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Offender employment

“Employment providers are already serving large numbers of individuals released from correctional facilities or who are required to find jobs as conditions of their probation or parole. Yet the corrections, reentry, and workforce development fields have lacked an integrated tool that draws on the best thinking about reducing recidivism and improving job placement and retention to guide correctional supervision and the provision of community-based services. To address this gap, this white paper presents a tool that draws on evidence-based criminal justice practices and promising strategies for connecting hard-to-employ people to work. It calls for program design and practices to be tailored for adults with criminal histories based on their levels of risk for future criminal activity” (p. v). Sections of this publication include: introduction to the relationship between employment and recidivism; what works to reduce recidivism—principles for improving outcomes among unemployed individuals with corrections system-involvement; proven and promising practices for improving outcomes for hard-to-employ individuals; and the resource-allocation and service-matching tool—an integrated approach to reducing recidivism and improving employment outcomes.

Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies: Reducing Recidivism and Promoting Job Readiness Cover

Thomson, Chelsea, Leah Sakala, Ryan King, and Samantha Harvell

Urban Institute (Washington, DC)

“In this report, we highlight Colorado's Work and Gain Education and Employment Skills (WAGEES) program, which represents one of the first partnerships between a state department of corrections and local community organizations to support community-driven public safety investment. The report describes the WAGEES program and shares lessons learned for other states interested in exploring a community-based public safety investment strategy … With more than half of states already taking steps in the last decade to reduce the number of people under correctional control, WAGEES is a strong example for how funds saved can be reinvested beyond the traditional criminal justice system.”

"[A] comprehensive list of skills, functions, and duties for use by agencies in developing job descriptions for Offender Employment Specialist (OES), Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) and Offender Workforce Development Program Manager (OWDPM)" are identified and provided (p. 1).

Job Descriptions for OES, OWDS, and OWDPM Cover

"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 occupational licenses, and/or from obtaining certain types of business or property licenses. 10 states have more than 160 of these regulations, including 248 in Texas, 258 in Illinois, and 389 in Louisiana. Only nine states have fewer than 75 regulations" (p. 5). This report describes the barriers that individuals with criminal records face when they look for high-paying jobs ensuring a degree of economic stability. Sections following an executive report include: introduction; background; national findings; profiles for 16 states and Washington, DC regarding their restrictions for individuals with felonies and controlled substance convictions; recommendations; and conclusion.

Jobs after Jail Cover

"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 personal, social and economic costs associated with incarceration. Even with these services and programs, justice-involved Veterans continue to face substantial barriers to employment, including the barriers related to a criminal record and educational and vocational deficits. To support these efforts to return justice-involved Veterans to the workforce, this review synthesizes research relevant to: (1) the employment needs and barriers for justice-involved Veterans, (2) assessment tools that can identify employment-related needs and job-readiness, and (3) effective or promising interventions or strategies for addressing employment barriers. This synthesis of the research on employment barriers and associated interventions can help to inform those developing and striving to improve programs for justice-involved Veterans seeking to secure employment. Ultimately, employment may reduce recidivism as well as serve to enhance overall quality of life, such as reducing homelessness" (p. 9). Results are presented following an executive summary that cover: what the employment needs and barriers are for justice-involved veterans; assessment tools that can be used to identify employment-related needs and job-readiness for justice-involved veterans; and what are the effective or promising employment-focused strategies and interventions for justice-involved veterans.

Justice-Involved Veterans and Employment: A Systematic Review of Barriers and Promising Strategies and Interventions Cover

This worksheet helps a person to determine whether the job they want to get is right for them. This is done by answering some questions regarding the desired occupation. Responses are determined for: common names for the occupation; current number of jobs in the occupation; anticipated 10-year growth rate for the occupation; average annual job openings for occupation; license requirement for the occupation and whether individuals with a criminal conviction are excluded; certification availability for this occupation and whether persons with criminal convictions are excluded; federal restrictions ; state or local restrictions; short-term training opportunities for this occupation; and apprentice opportunities for this occupation. Each answer can be found using the related online resource.

Labor Market Information Worksheet Cover

“Persons convicted of crime are subject to a wide variety of legal and regulatory sanctions and restrictions in addition to the sentence imposed by the court. These so- called “collateral consequences” of conviction have been promulgated with little coordination in disparate sections of state and federal codes, which makes it difficult for anyone to identify all of the penalties and disabilities that are triggered by conviction of a particular offense … Through the National Inventory, each jurisdiction’s collateral consequences will be made accessible to the public through a website that can be searched and sorted by categories and keywords. The website will make it possible for criminal and civil lawyers to determine which collateral consequences are triggered by particular categories of offenses, for affected individuals to understand the limits on their rights and opportunities, and for lawmakers and policy advocates to understand the full measure of a jurisdiction’s sanctions and disqualifications. It will also be possible through the website to perform inter-jurisdictional comparisons and national analyses.” Points of entry include: project description; User Guide Frequently Asked Questions; links to a bibliography and additional resources; and contact information.

National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction Cover

Work done during fiscal years 2001 and 2002 by the Office of Correctional Job Training and Placement (OCJTP) to "enhanc[e] offenders' abilities to enter and remain in the labor market" is summarized (p. iii). Sections of this report include: introduction and background; activities and accomplishments; clearinghouse services; news articles; status of correctional job training and placement programs in the U.S.; and activities of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Inmate Placement Program Branch.


According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 700,000 individuals are released from prisons yearly—with an additional 9 million adults cycling through local jails. Research indicates that employment is an important component of successful reentry, but most offender programs do not address the complex behavioral health issues that impact the offender’s ability to obtain and retain gainful employment while remaining crime free.

Offender programming should target individuals at high risk for recidivism, address the dynamic influences that predict crime, and provide interventions specific to the needs of offenders. During this national discussion sponsored and broadcast by the National Institute of Corrections on November 2, 2011, participants will explore evidence-based practices that increase public safety while helping to reduce recidivism.

At the conclusion of this broadcast, participants will be able to: define and describe an offender retention model; identify strategies, resources, and partnerships that improve retention outcomes; describe a process for developing effective offender services/programming; and identify collaborative partnerships that support increased public safety and effective reentry programs.

› Offender Employment Retention: Worth the Work [Satellite/Internet Broadcast] Cover

Results from a survey of offender employment and retention issues that utilizes close-ended questions regarding topics such as assessment, case management, follow-up, and relapse are analyzed. This report is comprised of the following sections: introduction; theory; assessment; case management; job retention relapse model; relapse prevention plans; and the future of offender job retention efforts by practitioners.

Offender Job Retention Cover


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