 they are directly employed by Pivotal Staffing Services, a staffing company established by Safer. In all three of these sites, the transitional jobs are in enterprises that earn revenue for the sponsoring agency, partly offsetting the cost of wages for TJ workers. The Milwaukee program uses a “scattered site” model: the New Hope Project is the employer of record and pays all wages, but TJ participants are placed in various nonprofit organizations and businesses in the community. The worksites are not asked to pay for the TJ workers, but they are expected to provide supervision and to stay in close contact with the New Hope staff, who are responsible for identifying and addressing workplace problems. for participants. 10 3 Initially a fifth site was selected but research there was 4 The Allied Waste Industries contract ended in 2008 discontinued in 2007. and some of the TJRD participants moved to another transitional job as Pivotal employees. In addition to these differences in the The job search assistance programs also transitional jobs models, two of the four differ from each other in some key respects, sites – Milwaukee and St. Paul – offer but, at a minimum, all of them help partici- relatively generous bonus payments to pants prepare a resume, learn how to fill participants who get and hold unsubsidized out job applications and interview for jobs jobs after working in a transitional job. (including how to answer questions about These payments are designed to supple- their convictions), and identify job leads. ment the earnings of participants who obtain relatively low-paying jobs and to encourage participants to keep working. table 3: organizations operating transitional jobs and job search assistance programs in the transitional jobs reentry demonstration. site chicago transitional jobs program job search assistance program safer foundation safer foundation (through Pivotal Staffing Services) detroit goodwill industries of greater detroit jvs detroit hispanic development corporation milwaukee new hope project project return st. paul goodwill/easter seals minnesota amherst h. wilder foundation 11 who are the tjrd participants? The TJRD project targets men age 18 or As expected, almost all of the study partici- older who were released from state prison pants were under parole supervision when within 90 days prior to enrollment in the they enrolled in the study. They had served study. It is widely believed that the first an average of six years in prison over weeks after people are released from prison their lifetimes. are a critical period in determining whether their transition will be successful. Men with all types of criminal histories were accepted into the project, with no project-wide restrictions based on the number or type of previous offenses (there were some limitations in individual sites). are generally similar from site to site, but there are some key differences. For example, the St. Paul site is serving a larger proportion of white men, and a much larger proportion of the study participants there were living in halfway houses when they The sites recruited men into the study from entered the study. In Chicago, about 40 January 2007 through September 2008. percent of the study participants had no Slightly more than 1,800 men entered the high school diploma or GED, compared with study in all, with the site totals ranging 20 to 25 percent in the other sites. Michigan from about 375 to 500. Table 4 provides study participants had served more than a snapshot of the study participants across four years in prison, on average, during their all four sites at the time they entered most recent stay, compared with about two the project. years in the other sites. As the table shows, the study participants were 35 years old on average when they enrolled, and a large majority are African American. About half are fathers, though few lived with their children (a substantial proportion of the fathers owed $5,000 or more in back child support). Most reported that they had worked at some point, but only half had ever held a steady job. Only about one in four participants had a high school diploma, but nearly half had a General Education Development (GED) certificate; it seems likely that some of the men earned a GED while incarcerated. 12 The characteristics of the study participants table 4: characteristics of tjrd study participants at the time of enrollment average age 35 race/ethnicity (%) white 10 black/african american 81 other 9 has children (%) 52 has high school diploma or ged (%) 75 living arrangements (%) owns/rents house/apartment 17 lives with friends/relatives 48 transitional housing 30 shelter/other 5 ever worked 6 consecutive months for one employer (%) 52 on probation or parole (%) 97 average total time spent in prison (months) 72 average time spent in prison in most recent spell (months) 33 13 what are the early implementation experiences? The research team visited the transitional jobs and job search programs several times to interview staff and participants, visit 2 transitional jobs and job search assistance Despite the instability in the participants’ lives and living situations, the programs were able to place a very high percentage of the men in the TJ group – about 85 percent – into transitional jobs. programs as designed. In most cases, the programs sought transitional jobs worksites, and observe program activities. Although the grantees had varying amounts of experience working with former prisoners and faced some operational challenges, they were able, for the most part, to operate the Key early observations and lessons include the following: to place participants in transitional jobs very quickly – usually within a week or less after enrollment – in order to rapidly engage a highly 1 The programs worked closely with corrections agencies to recruit participants. The programs recruited men by holding information sessions in prisons for men about to be released, building linkages with parole officers who could refer their clients to TJRD, and by posting flyers and posters in parole offices and other locations in the community. It was sometimes challenging to find men who had been released from prison very recently – many former prisoners do not seek assistance immediately after release – but, ultimately, the programs were able to meet the study’s enrollment targets. 14 mobile group of clients. Because the number of enrollees varied from week to week, this required having a flexible pool of transitional jobs. Also, in most cases, the programs did not seek to match participants with particular transitional jobs based on their skills or interests. On average, participants worked in transitional jobs for about four months. 3 4 Most of the transitional jobs are designed to teach general employability skills, not to train participants in specific occupations. It has been challenging for programs to place participants in second (post-TJ) jobs, particularly with the weakening economy. The transitional jobs model gives As noted earlier, many former program staff an opportunity to prisoners face a range of obstacles observe participants in a work to finding jobs, including both environment in order to identify and personal factors, such as lack of work address workplace problems – for experience, and systemic issues, such example, lateness, difficulty taking as discrimination by employers. Thus, direction or criticism, or inappro- it is not surprising that many of the priate interactions with co-workers. transitional jobs and job search Normally these issues might cause assistance programs have struggled an employee to be fired, but in a to place participants in permanent TJ worksite they are used to teach jobs, particularly jobs that pay employability skills. All of the substantially above the minimum programs provide this type of job wage. This challenge is particularly coaching, though in different ways. daunting in a weak labor market. However, most of the project’s The project’s random assignment transitional jobs are not designed research design ensures that the to provide training in a particular TJ and JS groups are experiencing occupation. Most of the work is quite the same labor market conditions. basic and requires minimal skills. However, extremely high unemploy- One site (St. Paul) offers some ment rates could potentially affect opportunities for paid training in the study results by dramatically construction, automotive skills, and reducing the availability of jobs for other occupations (other sites may men in both groups. refer participants to training provided elsewhere). 15 when will the results be available and how will they be used? The research team is tracking the TJ and JS groups using data from state agencies to measure both employment and recidivism during a period of at least one year. The employment data will measure earnings in jobs covered by state unemployment insurance programs, and the criminal justice data will measure arrests, convictions, and admissions to state prisons. A report describing the programs’ effects on employment and recidivism, their implementation and costs, and the key findings from the ethnographic interviews, will be completed and released in summer 2010. The TJRD project will provide the strongest and most reliable kind of evidence to inform the design of policies and programs for former prisoners. For example, the impact results and cost estimates may shape future federal and state funding for reentry services. At the local level, the information on program implementation and impacts will be a valuable resource for those who design and operate reentry programs. The Joyce Foundation and the research team will work together with other key partners to disseminate and explain the results to policymakers and program operators in the region and nationwide. 16 The TJRD project will provide the strongest and most reliable kind of evidence to inform the design of policies and programs for former prisoners. 17 the joyce foundation The Joyce Foundation supports efforts to protect the Great Lakes, to reduce poverty and violence in the region, and to ensure its residents have access to good schools, decent jobs, a strong democracy, and a diverse and thriving culture. research partners mdrc MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization dedicated to learning what works to improve programs and policies that affect the poor. the urban institute Established in 1968, The Urban Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research organization that examines social, economic, and governance issues. university of michigan’s gerald r. ford school of public policy The University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy is one of the nation’s top-ranked policy schools, offering undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees in public policy. 18