Work For Success Program Undergoes Transition

New York’s Work For Success program, initiated two years ago, has had 1,015 businesses hire a total of 1,646 formerly incarcerated people to date.

The program will now transition to a standard state-wide model for how public safety and employment agencies engage the formerly incarcerated.

“Under the Work for Success initiative, we are developing stronger, safer communities while encouraging economic and job growth,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “Providing training and jobs to formerly incarcerated New Yorkers not only reduces rates of recidivism, but also strengthens families, stabilizes local communities and jumpstarts local economies. The success of our pilot program has set a strong foundation for future participants, and we will continue to work with employers across the state to provide opportunities for those New Yorkers working to rebuild their lives.”

Since its inception in 2012, Work For Success has worked to improve the process by which those who have served time in prison are trained and are connected to businesses looking to hire. The initiative matches selected higher and lower-risk individuals to the right employment program after incarceration. In turn, New York businesses gain qualified and appropriately trained applicants, at no cost to them, along with tax credits and access to federal bonding for those that hire. Additionally, preparing and connecting formerly incarcerated individuals to jobs saves businesses and taxpayers’ money and helps local and regional economies thrive. The overall goal is to curb recidivism by reducing poverty and joblessness among the formerly incarcerated.

Cuomo launched the Work For Success in February 2012 to identify strategies to promote productive employment for formerly incarcerated people. He tasked the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and the Department of Labor to work directly with community based organizations led by Center for Employment Opportunities to develop a comprehensive state-wide approach that provide job skills and other training to the formerly incarcerated.

In that time, the program has accomplished the following:

Developed and Implemented Client Matching. As a result of an extensive examination of the capabilities of individuals who are incarcerated, the state developed and implemented empirically-based tools to assess offender risks and needs which enabled the state to begin matching the right offenders to the right programs. Through May 2013, a risk/needs instrument has been deployed in all reception centers and community supervision field offices, providing the Department of Corrections & Community Supervision with an evidenced-based tool for identifying vocational training and other needs to be addressed during incarceration and in the community. In addition, the state is developing case plans for all offenders allowing them to identify specific employment goals they can work towards while incarcerated. The information on the case plan is transferred to the community upon release allowing parole officers to make the appropriate referrals.

Launched an Offender Employment Specialist Program (OES). All of the state’s 96 Career Centers now retain an Offender Employment Specialist, who specifically is trained in employment services for formerly incarcerated individuals. Formerly incarcerated individuals assessed as “low risk of reoffending” and having “low barriers to employment” are sent to Department of Labor Career Centers for job training and placement assistance. At the same time, higher risk individuals with higher barriers to employment receive more intensive employment services through existing programs in the nonprofit community that specialize in serving people with criminal convictions.

Created a Partnerships to Identify Key Job Openings. The Center for Employment Opportunities, on behalf of Work for Success, received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to work with the Governor’s Regional Economic Development Councils to map projects across key regions, identify job openings that are suitable for formerly incarcerated job seekers and understand the skills and abilities necessary to perform the jobs so that the proper vocational skills and training programs are provided to individuals both while they are in prison and when they return to the community. The Departments of Corrections and Community Supervision and Labor are similarly engaged in a partnership to refer high-risk parolees as part of the Pay for Success project, which engages recently released offenders to an employment program, the Center for Employment Opportunities. Approximately 102 offenders have already been identified as potential participants; DOCCS will client-match and refer 2,000 offenders to the program over the next four years.

Launched Inter-Agency Vocational Training. State Labor Department officials teamed up with state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision officials to train and place people exiting the state corrections system in employment. The state Labor Department has identified demand occupations for which DOCCS is implementing training programs.

Created Resume Templates for All Applicants. The state has developed a resume template for select formerly incarcerated people to assist them in translating the vocational skills they learned during incarceration into employment skills.

Improved Accessibility of Vital Records. Since individuals require proper identification to secure employment, the state embarked on an effort to ensure that formerly incarcerated people can more easily obtain vital identification documents.

Launched a State-wide Public Education and Outreach Program. The state engaged in a state-wide public education and outreach program to inform businesses about the benefits of hiring formerly incarcerated individuals in their neighborhoods. The outreach included mailings to employers, presentations to chambers of commerce and public service announcements.

Increased Accessibility of Services. As a result of extensive marketing and revamping of services, there was a 50 percent increase in the number of formerly incarcerated individuals seeking career placement and training services offered by state.