August 7, 2014 | 12:20pm
Getting a job is not an easy venture for most, but especially not for men and women recently released from prison or jail. Adding to the pressure – for some, it is a condition of their release.
“We believe that meaningful and sustainable employment is a key to successful re-entry into the community, and it reduces the number of offenders who continue to commit crimes,” said San Diego County Probation Chief Mack Jenkins.
So Probation teamed up with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), a program that helps participants gain life skills, education and a job. Probation and CEO first partnered with Chula Vista Parks for transitional employment opportunities in December 2012. In May, Probation and CEO began a new effort with Caltrans to provide more transitional employment to offenders. The County became the first in the state to form a direct working relationship with Caltrans and CEO to put Post-Release Community Supervision offenders to work picking up litter.
Board of Supervisors Chair Dianne Jacob, Jenkins, and top officials from Caltrans and CEO gathered in San Diego Thursday to highlight the innovative new program.
“This promising program is helping us address the ongoing challenge of realignment and recidivism,” said Jacob. “Hopefully, the value of earning a paycheck and putting in a hard day’s work will hit home with these offenders.”
Jenkins said the crews themselves also provide important work around the county. Laurie Berman, Caltrans district director, said litter along the highways is the biggest complaint from motorists. The new partnership not only helps these offenders gain work experience, but it will help keep the highways clean, she said.
Who is Being Helped
If not for this extra help, some offenders would struggle to find employment and could possibly be rejected over and over due to their criminal record.
Jesus Quevedo, 26, was released from state prison and is under Probation’s Post-Release Community Supervision as a result of Public Safety Realignment. With help from the new program, he recently found permanent work with a roofing company. He now plans to make a career of roofing.
“They (CEO) help you look for a job, and while they help you, they employ you three days a week, and that’s a big help,” said Quevedo. “On the other two days, they help get your resume in order. It’s a pretty great program.”
Probationer Charles Miller, 45, is working three days a week on a Caltrans work crew picking up trash along highways as part of the program. He’s also working with a CEO job coach to find a permanent job. Prior to being referred to this program, he was in another live-in program where he was unable to find a job, in part because he had a home curfew of 6 p.m.
“I’m grateful for the chance to be working to tell you the truth,” Miller said. “It’s going really good. They’re trying to help me find a permanent job.”
How the Program Works
Probation officers refer offenders to the highly structured and tightly supervised program as a part of developing a case plan that is designed to meet the offender’s most critical needs, such as unemployment.
CEO focuses on those at high risk and facing the greatest barriers. Nationwide, it has helped place 17,000 offenders in permanent jobs. The nonprofit has already worked with 459 people and placed 187 offenders in permanent jobs in San Diego County, said Bill Heiser, California Director for CEO.
“CEO has a tested and proven program model that has worked across the country to save states money, complement existing workforces with well-trained and highly-qualified workers, and help people coming home from prison to find and stay in good jobs,” Heiser said.
The CEO program enrolls offenders in a five-day employment workshop providing job development and job placement services. Offenders are assigned a job coach to help with resume and interview skills. They are offered transitional employment and assisted in a permanent job search.
Additionally, while in the program, the offenders are still actively supervised by an assigned probation officer, which means they have regular meetings to make sure they are meeting all their conditions for supervision and the objectives of their case plan.
Miller said working on a Caltrans crew means a lot of walking along the freeway but it’s keeping him in shape. He described his job coach as a “blessing” and said she helps keep him motivated and positive. His coach is even helping him get ready for questions about his incarceration from potential employers.
Quevedo said when he was struggling to find a job, he found that most employers would just never call once they saw that he had checked off the felon box on an application. But with the CEO program, the employers already know about it, and that helps considerably, he said.
Probation also partners with Caltrans for a different work crew program which allows probationers to participate in court-mandated community work projects in exchange for jail time.
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New CEO Partnership with San Diego County Probation Department and Caltrans Puts San Diegans Coming Home from Prison to Work
SAN DIEGO: Today, CEO celebrated a new partnership to create job opportunities for even more San Diegans coming home from prison and provide highway clean-up services for Caltrans across San Diego County.
In its second month, the new Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) program targets people who have been moved from State prison to County Probation under California’s criminal justice realignment. Many have little to no work experience when they are released.
Under this new partnership, 150 probationers under County supervision will be referred to CEO for the program each year. Participants will receive the full benefits of CEO’s proven program model, which has worked across the country to save taxpayer money, complement existing workforces with well-trained and highly-qualified workers, and help people coming home from prison to find and stay in good jobs.
The program begins with life skills education, including critical job searching skills like resume writing and interview techniques. Within one week, participants will be working for CEO on a Caltrans litter abatement work crew, picking up litter along San Diego’s highways. On the work crews, participants receive work experience and valuable guidance and feedback from supervisors to ensure they can succeed in the workplace.
“Communities thrive when we support employment opportunities for people coming home from prison,” said Sam Schaeffer, Chief Executive Officer of CEO. “This new partnership will help save money for the county, smooth the realignment process, and allow us to serve even more San Diegans. I want to thank our partners at CalTrans and San Diego Probation for coming together with us, and for believing in our program and in the potential of people coming home from prison.”
Updated Jul 31, 2014 at 6:34 PM EDT
Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) For more than 20 years the United Way of Broome County has been helping nonprofit organizations stay afloat in the Southern Tier. This year, they gave thousands to six local programs to help them thrive in the community.
Thanks to the United Way of Broome County and the Helen T Howland Foundation, $50,000 is going to six local organizations: Broome County Council of Churches, Center for Employment Opportunities, Family Enrichment Network, Mom’s House of Johnson City, The Danielle House and Rural Health Network of South Central New York.
The 2014 Venture and Special Assistance grant award ceremony was held Thursday morning. The money helps fun, new and innovative programs.
“United Way is the largest funder of human service programs after government funding, so that means we really have the opportunity to make a real impact in the community and this is one way we can do that,” said Alan Hertel, Executive Director of the United Way of Broome County.
The largest award went to Rural Health Network of South Central New York. It will help with its Rural Broome Counts program.
“There are about 50,000 Broome County residents that live in rural Broome – townships of 200 people per square mile or less – and we think it’s really important to really understand their needs,” said Jack Salo, Executive Director of Rural Health Network of South Central New York.
The United Way and the foundation gave the network $16,164.
“We want to spend considerable time on the front end, asking the question ‘what do we really need to know in order to better serve the needs of rural Broome County?’” Salo added.
Other 2014 Venture and Special Assistance Program projects include:
The Broome County Council of Churches “Chow Community Food Bus” received $10,575. The bus will be a mobile farm stand that will travel between neighborhoods.
Center for Employment Opportunities was granted $10,000 for “Comprehensive Employment Reentry Services for Broome County Residents.” This will help CEO provide more employment services to men and women under criminal justice supervision.
$8,761 went to Family Enrichment Network for “Math Starts.” The program is an early childhood mathematics program that will be in Head Start and Pre-K classrooms in Binghamton and Johnson City School Districts.
Mom’s House of Johnson City’s “Training and Education” program was granted $3,500, which will fund two years of training and education for the childcare and administrative staff.
The Danielle House was given $1,000 for “New Mattresses, Box Springs and Cots” which will go toward finishing guest rooms.
A framework to guide nonprofits in effectively assessing risk and opportunity in Pay for Success contracts.
In December 2013 my organization, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), became one of the first nonprofits to launch a Pay for Success (PFS) project in the United States. In this four-year, $13.5 million transaction, CEO will serve high-risk men recently released from prison and returning home to New York City and Rochester, New York. The intervention will provide 2,000 individuals with a program that CEO has proven, through outside evaluation, reduces recidivism. If individuals in the treatment group spend at least 8 percent fewer days in jail or prison than the control group, and show at least a 5 percent increase in their immediate and long-term employment, the federal government and the State of New York will return investors a portion of the savings. Returns for the 44 private investors financing the project can reach as high as 12.5 percent. However, if these targets are not met, investors stand to lose their capital.
At its core, this is a performance-based contract. But instead of focusing on outputs like job placements, it hinges on our organization making an impact on recidivism and long-term employment. And while CEO has experience with performance-based contracts, in size, scope, and complexity, this project is like no other we have taken on in the past. To finalize the project design and contract, we worked closely with the intermediary Social Finance and New York State for more than a year. Mutual interest in the project’s success drove trust and collaboration between all parties. But as the provider, there was no playbook, road map or learning community to guide us through the intricacies of scoping this project or bringing the deal to closure.
The opportunity for CEO is significant: receive unrestricted capital to deliver our core program to the population for whom we make the deepest impact. There are risks. Random assignment evaluation, scaling up, and multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts all require significant preparation and due diligence for nonprofits. Additionally, we had to quickly become familiar with the language and priorities of the investment community. Terms such as “asset class” and “capital stack” were new to our lexicon.
PFS opportunities will continue to have a strong allure for nonprofits into the foreseeable future. Untapped capital, contracts that pay the real cost of services, and the chance to be on the cutting edge of innovation are just some of the attractions. Yet, given the nascent state of the field, there are few deals for nonprofits to use as models. As Tracey Palandijian, co-founder and CEO of Social Finance, has said, “If you have seen one Pay for Success deal, you have seen only one Pay for Success deal.”
There has been plenty written about how the impact investing community assesses risk in this emerging marketplace, but precious little on how the recipients of this investment—in most cases, nonprofit providers—should assess risk. Risk comes in two forms here: reputational and financial. These projects are highly visible; failing on center stage could be damaging to an organization’s future, and some deals may ask for a nonprofit’s financial involvement, which presents a whole other type of risk.
Drawing on our experience in the New York State transaction and early due diligence on a potential project in San Diego County, I have drafted a matrix that can help nonprofits assess the risks in both closing deals and operationalizing projects. Some elements in the matrix will be widely applicable, others specific to CEO. I hope that, where it is specific, there will be ready analogs that practitioners in other fields can swap in based on their own work.
Let me first explain the structure of the matrix. I have selected 12 “deal components” and provided low, medium, and high-risk scenarios.
A few important points before diving in:
- Risk does not correlate to reward. In some cases, the lowest-risk option provides the most benefit and the highest risk the least benefit.
- There are deal breakers. Some of the high- and even medium-risk scenarios are options that would preclude us from participating in a deal. There are places here where CEO wouldn’t go past low risk, other areas where we would take on more risk.
While 12 deal components are included in the matrix, I have selected five below to detail more extensively.
Let’s start at the top with Capital Source. Here we are asking: Who are the investors in the deal? This matters. One of our interests in participating in a PFS project was accessing new forms of financial support that were previously unavailable to CEO. A high-risk scenario would be if existing government and/or philanthropic support were diverted into a PFS deal. We are loathe to cannibalize existing funders. The low-risk option was attracting entirely new capital to participate in the deal. In future deals, I could envision CEO accepting the medium-risk scenario, but for our first deal, it would have been a deal-breaker to go past the low-risk scenario. CEO Investment Stake: In the New York deal, CEO has no “skin in the game.” We are not an investor. CEO will not share in the windfall if we hit all of our performance thresholds and the investors get their full return. The organization has no direct financial risk. Instead, we will get paid, up front, for each person who enrolls in the project. Other nonprofits have gone in a different direction and have found funding for their stake in the deals. This was not viable for CEO. We wanted to put our organizational emphasis on planning and running the project with excellence and believed that simultaneously raising a substantial investment would interfere. What’s more, we did not feel our reserve could cover our stake if we were not successful in the capital raise. If a third party facilitated our investment (medium risk) or our balance sheet condition improved dramatically (high risk), we would not rule out those options, but these scenarios currently are not viable options. Number of Government Payors: This component addresses the risk of deal closing. PFS projects are complicated enough for just one government entity to wrap their minds around, let alone multiple entities. That said, the work that CEO and other providers perform frequently saves government money across local, state and federal levels. Jail savings, prison savings, and Medicaid savings? It’s likely that we produce them all. The reward of coordinating across these systems would be significant but could present the greatest risk in getting to closure. The varying legal and procurement requirements—not to mention underlying motivations—can make the most ambitious projects higher risk. In CEO’s case, we have both federal Department of Labor and New York State support, which would have put us in the medium-risk category for deal closure. Having both parties in the deal allowed us to extend the project from two to four years. Evidence in Geography: In this domain, CEO was comfortable in the medium-risk scenario. For the New York deal, we are implementing this project in our New York City office, which has already been subject to random assignment evaluation. But we are also including Rochester, New York, which has not been subject to a similarly rigorous evaluation. We were comfortable with this scenario, because only 15 percent of the treatment group participants will be from Rochester and in preparation for the deal we were able to perform a comparison group analysis that showed the Rochester office was performing at a level consistent with CEO’s previous evaluation. Moving forward, there is a possibility that CEO could take on the high-risk option of using PFS to scale into new geographies, but there would have to be a 12-18 month start-up period to ensure that program fidelity was achieved in advance of beginning the project. CEO generally selected options in the low- to medium-risk categories, but we did so as they arose. My intent here is to begin a conversation amongst providers, intermediaries, government, and investors in which the risk/opportunity calculus for the nonprofits is integrated into the deal-making process. This matrix is just a starting point. To make tools like this fully functional, we will need to:
- Add additional components. By no means are the 12 I selected exhaustive. We will need a more extensive listing, divided by “risk for closure” and “risk for operationalizing.”
- Refine by geography and issue area. Providers in early-childhood, health care, and other arenas will have to consider whether these components are too narrow or broad for them to use effectively. Providers working in other states will need to add geographic-specific components
- Develop risk score and proportional weighting. If our efforts in adding and refining the matrix are successful, this tool could become a scoring mechanism to determine whether nonprofits should or should not enter into a PFS deal. For that to happen, we will need to develop a system for assigning weight to individual components and more clearly assigning “deal-breaker” status for those that present untenable risk.
PFS projects have the opportunity to fundamentally change how government works by placing an emphasis on funding high-performing, evidence-based practices. The field will have to scale, and more providers and projects will need to enter the marketplace. As more nonprofits enter this space, it is imperative that they have tools to fully assess the risks and rewards of this new, exciting financing mechanism. Download a PDF of the matrix here.
Stephon Johnson | 7/24/2014, 2:50 p.m.
Formerly incarcerated New Yorkers have a hard time upon re-entry into society. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking to tackle that problem head-on.
Last week, Cuomo announced the formation of the New York State Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration. The council will address obstacles that formerly incarcerated people face when they re-enter society and collaborate with state, local and private agencies and community groups to address issues newly freed people face after serving time, including housing, employment, health care, education, behavior change and veterans’ services.
“We have made great progress toward creating a safer state over the past few years. Our prisons have fewer people in them and crime is down, but we must do more to stop the revolving door of recidivism once and for all,” said Cuomo in a statement. “Reducing the state’s recidivism rate will mean safer communities, stronger families and fewer taxpayer dollars spent on prisons. This Re-Entry Council will strengthen the support that we provide to formerly incarcerated individuals as they transition back into mainstream society and help ensure that those transitions are lasting and effective.”
Members of the Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration include Rossana Rosado of John Jay College of Criminal Justice as the board of trustees member (chair); Alphonso David, the deputy secretary and counsel for civil rights for the governor’s office; Anthony Thompson, a professor at New York University School of Law; Elizabeth Glazer, the director of the New York City Office of Criminal Justice; and Thomas Abt, the deputy secretary for public safety for the governor’s office.
According to the Re-Entry Council, their goals include identifying barriers to successful re-entry in New York by examining state laws, regulations and administrative policies pertaining to the formerly incarcerated; soliciting feedback from stakeholders regarding potential policies, laws and practices that could improve outcomes for the formerly incarcerated; assessing existing programs for effectiveness and identifying evidence-based best practices in support of positive outcomes; and developing coordination strategies between state, local, private and community-based groups in support of successful re-entry for the formerly incarcerated.
According to the governor’s office, the council will submit recommendations for review and potential implementation, with Marta Nelson, the executive director for the New York City Office of the Center for Employment Opportunities, serving as the executive director of the council. Alexander Rose will serve as special assistant to the council.
Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. Each year, the state releases roughly 8,000 people from prison, and many of them are looking for work. One organization now hires ex-offenders to help rebuild and restore tornado-struck towns.
Reuben Ramirez cuts wood for trusses at the Habitat for Humanity offices in Oklahoma City. Kate Carlton Greer Oklahoma Tornado Project
When Reuben Ramirez was released from prison three months ago, it was hard for him to adjust. Ramirez spent a total of seven years behind bars, so getting used to the outside world wasn’t always easy.
“It’s been somewhat overwhelming at times just for the simple fact that I’m learning to adapt out here,” Ramirez said.
He knew he needed establish himself as a loyal, hardworking man instead of just an ex-convict. So two months ago, he started working for a non-profit called the Center for Employment Opportunities, or CEO. It’s a national program to help people with criminal records get back on their feet after they serve time by providing employment services.
Pat Viklund is the organization’s Oklahoma City director. He says they had planned on expanding beyond the state’s Tulsa office in October or November of last year.
“But when the tornadoes came through in May, we realized that our services could definitely be used to help the city of Moore and the South Oklahoma City community recover from that,” Viklund said.
It was a big task, but it wouldn’t be CEO’s first time assisting cities suffering from severe weather.
“It was something we had done with Hurricane Sandy in New York, so we were experienced at providing disaster relief, and so we opened up two crews in August of 2013.
Participants are split between the City of Moore and Habitat for Humanity. They spend 4 days each week clearing debris, planting trees and building houses for tornado victims. Habitat’s Ann Felton says that has been extremely beneficial.
“For us, it’s been a godsend because we have an extra pair of hands out there, and they have been building trusses for our houses,” she said.
Those trusses save Habitat for Humanity roughly $1,000 per home.
Mike Johnston is a site supervisor for the Center for Employment Opportunities’ Habitat for Humanity program. For him, assisting tornado survivors has left a lasting impact. He remembers one day when he and his crew were helping pick up debris from a church lawn.
“When we were back there cleaning up, the pastor actually came out to thank us. He had tears in his eyes and he said that we were doing what they were supposed to do. One of my participants stepped up and said, ‘No, sir. You did your part. Now let us do ours,’” he said.
Johnston says this kind of work – the kind that involves helping other people who have lost everything – impacts the CEO participants in a way few other things do.
“There is a connection there. These guys are having to rebuild their lives, and their helping other people rebuild theirs,” Johnston said.
That’s something Reuben Ramirez, the man just released from prison, completely understands. It’s why he enjoys working on the Habitat for Humanity crew.
“It’s something that I definitely look forward to, helping others that don’t have nowhere else to go, because I know the feeling to not have anything.”
There’s a kinship there, he says. And Ramirez knows that one day, his life will return to normal, just like the lives he has helped rebuild along the way.
By Lindsey Allen
Posted Jun. 19, 2014 @ 8:00 am
The City of Shawnee, beginning in July, will utilize parolees to compensate for a staffing shortage in the parks department.
The $175,000 agreement with the Center for Employment Opportunities is set to provide the city a supervisor and six crew workers, five days a week. City Manager Brian McDougal noted the city’s only real requirement is to supplement work.
“This is basically an organization that comes in, takes care of all of the human resources, workers’ compensation and majority of the equipment that they’ll use out there in the field,” McDougal said.
He explained the program aims to make people productive members of society.
“For the most part, these guys are just looking for a paycheck so they can get back on their feet, and that’s what this program is designed to do,” McDougal said. “Also, it has the added benefit of helping beautify our city.”
The organization primarily focuses on parolees ages 18 to 25 and does not work with sex offenders. Commissioner Pam Stephens described the difficulty this group has finding employment and spoke to safety concerns.
“People are going to say, ‘Oh no, you don’t want parolees in your neighborhood, out there doing stuff,’” she said. “Well they’re there anyway, so why not be employed? Why shouldn’t we take advantage and make our community better and more beautiful?”
Stephens said the labor is a good thing, so long as the city manages it well and assures that citizens are provided a service.
“I think it’s a great program,” she said. “I’m really excited to see what they do in our community.”
In the past three years, state prisons have been releasing an increasing number of those sentenced to life behind bars. Governor Jerry Brown has approved about 80 percent of the parole board’s recommendations for release, angering victims rights groups. What does this change mean for lifers who suddenly find themselves having to adapt to life outside prison walls? And for crime victims?
Host: Scott Shafer
- Bill Heiser, California director of the Center for Employment Opportunities, which recently got a contract with CalTrans to employ felons
- Christine Ward, executive director of Crime Victims Action Alliance
- David Hillary, former lifer and counselor at Options Recovery Services
- Robert Weisberg, professor of law at Stanford and co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center
- Tom Gorham, program director for Options Recovery Services, a Berkeley-based addiction recovery program that employs former felons
The votes are in, all 191,000-plus of them: Google will give four San Francisco Bay area nonprofits, the winners of the search giant’s fourth Impact Challenge, grants of $500,000 each. Six more nonprofits will each get $250,000 grants, and 15 will receive $100,000 each.
Voters chose Hack the Hood, Center for Employment Opportunities, The Health Trust and Bring Me A Book out of a total pool of more than 1,000 proposals. Between May 22 and June 2, 191,504 people casted votes for the 10 finalists. Six community advisers, including Google.org Director Jacqueline Fuller and former major league pitcher Barry Zito (most recently of the San Francisco Giants), chose the top 25 proposals based on community impact, ingenuity, scalability and feasibility, according to a Google spokesperson.
The Bay Area challenge is the fourth since the program began in the United Kingdom last year. It then expanded to India and Brazil, and will next return to the U.K this summer. Google has granted $16.5 million through Impact Challenges.
“The aim of the Challenge was to search for the most innovative ideas for making Bay Area communities an even better place to live,” according to a release from The Health Trust, based in San Jose, Calif. “The Health Trust was chosen as a finalist for our inventive approaches to make affordable, quality, nutritious food accessible in low-income neighborhoods.”
The Health Trust will use its grant to expand healthy food distribution to low-income areas. It plans to distribute 50,000 pounds of food to 10,000 people over the next two years through its Good. To Go. campaign. Hack the Hood of Oakland, Calif., will expand its summer camp training program for high school students over two years. It will offer the program year-round instead of six weeks, and will expand access to the program from 20 students to 5,000.
Digital literacy and e-books are the Mountain Lakes, Calif.-based Bring Me A Book’s focus for its grant. The organization will expand its Digital4Literacy program to distribute tablets packed with e-books and learning apps to 432 preschoolers over three years.
“This Google challenge will help bring the innovative edge into the preschool sector and help us think about how we use media to support preschoolers and their families in having better access to books,” said executive director Mialisa Bonta. “We’re really excited about it and I think it’s a game changer for Bring Me A Book and for digital literacy. Our total operations budget hovers in the realm of $1 million so a grant of this size is definitely transformational. I would call it a tipping point.”
The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), which provides transitional and full-time jobs for the recently incarcerated, will expand into the city of San Jose and Santa Clara County while implementing new technology aimed at increasing the efficiency of the work crews and its own processes over two years, said California director Bill Heiser. CEO is headquartered in New York City and based locally in Oakland, Calif.
The technology platform will be “wholly new, and we’re really excited about it,” said Heiser. “It’s got the possibility to be a new frontier for us in terms of how we integrate the behavioral lessons we’re trying to achieve as well as provide greater feedback while (workers are) on the crews. It will also help us improve our efficiencies.”
In addition to the grants, all 25 grantees will receive one year of technical support from Google and one year of support from Impact Hub SF, a shared workspace and nonprofit community. Bonta and Heiser said grant details and a distribution timeline have not been worked out yet, and a Google spokesperson said the timelines depend on the nature of the project, the community and the organization.