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Offender employment

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 for Offenders; and juvenile corrections resources.

Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) cover

"Today, a criminal record serves as both a direct cause and consequence of poverty. It is a cause because having a criminal record can present obstacles to employment, housing, public assistance, education, family reunification, and more; convictions can result in monetary debts as well. It is a consequence due to the growing criminalization of poverty and homelessness. One recent study finds that our nation’s poverty rate would have dropped by 20 percent between 1980 and 2004 if not for mass incarceration and the subsequent criminal records that haunt people for years after they have paid their debt to society. Failure to address this link as part of a larger anti-poverty agenda risks missing a major piece of the puzzle. It is important to note that communities of color—and particularly men of color—are disproportionately affected, and high-poverty, disadvantaged communities generate a disproportionate share of Americans behind bars … Indeed, research shows that mass incarceration and its effects have been significant drivers of racial inequality in the United States, particularly during the past three to four decades. Moreover, the challenges associated with having a criminal record come at great cost to the U.S. economy. Estimates put the cost of employment losses among people with criminal records at as much as $65 billion per year in terms of gross domestic product. That’s in addition to our nation’s skyrocketing expenditures for mass incarceration, which today total more than $80 billion annually" (p. 1-2). This report explains how all levels of government (local, state, and federal), employers, and academic institutions can work to ensure that criminal records do not lead to structural racism and poverty. This report includes the following sections: introduction and summary; background; barriers to employment; barriers to housing; barriers to public assistance; barriers to education and training; barriers to economic security and financial empowerment; and conclusion.

One Strike and You're Out: How We can Eliminate Barriers to Economic Security and Mobility for People with Criminal Records Cover

This report summarizes findings from the Urban Institute’s replication validation of the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Employment Retention Inventory (ERI). This study was conducted under NIC Cooperative Agreement Award 16CS04GKU7 to determine the ERI’s ability to identify workforce detachment risks for employed and unemployed justice-involved populations in Indiana, New York, and Massachusetts. This study also examined practitioners’ use of the ERI in diverse community correctional settings.

From June 2017 to July 2018, 185 employed and 148 unemployed people participated in the study, completing the ERI during check-in meetings with NIC-trained Employment Retention Specialists. Most study participants were living in the community under probation or parole supervision or with a history of justice involvement; others were incarcerated in state prison. ERI baseline responses were quantitatively compared with employment outcomes approximately 3 to 6 months later for all participants. The relationship between employment and recidivism was also examined. Qualitative interviews with ERI-trained professionals provided insight into the instrument’s use in practice

Items in the ERI showed strong content and construct validity, meaning the tool conceptually covered the key domains related to employment retention, particularly for community-based participants. Predictive validity analyses demonstrated that the ERI yielded “good” and “excellent” performance ratings in predicting unemployment 3 to 6 months later for those in community settings. Analyses of the ERI’s validity for incarcerated participants were insufficient due to small sample sizes. For all participants, bivariate analyses supported a linkage between employment experiences and recidivism. ERI practitioners expressed that the instrument had strong utility and potential for their work.

Overall, validation analyses coupled with practitioners’ feedback suggests that the ERI, when implemented with motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral techniques learned through NIC’s Employment Retention Specialist training, could be a useful case management tool for community correctional populations.

Results from a "post-training survey to assess the usability of the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the course [Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS)] content by the participant once they return to the job" are presented (p. 1). An executive summary is divided into four parts -- background, methods, summary of results, and next steps. Twenty-six survey questions and results are organized by the following sections: team collaboration and internal effects; building external support and relationships; and additional information. Participants "make significant changes in their organization and themselves . . . [while] OWDS training is assisting in professionalizing the field of offender workforce development" (p. 2).

Results of the Workforce Cover

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, a printable worksheet that can be used to prepare offenders for using these systems, and a full-length interactive application with context sensitive help. At the completion of the process, the user can print out the information that was entered.

Simulated Online/Kiosk Job Application Cover

This is a great update on what is happening in the United States regarding Ban the Box initiatives. Correctional reformers, offender advocates, and probation officers should be aware of this movement. “Nationwide, over 50 cities and counties—including New York City—have now taken the critical step of removing unfair barriers to employment in their hiring policies. Widely known as “ban the box,” these initiatives typically remove the question on the job application about an individual’s conviction history and delay the background check inquiry until later in the hiring process … In an era of extreme mass incarceration, ban-the-box campaigns provide a platform to educate the public about the stigma of a criminal record and the real consequences to our society of depriving millions of Americans with past convictions of economic stability” (p. 2). Sections of this brief cover: the ten states that have embraced statewide ban the box; current state policies; legislation introduced in 2013; and related fair hiring standards—laws prohibiting discrimination based on a criminal record.


Statewide Ban the Box: Reducing Unfair Barriers to Employment of People with Criminal Records Cover

“Employment is a key to community reintegration for both people with mental illness and those with justice involvement. At present, the empirical literature on employment services for justice-involved people with or without mental illness is meager. By contrast, an extensive evidence base documents the effectiveness of a specific employment model for people with severe mental illness: the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model of supported employment” (p. 1). This publication covers: the IPS Model of Supported Employment; current trends in IPS services for justice-involved people; vocational programs for ex-offenders; and adaptations of IPS for justice-involved people.

Supported Employment for Justice-Involved People with Mental Illness Cover

"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-reentry education must begin behind bars, after release, reentry specialists help ex-offenders find housing and jobs, growing number of cities and states "Ban the Box" on job applications, and policy recommendations to help increase successful reentry; youth prison programs need attention and policy recommendations for youth; and where to go from here.

Supporting Second Chances Cover

"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 no cost, and employers can provide these job seekers with an opportunity to earn a sustainable wage, which research shows can reduce recidivism, thus improving public safety. It can be a win-win situation for everyone involved.

"The foundation for these relationships must focus on benefits provided to the employer. Long-term success of partnerships with employers depends on good communication, excellent customer service, and employee retention" (p. 1).

This publication explains how optimal partnerships between the offender employment specialist and employer. Sections cover: the Employer-Driven Model—address employer needs, prepare job seekers, and engage partners; how employment specialists can initiate relationships with business owners/employers; how employment specialists can most effectively communicate with employers about the benefits of hiring job seekers with criminal records; effective practices; tips; and resources.

The Employer-Driven Model and Toolkit: Strategies for Developing Employment Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals: Address Employers' Needs and Expectations cover

"No single agency can meet all of the workforce development needs of justice-involved individuals returning to the community. A systems approach that expands beyond the criminal justice system is essential for maximizing employment outcomes for this population. You must identify and engage stakeholders in developing employer-driven initiatives that meet their workforce development needs.

There is also a need to share resources to increase efficiency and improve outcomes(p. 1). This publication explains how offender employment specialists can creates partnerships with other organizations that work with ex-offenders. Sections cover: stakeholders who may be potential partners, and what some of the benefits are provided through partnerships; how to identify the right partners; effective practices; tips; and resources.

The Employer-Driven Model and Toolkit: Strategies for Developing Employment Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals: Engage and Partner with Stakeholders Cover


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