CEO advocates for increased investment in employment-focused reentry supports, fair wages and vocational training programs that reduce racial disparities in employment opportunities. We push policymakers to reform the laws, regulations, and discriminatory institutions that keep people with justice involvement from success in the workforce, including reducing incarceration and legal responses that disproportionately harm people and communities of color.
How We Work
CEO’s influence is based on our platform as the country’s largest reentry employment provider and our engagement with thousands of people returning from incarceration across the country annually. CEO works with stakeholders in the public and private sector to expand access to transitional jobs, making it a key tool to facilitate employment for individuals coming home from incarceration. CEO directly lobbies policymakers to remove barriers that keep people from employment, increase investment in employment-focused reentry, and shift resources away from legal systems that have the most racially disparate and significant negative impact on people’s lives. CEO has also developed an organizing strategy to help CEO’s community members bring their voice to policy work, inform CEO’s policy agendas, support broader coalition efforts, and develop skills and experience necessary to build a career in advocacy. This strategy involves growing CEO’s advocate councils, which are forums to provide leadership training and policy and advocacy experience to members, increasing our coalition building and legislative engagement efforts, and expanding our storytelling and narrative change work.
CEO's Policy Agenda
Increase government investment in reentry employment.
The COVID-19 crisis exposed and compounded racial inequity in access to employment. CEO participants and other justice-involved individuals, many of whom have been essential workers throughout the pandemic, rely on programs like CEO that support them and their families during the pandemic, economic recovery and beyond. More government investment is needed to expand access to jobs for these individuals, particularly those that create an immediate on-ramp to employment.
Remove barriers to workforce training programs.
Despite recognition that a key purpose of the workforce system is to help people reconnect to the labor market. In 2018, only 10% of people exiting federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programming were justice-involved. These jobseekers are disproportionately people of color, face significant barriers to employment and are likely experiencing poverty, yet underserved by the workforce system. Policy changes can address the primary barriers that keep individuals from accessing these training programs, which facilitate access to high quality jobs.
Increase access to high quality jobs.
At CEO, we know that a job can be a powerful tool in preventing a return to incarceration. People of color, particularly women and those with conviction histories, remain overrepresented in the lowest-paid agricultural, domestic, and service vocations. Achieving our vision of economic mobility requires government investment and incentives to create more high quality jobs for individuals who are coming home from incarceration.
Eliminate hiring barriers for individuals with past convictions.
Even when the policy barriers to employment for justice-impacted individuals are eliminated, it still requires businesses to hire people with backgrounds. This requires engaging employers to make their human resources and business practices more inclusive, but it also requires removing policy barriers that prevent businesses from hiring people with past convictions.
Eliminate policies that criminalize poverty through the legal system.
Money owed to the government is a tremendous barrier to people reentering into society, reducing opportunities to build financial capital and credit. Because of racial bias in the criminal legal system, these fines and fees disproportionately strip resources from communities of color. There are several changes the federal, state and local government can implement to improve people’s financial opportunity.
Eliminate supervision policies that keep people from success.
In order for people to be successful when they come home, we must reform legal systems that have significant negative impacts on employment, perpetuate racial disparities, and serve no public safety purpose. The imprisonment rate for Black men is 5.8 percent times that of white men. Nationally, 1 in 81 white individuals vs. 1 in 23 Black individuals are on supervision. Numerous policy changes are needed to address high rates of incarceration and over-supervision that interfere with employment.
Policy Updates: Congress Must Invest Now in Jobs for Justice-Impacted Individuals
In the American Jobs Plan, President Biden calls for a $100B workforce investment, including prioritizing justice-impacted individuals and subsidized employment as a proven training tool. As someone who has been there, it’s welcome news for the Administration to recognize just how hard it is for anyone with a history of incarceration to get a job.Read the story
Congress: Ensure SNAP Eligibility During Reentry
This winter, 20 CEO participants gathered to discuss their experiences and policy recommendations for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal program that helps low-income individuals purchase food. SNAP understandably is a necessary tool for individuals when they are returning home from prison and do not yet have an income.
CEO has a vision that every person returning home has the opportunity for full participation in society, and the support to achieve economic mobility in a way that aligns with their goals. Participants related that SNAP and SNAP Employment & Training (E&T) take away stress during reentry, provide stability during a critical transition, and make them feel independent while they focus on employment training and work experience at CEO. However, they pointed out that earning a daily wage from CEO can make them ineligible for SNAP just as they are starting to get stable and build trust that a career of their choosing can happen for them.
The following factsheet urges Congress to make a policy change to exclude SNAP E&T wages from SNAP income eligibility assessments in order to make a large impact in successful reentry of justice-impacted individuals returning home to their communities.