U.S. Department of Justice

Transition and Offender Workforce Development


The Community Services Division coordinates the efforts of federal, state, local, and nonprofit agencies to improve employment programs for offenders and ex-offenders. The division assists corrections professionals who provide direct services to offenders and ex-offenders. The Community Services Division:
  • Collects and disseminates information on offender employment programs.
  • Provides training for staff who provide employment services to offenders and ex-offenders.
  • Provides assistance to state and local agencies for improving job training, placement, and retention services for offenders.
  • Develops partnerships with federal, state, and local agencies to provide offender workforce development training in their home jurisdictions.



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Doug Burris, Chief U.S. Probation Officer for the Eastern District of Missouri, talks about his district's involvement in the Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) training program and the impact it has made on employment rates and revocation rates. The video is best viewed in Internet Explorer.

Direct Link: http://community.nicic.gov/files/folders/4991/download.aspx

Recommended Reading

Date Title Type
2014
Document 028098
The Employer-Driven Model and Toolkit: Strategies for Developing Employment Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals: Prepare Job Seekers for Employment
National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
"Employers face global competition in their drive to operate successful businesses in today’s marketplace. If the correctional system is to be successful in placing job seekers in meaningful employment that meets employers’ expectations, correctional practitioners must prepare them for the workplace well in advance of their release. Practitioner knowledge of employers’ staffing requirements contributes to the success of this mission. New tools and proven strategies can greatly assist justice-inv... Read More
PDF
8 pages
2011
Document 024759
Administrative Guide: Offender Workforce Development Specialist Partnership Training Program
National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC).
A description of the Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) Partnership Training Program is provided. “This administrative guide provides an overview of the training program, including its benefits and requirements…and information needed to make an informed decision for participating in the training program, including the criteria for selecting a qualified, multidisciplinary team of trainees” (p. 1). The following sections comprise this guide: overview of the training program; introduc... Read More
PDF
36 pages
2011
Document 025219
Offender Workforce Development Services Makes an Impact
By Lichtenberger, Eric; Weygandt, Scott. National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC).
Results from an ongoing evaluation project on the effectiveness of offender workforce development (OWD) services are presented. “Drug and alcohol abuse and/or not continuing substance abuse treatment was identified as almost a universal barrier to post-release success” (p. 67). Those individuals that receive OWD services have a recidivism rate 33% lower than the comparison group.... Read More
PDF
2 pages
2010
Document 023066
Career Resource Centers: An Emerging Strategy for Improving Offender Employment Outcomes
National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC); U.S. Dept. of Justice (Washington, DC); U.S. Dept. of Education (Washington, DC). National Institute of Corrections. Transition and Offender Workforce Development Division (Washington, DC).
“This bulletin highlights the ways career resource centers are being used in jails, prisons, and community supervision offices to improve the long-term employment prospects of offenders” (p.1). Sections of this publication include: common elements of career resource centers; getting started; working with inmate career clerks; building community ties; role of assessment in career resource centers; technology resources; finding champions and overcoming resistance; and future directions. Also in... Read More
VIDEO
1 video DVD
2008
Document 022996
Simulated Online/Kiosk Job Application
National Institute of Corrections. Offender Workforce Development Division (Washington, DC).
Each year, more and more employers are requiring job applicants to apply online or at a computer kiosk. Offenders in prisons, jails, parole and probation offices, faith-based agencies, and community-based organizations can use this CD-ROM to practice completing an employment application using a computer that does not have access to the Internet. This simulation training program provides basic information about computerized employment applications, tips for completing online job applications,... Read More
ZIP
1 CD-ROM
2009
Document 023065
Creating a Workforce Development Culture to Reduce Reincarceration
National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC); U.S. Dept. of Justice (Washington, DC); U.S. Dept. of Education (Washington, DC). National Institute of Corrections. Transition and Offender Workforce Development Division (Washington, DC).
This document highlights Vermont’s Workforce Development Program. Male participants that successfully completed the program lowered their reincarceration rate from 74% to 59% at six months following release, females lowered their rate from 63% to 38%. Topics discussed include:
  • Creating a unique workforce culture
  • Habits of Mind curriculum
  • Workplace application
  • Evidence of effectiveness
  • Program replication
  • Future of the program
  • ... Read More
PDF
12 p.
2009
Document 024136
Using Labor Market Information to Promote Positive Employment Outcomes for Offenders
By Rakis, John. National Institute of Corrections. Offender Workforce Development Division (Washington, DC). National Institute of Corrections. Offender Workforce Development Division (Washington, DC).
“This instructional disk is intended to provide you with a comprehensive overview of Labor Market Information (LMI) and give you the informational tools to increase short-term and long-term employment outcomes for the offenders under your supervision.” Users will be able to: understand labor market information concepts and terms; identify key LMI resources and to know how to access them; use LMI to assist offenders in making career choices; use LMI to identify occupations that will experience jo... Read More

1 computer disk; CD-ROM
2008
Document 023255
Building Tomorrow's Workforce: An Effective Reentry Strategy [Satellite/Internet Broadcast held August 2008]
National Institute of Corrections Academy (Aurora, CO).
This program focuses on the history and benefits of correctional industries and ways to balance competing interests. Employment is a critical factor in successful reentry. Career assistance, life skills, and job training prior to release from jails or prisons increases the likelihood of success as individuals reenter the community. This, in conjunction with support from employers, social agencies, and faith-based community organizations, provides the foundation for individuals to remain in socie... Read More
VIDEO
2 DVDs (172 min) + 1 CD
2010
Document 024662
Employment and Female Offenders: An Update of the Empirical Research
By Flower, Shawn M.. National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC).
“The purpose of this bulletin is to explore the literature and summarize the empirical evidence related to the impact of employment on the criminal behavior of women” (p. 2). Sections comprising this publication are: female offender demographics; barriers to employment—overview, the role of the family and the community, time-management skills, and the role of agency; correctional education and vocational programs—education programs, vocational/technical programs, overall effectiveness of these p... Read More
PDF
24 pages

Related Resources

Date Title Type
2016
Document 031542
Jobs after Jail: Ending the prison to poverty pipeline
By Fredericksen, Allyson; Omli, Desiree. Alliance for a Just Society (AJS) (Washington,DC).
"In many states and cities, both public and private employers can include a question on application materials requiring applicants to disclose whether or not they have a conviction record. While there is growing momentum to “Ban the Box,” in most cases these efforts only ban the box for public employment … On average, states have 123 mandatory bans and restrictions for would-be workers with felony convictions per state from employment in occupations or industries, from obtaining certain types of... Read More

44 pages
2016
Document 032706
Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Statistical Discrimination: A Field Experiment
By Agan, Amanda Y. Starr, Sonja B..
'“Ban-the-Box” (BTB) policies restrict employers from asking about applicants’ criminal histories on job applications and are often presented as a means of reducing unemployment among black men, who disproportionately have criminal records. However, withholding information about criminal records could risk encouraging statistical discrimination: employers may make assumptions about criminality based on the applicant’s race … [This study's] results confirm that criminal records are a major barrie... Read More

69 pages
2015
Document 029822
Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS)
Kansas Dept. of Corrections (Topeka, KS).
A wealth of links to information about Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) can be found on this website. Links are organized to the following sections: OWDS Introduction Module from the National Institute of Corrections; OWDS Resource Directory; Job Club resources; job readiness resources; employment related assessments; multimedia materials; employment retention resources; employment interviewing resources; OWDS curriculum; Resource Room information; OWDS basic skills; OWDS Guide f... Read More

2015
Document 031230
Supporting Second Chances: Education and Employment Strategies for People Returning from Correctional Facilities
By Domenici, David; Salazar, Heather. Jobs for the Future (Boston, MA).
"This brief highlights strategies for strengthening education and employment pathways for youth and adults returning from correctional facilities and notes key questions that new research should answer. It also explores barriers to employment for people with criminal records—whether or not they have been incarcerated—and potential policy solutions" (p. 1). Sections cover: barriers to finding work; whether prison education works; adults need education and training to find jobs after prison-reentr... Read More

10 pages
2015
Document 029812
Improving Offender Employment Through Employer-Focused Programming – National Institute of Corrections
By Rakis, John. DC Public Safety (Washington, DC).
"Examining what employers need and communicating with employers differently: These are the keys to the Employer-Driven Employment Model, a new framework developed by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) for improving the employment outcomes of job seekers with criminal histories. In this program, we uncover the four parts of the model and examine how savvy correctional organizations might engage with employers by following a comprehensive program of public relations, marketing, and commun... Read More
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30 minutes
2015
Document 030140
Justice-involved Veterans and employment: A systematic review of barriers and promising strategies and interventions
By McDonough, Danica E.; Blodgett, Janet Carolyn; Midboe, Amanda M.; Blonigen, Daniel M.. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) (Washington, DC). VA Palo Alto Health Care System. Center for Innovation to Implementation (Ci2i) (Menlo Park, CA).
"To better serve justice-involved Veterans, VA [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] developed services through Veterans Justice Programs (VJP), including Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) and Health Care for Reentry Veterans (HCRV). These services and programs are intended to help ease the transition from incarceration to the community, including developing linkages to vocational training and employment opportunities for justice-involved Veterans. The services and programs may also address the pe... Read More

90 pages
2015
Document 030177
Easing Reentry through Employability Skills Training for Incarcerated Youth
By VanderPyl, Taryn.
"Three distinct time periods frame the juvenile justice process: before, during, and after incarceration. This article focuses on services and supports at each of these critical stages, specifically regarding employability skills. These skills, although supportive of, are different than vocational skills. Beyond specific trade skills, employability skills include at a minimum: effective communication, problem solving, taking responsibility, and teamwork. These skills are important in many areas ... Read More

17 pages
2015
Document 031333
A Key Fair-Chance Hiring Best Practice: Delaying Conviction Inquiries Until the Conditional Job Offer
By Rodriruez, Michelle Natividad; Mehta, Nayantara. National Employment Law Project (NELP) (New York, NY).
"A record creates a serious barrier to employment for millions of workers, especially in communities of color hardest hit by decades of over-criminalization. Fair-chance hiring policies are intended to help dismantle this employment barrier by ensuring that job applicants with records are assessed on their merits, rather than on negative stereotypes associated with having a record" (p. 1). This publication explains how delaying the inquiry of criminal conviction after providing a conditional job... Read More

4 pages
2014
Document 028098
The Employer-Driven Model and Toolkit: Strategies for Developing Employment Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals: Prepare Job Seekers for Employment
National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
"Employers face global competition in their drive to operate successful businesses in today’s marketplace. If the correctional system is to be successful in placing job seekers in meaningful employment that meets employers’ expectations, correctional practitioners must prepare them for the workplace well in advance of their release. Practitioner knowledge of employers’ staffing requirements contributes to the success of this mission. New tools and proven strategies can greatly assist justice-inv... Read More
PDF
8 pages
2014
Document 028096
The Employer-Driven Model and Toolkit: Strategies for Developing Employment Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals: Use Labor Market Information to Target High-Growth Occupations
National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC.
"Using up-to-date labor market information is critical for identifying high-growth occupations, local and regional employment trends, and specific employers and industries that provide the best employment opportunities for justice-involved individuals. It also provides data essential for designing and implementing industry-recognized job training programs that help people develop the skills employers are seeking. "The job market is constantly changing; occupations that are in demand today ma... Read More
PDF
4 pages
2014
Document 028097
The Employer-Driven Model and Toolkit: Strategies for Developing Employment Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals: Address Employers' Needs and Expectations
National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
"Many employers are apprehensive about hiring persons with criminal convictions, but employment specialists tolerate some failed hires only if they have had some successful job placements and found community-based corrections employment specialists to be responsive to their concerns. "It is important to remember that these relationships are mutually beneficial. The employment specialist who works with justice-involved individuals can help employers meet critical staffing needs at little or n... Read More
PDF
8 pages
2014
Document 028241
Employment Retention Inventory Explores the Predictive Factors of Job Loss: Research Project
By Taylor, P. Elizabeth. National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
"A new case management tool, the Employment Retention Inventory (ERI), is the focus of a study funded by the National Institute of Corrections. The study aims to: Determine the effectiveness of the ERI in predicting job loss; [and] Identify and target the risk factors related to recidivism that also contribute to job loss. The tool and the results of the study may be useful for employment specialists working in the field of corrections, as outcomes may affect their ability to help justice-invol... Read More
PDF
2 pages

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Available Training Opportunities

  • Available Online - Offender Workforce Development Specialist Partnership Training Program
    This training addresses numerous competencies, including career development theory and application, ethics training for the career development facilitator, and transition interventions for the offender population.
  • Available Online - Workforce Development and Women Offenders
    This e-course is intended for individuals working or volunteering in prisons, jails, community corrections, community and faith-based organizations, U.S. Department of Labor One-Stops, and other governmental organizations such as health and human services who are interested in workforce development issues specific to women offenders.