Job placement for the justice-involved: Expanding prison-based workforce development

Research shows that justice-involved individuals participating in workforce development or job skill training programs are 30% more likely to be employed upon release. Photo: Shutterstock.

The criminal justice system in America serves two primary purposes – to ensure justice is given to victims and perpetrators of crimes and to deter illegal activity within the population. However, the consequences of time spent incarcerated are much more profound than solely what is experienced in prison. Even after serving time, these individuals will likely experience incarceration’s long-term effects, including higher unemployment levels, decreased economic mobility, and incredibly high recidivism rates. 

While most individuals agree that the punishment for crimes should end after time is served rather than extend through the rest of someone’s life, this is much easier said than done. One of our juvenile justice transition programs, Project Bridge, is focused on ensuring that involvement in the system doesn’t hold back young people dedicated to change from future success. While rehabilitation programs for prisoners are available – whether for drug use, mental health conditions, or workforce development – many are limited in scope and do not translate to real-world success. 

Research shows that justice-involved individuals participating in workforce development or job skill training programs are 30% more likely to be employed upon release. However, three-quarters of these programs focus on low-paying jobs related to prison maintenance, such as food service (cafeteria work), housekeeping, and landscaping. While this job training provides some benefits, it does little to help provide sustainable career development or keep prisoners out of poverty once they are released. 

An employer-driven approach is necessary to reduce recidivism and help prisoners have fulfilling, sustainable careers after incarceration. By training justice-involved individuals for skilled labor needed in the job market, they can have better long-term success and rebuild their lives as integrated community members. 

An employer-driven approach to justice-involved workforce development

One of the best ways to help justice-involved individuals build sustainable careers upon release is to take an employer-driven approach rather than a prison-based one. We can help employers fill desperately needed positions and offer an alternative to jobs in unskilled markets by training justice-involved individuals for high-growth careers. 

For example, we can fill needs in a rapidly thinning workforce by training prisoners in plumbing, electrical work, HVAC repair, automotive repair, or other skilled trades. In addition, these businesses are losing new talent yearly as college education becomes more accessible and familiar among young workers. By finding talented and hard-working individuals from unconventional sources, you can rebuild both the workforce and the community in a positive way for all. 

Buy-in is necessary from the individual, facility, and employer for these programs to flourish. Individuals chosen for the program should be carefully selected to ensure employers give their best resources to those most likely to succeed. At the facility level, ensuring those involved in the program can complete training (by avoiding transfers if possible and providing ample opportunity to participate) can prevent recidivism and provide service to the community. 

Working with community partners can help expand opportunities for the justice-involved and end a justice-involved individual’s punishment once they have served their time. Contact us today to learn more about implementing an employer-driven workforce program at your facility. 

Want to learn more? Check out our workforce development programs here.