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Offender employment

"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-involved individuals transitioning to the community workplace. necessary for post-release success" (p. 1). This publication will explain how to use these tools. Sections cover: the types of assessment that are most effective at ensuring a good job match and successful placement; what job readiness is; barriers job seekers encounter and the resources that can help address these challenges, such as the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) "Thinking for a Change" cognitive-based program for offenders transitions back into the community; what can be done during the time of incarceration to teach job retention skills; what training is available for staff interested in building effective pre-release job training programs; effective practices; tips; and resources.

The Employer-Driven Model and Toolkit: Strategies for Developing Employment Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals: Prepare Job Seekers for Employment cover

"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 may offer little opportunity for employment or advancement in the years to come, and occupations that do not exist today may emerge as in-demand occupations in the near future, so labor market information must be updated constantly. 

"The U.S. Department of Labor provides a wealth of information that can be used to assist you in helping others identify high-growth occupations and make informed career decisions. Given the vast amount of labor market information (LMI) available, job seekers will need assistance as they navigate their way through the career exploration process. This will require employment practitioners to be familiar with LMI resources and to know how to interpret the data" (p. 1). 

This publication will explain how you can do this. Topics covered include: where employment specialists can obtain the Latest Labor Market Information (LMI); and effective practices.

The Employer-Driven Model and Toolkit: Strategies for Developing Employment Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals: Use Labor Market Information to Target High-Growth Occupations Cover

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.


Issues related to the ability of ex-offenders to get jobs after their release from imprisonment in Wisconsin are explored. An executive summary presents a review of findings and recommendations. This report is divided into two parts: mass incarceration of African American males—the most for any state in the United States; and transportation barriers to employment—suspensions of driver’s licenses due to not paying fines. “Given wide disparities in income among racial groups in Wisconsin and the intense levels of segregation in the Milwaukee metropolitan area, large numbers of ex-offenders released from Wisconsin correctional institutions reside in the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee – areas which have seen dramatic job losses and foreclosure actions during the economic recession. Bringing ex-offenders into full engagement in the current labor force is one of the most important challenges for Milwaukee and for the state” (p. 7).

Wisconsin’s Mass Incarceration of African American Males: Workforce Challenges for 2013 Cover

This training program presents strategies for making women offender workplace development programs more responsive to their clients. Topics include:

  • Emerging evidence-based gender responsive practices
  • Information strategies and case management models
  • Career theories and assessment tools
  • Collaborative relationships that support effective reentry
  • How a history of criminal convictions impacts job search efforts
  • Women Offender Case Management Model (WOCMM)
  • Strengths and needs of female offenders
  • Motivational interviewing & relational language
  • Transitional and social learning theories
  • What is in it for the system and staff
  • Pains of imprisonment
  • Assessment classification and gender responsive tools
  • Examples of best practices
  • And more.
Women and Work: Gender Responsivity and Workforce Development Cover

Looney, Adam, and Nicholas Turner

Brookings Institution (Washington, DC)

“In this paper, [the authors] offer a more comprehensive view of the labor market opportunities of ex-prisoners in the U.S. by linking data from the entire prison population to earnings records over a sixteen year period. These data allow us to examine employment and earnings before and after release and, for younger prisoners, their family income and neighborhood in childhood. After release, only 55 percent of former prisoners have any earnings and those that do tend to earn less than the earnings of a full-time job at the minimum wage” (p. iii).


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