Community Employment Opportunites workers Rob Cowan and Troy Taylor bale aluminum cans for recycling at the MET’s baling center. Taylor, who spent 13 years in and out of prison, says he has had trouble finding employment since his release. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
After spending 13 years in and out of prison on various drug and alcohol convictions, Troy Taylor said he’s ready to change.
To do so, he is trying to find permanent employment. Not an easy task for someone with a criminal record.
“It’s not like I don’t try,” he said. “Every corner I turn is a dead end. I just want to change my life for the better.”
His parole officer recommended the Center for Employment Opportunities, or CEO.
The agency employs men and women who are coming out of prison on parole in transitional jobs while they build skills and experience before helping place them in permanent jobs.
“For those who do want to work, the barriers are so significant that it’s almost impossible,” said Kelly Doyle, CEO state director.
The clients start with a four-day course covering soft skills and other things needed to get and retain a job.
“We don’t send out those who are not ready for a job,” Doyle said.
The types of work participants find includes light manufacturing, construction, general labor, restaurants, dry cleaners and public works departments.
Additionally, the agency has about 20 workers in its transition jobs each day who work doing landscaping for the Guthrie Green, Tulsa Community College, the City of Jenks, the City of Sand Springs and the MET.
“This allows us to pay the participants a daily wage, which puts money in their pockets and lets them prove they are ready to work, so when an employer asks we can say, ‘He has a conviction but comes to work every day and wants to change,’ ” Doyle said.
Taylor is working with the transitional crew, collecting daily pay for his work. More importantly, he said, his supervisors grade him on his performance each day so when it’s time, he can have something to show employers that he’s a good worker.
“By having that, that’s the key to my success,” he said.
Of those who have been placed in permanent jobs, 38 percent are still working at the same job.
The CEO program originated in New York in 1996 and, due to its success at reducing recidivism, was expanded throughout the country. The Oklahoma office opened in Tulsa in 2011 with funding from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, and an Oklahoma City office opened last year.
Since opening in Tulsa, CEO has provided 675 previously incarcerated individuals with employment services and helped place 400 in full-time jobs in Tulsa.
In June, the agency moved from downtown to Eighth Street and Peoria Avenue in the Pearl District. Since moving, the agency is able to provide comprehensive services to 225 individuals each year.
Doyle said the agency is successful in finding permanent employment for 60 percent of participants.
“It’s a journey to get people who have never been a part of the workforce adept to the expectations of employers,” she said. “We’re trying to impart those skills that employers are looking for. All too often they see a criminal conviction and exclude someone, and we know that without jobs they will keep going back to prison.”
SOCIAL IMPACT BONDS SAVE TAXPAYER MONEY AND CHANGE LIVES FOR THE FORMERLY INCARCERATED
Sam Schaeffer, CEO and Executive Director, and CEO program participant Robert Romo show proven success of Social Impact Bonds
Washington, D.C. – Today, Sam Schaeffer, CEO and Executive Director of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), together with CEO program participant Robert Romo, will testify before the United States House Committee on Ways and Means about Social Impact Bonds (SIBs). In his testimony, Schaeffer will share the success of CEO’s proven model to help people coming home from prison find long-term employment and significantly reduce recidivism rates.
CEO is one of a select group of nonprofits who have received funding through Social Impact Bonds (SIBs), a unique model of public-private partnership that leverages private funding in order to provide important public services. Only if program impacts are achieved will investors receive a return of their investment.
“SIBs have the potential to scale some of this country’s most effective social interventions, helping communities expand programs that have proven results and save taxpayer dollars,” said Schaeffer. “Legislation supporting these programs can help change how cities, states and the federal government support the social sector by persuading them to fund what works.”
In December 2013, CEO began a social impact bond project that serves 2,000 high-risk men in New York City and Rochester returning from prison over the next four years. Forty-four private investors provided capital for this transaction in a performance-based contract. If CEO hits benchmarks and reduces the use of prison and jail by program participants, investors will be repaid by the US Department of Labor and New York State.
Robert Romo, who participated in CEO’s program and now has steady employment, will testify together with Schaeffer. “I could not have achieved all of this without the support of CEO,” said Romo. “They helped me see beyond my conviction to a future that is really positive. I am grateful for this second chance. I got a paycheck at the end of each shift, which was great. It helped me buy extra groceries to support my family”
Schaeffer hopes legislation supporting SIBs will pave the way for private investors and government agencies to partner together to fund services that have a proven impact on the outcomes that matter most.
CEO’s vision is that anyone returning from prison who wants to work should have the preparation and support needed to find a job and stay in the labor force. This creates safer communities and healthier individuals and families, all at a fraction of the cost of incarceration. Since 1996, CEO has helped over 18,000 formerly incarcerated people find full-time jobs. A three year, federally-funded independent study found that CEO significantly reduces recidivism and saves taxpayer money, with total benefits up to $3.30 for every dollar spent on the program.
Nonprofit service offers employment services for people with criminal records
By James Pearson, For The Oklahoman • Published: September 1, 2014
In May 2103, when an EF5 tornado laid waste to more than 1,000 homes in Moore, Jeconiah Briggs was in prison some 150 miles away at the Bill Johnson Correctional Center in Alva. It was his third time being incarcerated for drug offenses.
Jeconiah Briggs builds a housing truss that Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity will use to help rebuild a home destroyed by the Moore tornado. Photo by James A. Pearson, for The Oklahoman
Over three-quarters of inmates released from state prisons are re-arrested in five years, according to a report released this year by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the more times someone has been arrested, the more likely he or she is to be arrested again.
Briggs, who grew up in northeast Oklahoma City and dropped out of school in ninth grade to sell drugs, was on a well-worn path to a lifetime spent in and out of prison.
On a summer morning, The Oklahomancaught up with Briggs at a workshop run by Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity. He works there now, building trusses for the roofs of houses for the victims of the Moore tornado.
His job is part of a program run by the Center for Employment Opportunities, a nonprofit that offers employment services for people with criminal records. It opened an office in Oklahoma City last year.
When Briggs was released from prison this year, his circumstances were the same as his past two releases: little education, scant work experience, a felony record. These factors often make it challenging for people released from prison to restart their lives on the right foot and avoid the activities that got them arrested.
But something in Briggs’s outlook was different. “Age,” he said when asked about that change. “Just tired of repeating.” He also said he wants to be there for his daughters, ages 12 and 1, the way his father has been there for him.
He went through the Regimented Treatment Program at the Bill Johnson Correctional Center, which aims to rehabilitate drug offenders through a mix of therapies, work experience, and re-entry education.
“It was a good program,” Briggs said. “This time I was able to take in what they were offering, accept it, and try to utilize it once I was released.”
After his release, his probation officer told him about Center for Employment Opportunities. What attracted Briggs, and what Pat Viklund, the nonprofit’s Oklahoma City metro-area director, says sets it apart from other re-entry programs, was the opportunity for immediate work, like building trusses with Habitat for Humanity.
CEO calls these “transitional work crews,” because they aren’t permanent jobs. The nonprofit pays the workers an hourly wage with money received from grants. All participants, like Briggs, spend one day a week in the nonprofit’s office learning how to find and keep full-time jobs.
The program’s goal is for participants to find a full-time job within two or three months, after which the organization offers continued job counseling and career planning services.
Briggs started with CEO in June. He’s worked on two transitional work crews, the one in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and another in partnership directly with the city of Moore, which started as a tornado cleanup crew and has transitioned to public maintenance work such as picking up trash and cutting grass.
“It’s hard work because you have to pack a heavy weed eater and you’re in the blazing sun all day. But it’s manageable,” he said.
Viklund said Briggs has excelled at the work of rebuilding homes lost to the tornado, picking up construction skills quickly. Once, when he was working at a building site in Moore, the woman whose house he was helping to rebuild was there, too.
“She thanked us for the work we were doing for her and gave us some of her story and background,” Briggs said. “I left that day feeling good.”
Briggs said he’s optimistic about the future now, but there are still plenty of question marks. “I haven’t been in a situation like this,” he said. “I always chose the easier route, selling drugs. With this, it’s a lot slower process. I can see the light, but I just don’t know the route.”
Briggs said guidance from the Center for Employment Opportunities has been crucial for him in finding his way in this new chapter of life. “I can honestly say, I do not know where I would be today without CEO,” he said. “I would have the same mindset, but without the same help, I don’t know how far I would have gotten.”
Each year Habitat for Humanity (H4H) sets out to build/rehab between eleven and fifteen houses, utilizing a labor pool that consists of volunteers, professionals, and even those looking to learn a trade. Ultimately, the houses are handed over to deserving owners, who help build the projects from the start. By providing quality houses to those in need, communities benefit as much as the new homeowners who are given a new start on life.
Currently, a house is being rehabbed on 14th Street near Rhode Island. This area is a hotbed of activity these days, partially thanks to organizations such as H4H and People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) that are contributing to the growth of the neighborhood. This particular project was made possible via the coordination of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo thanks to an Urban Initiative grant that came through New York State Housing Trust Fund (PUSH co-applied for the grant). Much of the work is being conducted by Center for Employment Opportunities under the supervision of H4H, along with other community groups and the homeowner who will take ownership upon completion.
Habitat for Humanity Buffalo (H4H) has a new Executive Director, Kate Whitlock, who has come onboard to enhance the already productive undertaking of rehabbing and building homes in the city of Buffalo. After being away from her hometown for twelve years, Whitlock says that she is excited to participate in helping the Buffalo renaissance. Her former H4H work experience (outside of Charleston, SC) has positioned her as a driving force for change, not just on the West Side, but the entire city. It just so happens a new HUB initiative is being developed in the West Side, due to a number of strategic reasons. “We’re concentrating additional homes on the West Side, for a higher impact,” Whitlock told me. “Right now, we are in a transition phase, where we are ramping up to put a higher increase in our building capacity. Not only are we working on rehabbing houses, we are also working with the City to obtain empty lots to build new homes. We also obtain houses from home owners and banks, as well as the City auctions.”
It’s easy to see the impact that H4H is having on the city. It seems as if the work being done is more apparent than ever. That most likely stems from the heavier concentration of projects in close proximity to each other, as Whitlock pointed out. With the transition to increase the organization’s mission further into this realm, we should start to see an even greater impact in more of our neighborhoods in years to come.
Whether it is protests of rising rents or commuter buses, the nation’s eyes are focused on the technology industry’s impact on Silicon Valley’s economy, jobs and inequality. In response, technology firms have stepped up charitable efforts with hundreds of millions of dollars committed to an array of causes. They are allocating a greater share to the Bay Area than in the past. But do these donations address the core issue?
While I enthusiastically support the growth in technology’s philanthropy, I also believe there are other crucial ways the private sector can and should engage. With Labor Day upon us and tension in the air, and from the perspective of a nonprofit leader who has spent 30 years creating housing and access to jobs for our communities’ poorest residents, more action is needed.
Beyond the headlines of relatively low unemployment rates within the Bay Area, the reality is that some people are being overlooked for jobs right here in our own backyards. Creating sustainable jobs for those that face an array of barriers, from histories of homelessness to incarceration, is an important starting point.
Unfortunately, the nature of technology is that it creates relatively few jobs for entry level workers as compared to some other business sectors, even accounting for the spin off jobs in restaurants and other services. Alternative ways to help are also needed.
An important link is through a group of Bay Area employers that run businesses called social enterprises — double bottom line businesses that earn revenue in order to employ more people. Many, including the Center for Employment Opportunities and Goodwill, have a track record of creating jobs. These crucial community organizations hire local people who want to work but face barriers, offering a supportive environment and skills training so they can move on and move up.
Beyond charitable grants, technology firms can contribute to the jobs landscape by engaging other business resources to create sustainable change for people who are willing and able to work to re-enter the workforce. Here are three simple, initial ways to do this.
First, technology companies can take a hard look at their sourcing to find opportunities to include social enterprise businesses in their supply chain, including quality products and services such as screen printed promotional items, landscaping, and electronic waste recycling, to name a few.
Second, tech companies could look at their own hiring practices to make sure they are not inadvertently screening out qualified people who would be committed and productive workers.
Third, technology companies can build on their strengths: developing networks and attracting talent. They can promote social enterprises as suppliers to companies they work with and advocate for employers to give a chance to people with backgrounds that might otherwise disqualify them. They can advocate for the Bay Area as a great place for their business partners to locate — especially companies that hire lots of middle skill and front line workers.
As we reflect on the Labor Day holiday, it is time to harness the creative business mentality Silicon Valley is known for and drive to address the pervasive problems facing our communities, including the creation of jobs for people who have the most to gain. In an area that pioneered what has been deemed the sharing economy, we must work together to share knowledge, resources and opportunity.
Jobs are more than a paycheck, they’re a sense of pride. Technology has a new opportunity to lead in social innovation and make the Bay Area proud.
Carla Javits is president and CEO of REDF, a California nonprofit dedicated to building enterprises that hire hard to place applicants. She wrote this for this newspaper.
CEO worker crews pick up trash along the onramp to State Route 163 along Balboa Park.
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.
SAN DIEGO — A program aimed at cleaning up highways in San Diego while giving offenders released from prison a chance to start new lives was unveiled Thursday.
The effort puts felons to work picking up litter from the freeways while also addressing the challenges created by California’s public safety realignment law, also known as Assembly Bill 109. The law, which was passed in October 2011, shifted from the state to counties the supervision of some lower-level offenders released from prison.
County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said local law enforcement and county probation officials have been working hard to meet the challenges created by these new residents.
“We’re stepping up our efforts to help released offenders get their footing in our community,” Jacob said. “One way they can contribute is by earning a paycheck and putting in a hard day’s work.”
To that end, the County Probation Department teamed up with Caltrans and the Center for Employment Opportunities to start the program in San Diego in May.
Participants, who are referred by their probation officers, are paid $10 per hour to pick up litter from freeways.
“Litter on state highways is the number one complaint we get here at Caltrans,” said Laurie Berman, director of the San Diego and Imperial counties district.
Berman said it would take 3,400 dump trucks to pick up all the refuse discarded on the local freeways in just one year.
Not only do felons help remove tons of waste from the roadways, they receive much needed training and education in job and interview skills to help them secure permanent employment.
In the past two months, 44 participants have been enrolled. Of those, four have already landed permanent jobs, Jacob said.
“I’m not looking for a handout, I’m just looking for a hand,” said Charles Miller, a 45-year-old father of five who was convicted last year on two drug counts.
Miller, who was released from prison in January and enrolled in the program in May, said finding a job when you have a prison record is difficult. “It’s been a struggle,” he said.
He said the program not only gives him a paycheck, but it is also teaching him how to go on job interviews, something the El Cajon construction worker has had little experience with. He said he is learning how to present himself and how to look someone in the eye, and he hopes his new skills will help him get a full-time job. He said he would take just about anything that comes his way. And he vows not to go back to his old ways.
Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins said the innovative program will be funded for the next three years with $3 million from Caltrans.
Jenkins said that between now and 2017 some 450 offenders in the post-release community supervision program are expected to be enrolled. He also said that since the program started in May, none of the participants have been involved in new crimes.
“Granted, it’s early,” Jenkins said, “but we intend to continue that success.”
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.”