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Early Lessons from the Ready4Work Prisoner Reentry Initiative
Jucovy Monitoring and Support
Reducing Youth ViolenceLinda

Field Report Series
Public/Private Ventures February 2006

Early Lessons from the Ready4Work Prisoner Reentry Initiative
Linda Jucovy

Field Report Series
Public/Private Ventures February 2006

Public/Private Ventures is a
national nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the
effectiveness of social policies
and programs. P/PV designs,
tests and studies initiatives
that increase supports, skills
and opportunities of residents
of low-income communities;
works with policymakers to see
that the lessons and evidence
produced are reflected in
policy; and provides training,
technical assistance and
learning opportunities to
practitioners based on documented effective practices.

Board of Directors
Siobhan Nicolau, Chair
Hispanic Policy Development Project
Gary Walker
Public/Private Ventures
Amalia Betanzos
Wildcat Service Corporation
Yvonne Chan
Vaughn Learning Center
Mitchell S. Fromstein
Chairman Emeritus
Manpower Inc.
The Honorable
Renée Cardwell Hughes
Judge, Court of Common Pleas
The First Judicial District,
Philadelphia, PA
Christine L. James-Brown
President and CEO
United Way International
John A. Mayer, Jr.
Retired, Chief Financial Officer
J.P. Morgan & Co.
Matthew McGuire
Vice President
Ariel Capital Management, Inc.
Maurice Lim Miller
Family Independence Initiative
Anne Hodges Morgan
Consultant to Foundations
Marion Pines
Senior Fellow
Institute for Policy Studies
Johns Hopkins University
Clayton S. Rose
Retired, Head of Investment Banking
J.P. Morgan & Co.
Cay Stratton
National Employment Panel,
London, U.K.
William Julius Wilson
Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser
University Professor
Harvard University

Research Advisory
Jacquelynne S. Eccles, Chair
University of Michigan
Ronald Ferguson
Kennedy School of Government
Robinson Hollister
Swarthmore College
Alan Krueger
Princeton University
Reed Larson
University of Illinois
Milbrey W. McLaughlin
Stanford University
Katherine S. Newman
Kennedy School of Government
Laurence Steinberg
Temple University
Thomas Weisner

We would like to acknowledge the many
people who contributed their support,
time and expertise to make this report
possible. The U.S. Department of Labor
Employment and Training Administration
(DOL ETA), the U.S. Department of
Justice, the Annie E. Casey Foundation
and the Ford Foundation funded the
three-year Ready4Work pilot project. Both
Fred Davie of Public/Private Ventures
(P/PV) and Brent Orrell, former Director
of the Department of Labor’s Center for
Faith-Based and Community Initiatives,
should be credited with the initial concept for this report and the notion that it
could serve as a valuable resource. Several
people at DOL ETA reviewed and commented on early drafts. In particular, we
want to (again) thank Brent Orrell, as
well as Scott Shortenhaus, who led these
efforts. In addition, Alvia Y. Branch, of
Branch Associates, gave helpful suggestions for the report and feedback on an
earlier draft; and Lee Bowes, of America
Works, provided insight into effective approaches for placing ex-offenders in jobs.

We also want to thank a number of other
people at P/PV for their contributions
to the report. Renata Cobbs Fletcher
provided invaluable support throughout
the process of gathering information
and writing and revising the text. Joshua
Good, Carolyn Harper, Samuel Harrell,
Rommel Hilario, Gar Kelley, Wendy
McClanahan and Ceci Schickel generously
shared information, ideas and insights.
Shawn Bauldry provided ongoing help
in interpreting and using the data. Fred
Davie, Karen Walker and Gary Walker
gave their time to read earlier drafts of
the report and strengthened it with their
feedback. Penelope Malish, of Malish &
Pagonis, expertly designed the report;
and Chelsea Farley, of P/PV, oversaw its
editing, production and dissemination.
Most importantly, though, we want to
thank the many people from local faithbased and community organizations
who are responsible for their cities’
Ready4Work programs. This report draws
from the experiences of 11 of those sites,
and it reflects the dedication and hard
work of the staff and volunteers who are
addressing the challenges facing ex-prisoners
as they reenter their communities.


Last year, nearly 650,000 adults were
released from prisons in the United
States.1 Many of them went home without
solid attachments to their families or
communities and with limited prospects
for finding jobs. To compound the
problem, ex-prisoners often return to the
nation’s most disenfranchised neighborhoods, where there are few supports
and services to help them reintegrate
effectively, and where their presence
may threaten to disrupt already fragile
households and social structures. Statistics
show that approximately two out of three
returning inmates are rearrested within
three years of their release from prison,
and just over half are reincarcerated.2 As
these numbers suggest, without intervention, the majority of ex-prisoners will
return to criminal activity, contributing
further to violence and crime in already
struggling neighborhoods.
In an effort to address the challenges
facing former prisoners and the communities to which they return, Public/
Private Ventures (P/PV) developed and
launched Ready4Work: An Ex-Prisoner,
Community and Faith Initiative. Funded by
the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
Employment and Training Administration
(ETA), the U.S. Department of Justice,
the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the
Ford Foundation, this three-year pilot
program was designed to help returning
prisoners by linking them to organizations
that provide effective case management,
mentoring, and job training and placement.
When former prisoners leave incarceration and return to their communities,
they most often face an immediate need
to find work, both to earn income and to
develop structure and a sense of legitimacy in their lives. But, at the same time,
they may be confronted by interwoven
challenges—including, for example,
mental health issues, educational deficits
and a history of substance abuse3—that
present significant obstacles to finding
and holding a job. In order to address
these urgent and complex circumstances,

Ready4Work enrolls participants soon
after their release from prison and, in
some cases, while they are still incarcerated; assesses their barriers to successful
reentry; connects them to appropriate
services to address those barriers; helps
them prepare for, find and remain in jobs;
and provides them with mentors who can
guide and support their reintegration into
the community.
These program components were
designed to address two primary and
interconnected goals:
• Improving participants’ chances of
forming long-term attachments to the
labor market. Statistics demonstrate
that, prior to incarceration, most adult
prisoners had weak or nonexistent ties
to the workforce and that employment
rates weaken even further after prisoners are released.4 Thus, the initiative was designed both to help remove
ex-prisoners’ barriers to work and to
provide support through early postincarceration work experiences.
• Reducing recidivism for participants
in the initiative. Research has found
that employment seems to play a crucial role in helping returning prisoners
avoid criminal behavior and reincarceration.5 In addition, studies show that
returnees are most likely to commit
new crimes within the first year after
their release.6 The initiative thus enrolls participants within 90 days before
or after their release so that programs
can quickly begin to provide the kinds
of services and supports that lead to
employment and improve returnees’
likelihood of making strong attachments to mainstream life.
Importantly, the initiative was also designed to address critical business employment needs. By helping returnees become
job ready, linking them with employment
and supporting them at the worksite, the
initiative is intended to benefit employers
as well as returnees. Particularly in sectors
where there are high rates of employee


turnover and current or anticipated labor
shortages, Ready4Work has the potential
to increase employee retention and, ultimately, to expand the workforce.7
The initiative is currently operating in
17 sites around the country, 6 of which
focus on juveniles who have recently
been released from detention facilities. This report draws from the experiences of the 11 sites that work with adult
former prisoners. Early in their second
year of operations, when this report was
written, those sites had already enrolled
almost 1,700 participants—all of whom
had been convicted and incarcerated for
nonviolent, nonsexual felony offences.
Eighty-five percent of the participants
are male. Approximately 80 percent are
African American, 10 percent Latino and
10 percent white or “other.” All are 18 to
34 years old; slightly more than half of
those participants (54 percent) are 23 to
30 years old.
The Sites and Their Lead Agencies
Ready4Work places faith- and community-based organizations at the heart of a
network supporting the reentry efforts of
former prisoners. Frequently located in
the most deeply affected neighborhoods,
and often the only institutions with close
ties to members of those communities,
these organizations are a unique resource
for returning offenders. In some sites,
these smaller, grassroots organizations
are partnering with larger, intermediary
organizations with program experience
and technical-assistance capacity, so the
two groups can benefit from their collective strengths.
Among the 11 Ready4Work sites that are
the focus of this report, there are a wide
range of lead organizations. While all had
at least some previous experience working
with former prisoners or other troubled
populations, the kind and extent of that
experience varies widely. In Chicago, the
Safer Foundation, which works in partnership with five local congregations for this

initiative, is a secular organization that has
been helping former prisoners for more
than 30 years. In Memphis, the initiative
is operated through the Second Chance
Ex-Felon Program, a public/private partnership between the City of Memphis and
local businesses that was created in 2000
by the mayor to help former prisoners successfully reenter the community—Second
Chance is now also partnering with a
number of community- and faith-based
organizations. In Detroit, Ready4Work is
being implemented by America Works—a
for-profit job training and placement
organization that works with hard-to-place
populations—in collaboration with the
Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, a large
congregation that has long been involved
in addressing community issues.
At other sites, faith-based organizations
serve as the lead agency, and Ready4Work
affords them the opportunity to build on
their previous work to provide services
that are more comprehensive and reach
larger numbers of former prisoners.
In Houston, Wheeler Avenue Baptist
Church, which has a decades-long history of providing services to children,
prisoners, the poor and the elderly,
operates Ready4Work through its 5C’s
Foundation. In Los Angeles, the Union
Rescue Mission, the largest homeless
mission in the country, is similarly operating the program through its foundation, EIMAGO. And in Oakland, the lead
agency is the Allen Temple Economic
and Development Corporation, which
operates the program through the Allen
Temple Baptist Church, a large congregation with approximately 5,500 members that has a long history of providing
services in the community. Milwaukee’s
lead agency is Word of Hope Ministries, a
service organization founded by the Holy
Cathedral Church of God in Christ.
The lead agencies at two of the sites are
relatively young, small organizations.
Exodus Transitional Community, in New
York, was founded in 1999 specifically to
address the needs of people coming out


of prison. In the same year, Operation
New Hope was founded in Jacksonville,
FL, as a community development corporation whose primary mission was to provide
affordable housing in low-income communities. When the organization found
that some of the people it was hiring to
rehabilitate the housing were former prisoners, it expanded its mission to include
helping this population rebuild their lives.
The other two sites, in Philadelphia and
Washington, DC, are both led by collaboratives. The Philadelphia Consensus
Group on Reentry & Reintegration of
Adjudicated Offenders—which includes
representatives from Philadelphia’s court
and prison systems, the police department
and the District Attorney’s Office, as well
as service providers, faith-based organizations and community groups—is the lead
agency for Ready4Work in that city. The
collaborative provides subgrants and technical assistance to local community- and
faith-based organizations, which, in turn,
provide the program’s direct services.
In Washington, the East of the River
Clergy-Police-Community Partnership, a
collaboration of multidenominational,
faith-based institutions, is the lead agency.

This Report
The purpose of the report is to share
early promising practices developed by
the Ready4Work sites with other organizations working with former prisoners
—including community- and faith-based
organizations and their intermediaries.
With the exception of Detroit, which
began operations in November 2004, the
Ready4Work sites were in their second
year of providing reentry services at
the time that this report was written. As
Table 1 illustrates, the sites accomplished
a great deal during their first 12 to 15
months. While it is too early for definitive outcome findings, the sites, overall,
are approaching (and in one category,
have surpassed) the implementation
benchmarks established for the demonstration—in terms of the percentages
of participants who are involved in case
management, receive employment services, participate in one-to-one or group
mentoring and become employed.
At the same time, as in any new initiative,
part of the sites’ work during the first
year included identifying challenges to
the effective delivery of program services

Table 1
Ready4Work Implementation Activities and Demonstration Benchmarks
As of February 2005*

Benchmark for 2006

Percentage of participants receiving:
Case management



Employment services—including job readiness
training, on-the-job training and placement services



One-to-one or group mentoring



Employment in full- or part-time jobs



* Based on 1,685 participants who were active at least one month during the second year of the program.


and making modifications necessary for
strengthening their efforts.8 Among the
sites, these changes included redefining
some of their staff roles, developing new
partnerships, adjusting their job training
and placement strategies, and altering their
approaches to the mentoring component.
Future reentry programs will face their
own local constraints and opportunities.
Thus, there is no single model that can
capture the variation that will appear
among sites. At the time this report went to
publication, 4 of the 11 Ready4Work sites
had been awarded funding through the
Department of Labor’s Prisoner Reentry
Initiative, a $30 million project that will
fund multiple sites at an average annual
award of $800,000 per year over the next
three years. This helps ensure the sustainability of current Ready4Work reentry
programming at these sites beyond P/PV’s
involvement with these organizations.
In addition, it is still too early in the process
of collecting and analyzing Ready4Work’s
outcomes data to be able to say that any
one strategy the sites have used is “best”
or how the different types of lead agencies—secular, faith-based, government and
for-profit—might vary in the particular
kinds of benefits they deliver to participants.
However, there are a number of practices
that have emerged from the first year of the
initiative that have helped sites strengthen
their delivery of services and move toward
their program goals. Knowledge of these
practices can help other programs run
more efficiently and effectively.

The following pages describe these key
practices in four areas: recruiting participants; providing case management;
building a mentoring component; and
developing an effective system of job
training, placement and follow-up. Each
practice is illustrated with examples from
specific sites. A concluding section focuses
on communication and coordination
among staff members—the essential element that ties together all of those efforts.
Information for the report is drawn from
interviews with site leaders, P/PV program
officers and research staff, written material from the sites and P/PV’s records of
the implementation process, including
MIS data collected from the sites.


Ready4Work sites are each required to
maintain an active caseload of 125 participants—a number large enough to have
an impact but small enough that sites
can successfully provide comprehensive
services to each individual. Participants
can be enrolled within 90 days before or
90 days after their release, and they can
be served for a year. As people complete
their 12-month term and graduate from
the program, or if they become inactive
and are dropped, they must be replaced
with new enrollees.
In order to maintain their full caseload
and reach as many people as possible, the
sites have found that recruitment needs to
be an ongoing process. This involves such
practices as having program staff—typically, recruitment is the responsibility of
the case manager—go to prisons on a
regular basis to make presentations to
inmates who are within 90 days of release
and forming partnerships with criminal
justice agencies that result in a steady flow
of referrals of former prisoners who have
recently returned to the community.
Given the huge numbers of people
coming out of prison and the scarcity of
reentry services aimed at helping them
integrate back into society, sites have
generally encountered only limited challenges in recruiting participants. Two
practices, in particular, seem to be key to
their success: establishing formal partnerships with Departments of Corrections
for pre-release recruiting and using a
combination of criminal justice partnerships and broader outreach for attracting
potential participants soon after they have
been released from prison.
Recruiting Participants
While They Are in Prison
Ready4Work sites are asked to recruit up
to 40 percent of their participants while
they are still incarcerated. Although it is
too early in the data-collection process
to prove the value of this approach, it is
believed that beginning services before

Promising practices:
• Recruit participants both pre- and
For pre-release recruiting:
• Establish formal partnerships with
the local Department of Corrections.
• Begin services immediately, while
the participant is still in prison.
For post-release recruiting:
• Develop partnerships with criminal
justice agencies and court systems.
• Use newspaper advertisements and
other media for broader outreach.

participants are released will help solidify
the relationship between the participant
and the program and, ultimately, mean
stronger program retention. Importantly,
having the program’s support for two or
three months before leaving prison and
its continuing support afterward could
also help ease participants’ transition
from prison to the community.
Forming Partnerships with
Departments of Corrections

At least two sites have built into their
program structure strong connections
with correctional facilities. The Houston
site recruits pre-release participants
through its comprehensive partnership
with the InnerChange Freedom Initiative,
which operates a pre-release program at
a minimum-security prison in Texas. The
Safer Foundation, the lead organization
for Ready4Work in Chicago, administers
two adult transitional centers for the
Illinois Department of Corrections and,
thus, is able to recruit pre-release participants from its own facilities.
Other sites have developed relationships with their local Departments of
Corrections to gain access to specific
prisons so they can recruit participants,
and they have found it important to


have memoranda of agreement with the
Departments of Corrections to formalize
the partnership arrangements. Jacksonville,
for example, has agreements with a
number of correctional facilities that
allow recruiters to meet with inmates
who are eligible for the program. These
recruitment efforts take the form of a
town hall meeting inside the prison,
where inmates gather to hear about the
program, and where those who are interested sign consent forms and learn about
next steps. Similarly, the New York site
entered into an agreement with an adult
work-release facility, and program staff
go there weekly to describe Ready4Work
and enroll participants.

Recruiting Newly Released Former

Beginning Services

All the sites have developed partnerships
with justice agencies, the law-enforcement
community and court systems so they can
recruit participants on their release from
prison. Los Angeles, for example, has relationships with the parole offices at several
corrections facilities, while the Houston
and Oakland sites gain referrals from
their county probation and parole departments. The Philadelphia Ready4Work
program is housed in the same building
as the city’s Adult Probation and Parole
Department, which puts it in a unique
position for forming partnerships that bolster recruitment. The site is also involved
in an early parole program in which
inmates are released directly into the
custody of Ready4Work, with the mandate
that if they violate the program’s requirements, their parole will be revoked.

Once participants are enrolled, it is essential to begin services quickly to establish
relationships and lay the groundwork for
their transition back into the community.
At the Philadelphia site, for example, prerelease services include having the case
manager conduct an initial assessment
with each inmate to identify barriers to
reentry and develop plans to address them.
These barriers can range from problems
with housing to a lack of government
identification—a necessity for getting a
job—because the participant lost his right
to have a driver’s license when he was
convicted of a felony. Philadelphia also
offers job readiness training through its
partnership with Jewish Employment and
Vocational Services, which runs several
job-related programs in local prisons. In
addition, the site provides mentoring to
pre-release participants, either one-on-one
or in a group, depending on the requirements of the particular facility.

As is true for many programs, word of
mouth can be a useful recruitment tool for
the Ready4Work sites. Former prisoners
learn about the program from family and
friends, as well as former inmates who are
now enrolled. Congregation members
whose churches are involved in the initiative, and who may be involved themselves
as mentors, have also been effective in
spreading the word. At the same time,
to ensure that they reach a broad but
targeted audience, sites have established
more formal recruitment strategies.
Establishing Partnerships

Conducting Broader Outreach

In addition to recruiting through these
partnerships, a number of sites use the
media to reach out to former prisoners
who might not otherwise learn about the
program. Advertisements in the classified section of newspapers have been
particularly effective. The size of the ad
does not seem to matter: The Detroit site
placed a full-page ad in the Detroit Free
Press, while the Milwaukee site placed a


small ad in the “help wanted” section of
its city newspaper, and both received a
sizeable response. Other media the sites
use to reach the broader community have
included local radio and cable-television
talk shows and flyers circulated in
targeted neighborhoods.
One reason why recruitment through the
media is successful is that people who
respond are motivated to find work. They
find the information either on their own
or through a friend or family member
and contact the program. With the dearth
of services available for those former
prisoners who are trying to change their
lives, the media is an important tool for
letting them know the program is available. However, sites learned early in their
media efforts that they must include the
specific program eligibility requirements
in their advertisements. Otherwise, they
attract former prisoners who are motivated to change but ineligible to take part
in the program.


Case management has been described
as the thread that weaves through all
pieces of the Ready4Work program or as
the glue that holds together the various
program components. Whichever metaphor one chooses, the point is clear: Case
managers should have the central role
in ensuring that participants receive all
necessary services and make progress in
overcoming barriers, obtaining employment and successfully reentering the community. To fulfill that role, case managers
have to be a steady, practical presence in
the life of each participant.
The goal of the Ready4Work sites is
to provide this kind of intensive case
management to a very high percentage
of participants. Two key strategies contribute to their efforts: clearly defining
case managers’ responsibilities, and
providing training and supervision for
case managers who come from nontraditional backgrounds.
Defining Responsibilities
In some instances, sites faced initial
challenges in maintaining an effective
case management system because the
case managers were responsible for too
many aspects of the program, including
functioning as mentor coordinators, job
recruiters and job placement specialists—
in addition to their already significant traditional case management responsibilities.
The result, not surprisingly, was that it was
impossible to fulfill all of these roles well.
This situation is not unusual as new
programs evolve: It often takes time to
fully identify what is involved in specific
staff roles. As the Ready4Work initiative
took shape, sites developed clearer job
descriptions for case managers. While the
details vary somewhat from site to site,
case managers are typically responsible for
recruitment at parole and probation departments, halfway houses and prisons—
a logical role since it helps them form
relationships from the beginning as they
introduce potential participants to the

Case Management
Promising practices:
• Have a clear definition of case managers’ roles and responsibilities.
• Keep caseloads manageable so there
is ample time for ongoing one-to-one
contact with each participant.
• Identify the personal qualities, not just
the credentials, that will contribute to
someone being an effective case manager in Ready4Work.
• Provide training and supervision for
case managers who are less experienced or come from nontraditional

program. Once participants enroll, the
case managers perform the initial assessment to identify their needs for successful
reentry, develop individualized service
plans and serve as resource brokers by
connecting participants with appropriate
services, either within the organization
or through referrals to other providers.
These services can vary widely, depending
on the needs of each individual. Across
the sites, case managers might connect
participants to housing and mental
health and substance abuse treatment.
They work with partners that provide
bus passes for traveling to job interviews,
discounts for professional haircuts, and
free clothing so participants can dress
professionally. The case managers are
then responsible for following up with the
service providers, closely monitoring participant progress and making necessary
adjustments in their service plans, and
visiting participants at their job sites once
they have become employed.
Case managers are also responsible for
maintaining a comprehensive file on
each participant. These files—which are,
in essence, a developing history of each
person’s reentry efforts—are intended to
be an essential tool for program management. In addition to documents such as


the intake form and individual service
plan, the files should also include notes
describing the case manager’s systematic
contact with the participant and his or her
service providers. Such files allow the case
manager to maintain detailed knowledge
about each participant. And they also can
contribute to the team effort that is central to Ready4Work, making it possible for
anyone on the staff, whether a job placement specialist or another case manager,
to “know” each enrollee and to step in
and work with him or her effectively.
Keeping Caseloads Manageable

For many participants, case managers are
the face of the program. They are responsible for meeting with each participant at
least once a week during their first five
or six weeks in the program, biweekly for
the next month and then at least monthly.
In some instances, case managers go far
beyond this schedule. Participants at
several sites have spoken about their case
manager calling almost daily to check up
on them, a level of attention they value.
In Houston, case managers are known for
going out in the community to find and
talk with the Ready4Work enrollees. In
Memphis and Jacksonville, they sometimes drive participants to job interviews,
both to provide transportation and to be
there for encouragement and support.
To allow case managers to continue to
offer this level of individualized support,
sites are taking steps to keep caseloads
manageable. A reasonable caseload
seems to be about 25 to 35 participants
and, thus, sites are hiring additional case
managers as their programs grow and the
overall number of participants increases.

with backgrounds in employment and
training to former probation officers and
former prisoners.
Focusing on Case Managers’ Personal Qualities

An individual’s qualities, not his or her
credentials, have proven to be most
important. Sites have found that successful
case managers are connected to the community where the program operates. They
know about resources in the community
and are able to form relationships with
people working at those organizations.
They also have the ability to communicate
with everyone involved with an individual
participant’s reentry, including, for
example, parole officers and substance
abuse counselors.
A key quality case managers must have
is the ability to connect with each
Ready4Work enrollee. Participants have
talked about how they value the personal
aspects of the case management relationship. One man described it this way:
My case manager…cares beyond the
point of professionalism. She isn’t
clinical, which can scare a person away,
acting clinical. Ex-offenders, we have
problems, and you need someone that can
see beyond the professional outlook. She
saw my anger and the impatience that
I was having. We like to talk and talk.
Sometimes we talk every day; she calls my
house and wants to know I am all right.
Some sites have former prisoners who
work as case managers, which can be
particularly motivating to participants. As
one woman explained, when she learned
that some of the staff members had been
incarcerated, it made her believe that “if
they can do it, so can I.”

Providing Training and Supervision
Who makes an effective case manager?
Sites have found that people from a
wide variety of backgrounds and with a
range of credentials have been successful
in the role—from grassroots advocates
to masters of social work, from people

Strengthening Their Professional Capacity

Given the range of responsibilities case
managers have and the varied backgrounds
they bring to the position, sites have found
it essential to provide training and supervision to case managers who may have all the


qualities necessary for success but limited
experience with some aspects of the role
they must fulfill in the program.
The Chicago site, where the Safer
Foundation is the lead agency, illustrates
this approach. The site has a lead case
manager, an experienced social worker
on staff at Safer’s downtown office,
who supervises and supports the direct
service case managers—called reentry
counselors—each of whom works from
an office located near one of Safer’s five
partner congregations around the city.
Recommended for the job through their
congregations and hired in consultation
with Safer, the reentry counselors do
not necessarily have a case management
background, but they have strong connections with the congregations and other
organizations in the community as well as
personal qualities that make them effective in working with the participants—not
to mention a great deal of commitment to
their work.
Building on and complementing the
strengths the reentry counselors bring
to their position, the lead case manager
provides them with training on specific
skills (for example, conducting the initial
assessment), meets with each weekly to
discuss issues that have arisen with their
participants and performs weekly audits
of their case management files. Using a
software tracking system is an important
aspect of this approach. Reentry counselors keep the case records for each
participant on a networked computer, and
the lead case manager at Safer can log in
and review the files.


Research has clearly shown that a supportive relationship with an adult mentor
leads to positive outcomes for youth.9
Ready4Work has sought to extend this
form of support to former prisoners, who
often return to a chaotic and potentially
destructive environment in which there
may be very few people with whom they
can develop a trusting relationship.
All of the Ready4Work sites have implemented a mentoring component. Most
often it takes the form of group mentoring,
in which a mentor meets regularly with
the same group of four or five participants
or two mentors team up to meet with a
somewhat larger group. Sites that have
been able to recruit sufficient numbers of
volunteers for one-to-one mentoring have
mentors and participants meet weekly or
biweekly. Sites also have the option of implementing team mentoring, an intensive
model in which two or three mentors are
matched with one participant and meet
individually with that person. Although no
site has yet begun to use this approach,
it holds promise for very high-risk participants because it increases the chances
that an especially wary former prisoner
will find someone with whom he or she is
comfortable, and it provides built-in support for the mentors, who can rely on one
another in their efforts.10
Across the sites, mentoring has been the
most challenging component to implement. This is not surprising. While most of
the sites had at least some experience with
job training and placement for former prisoners, very few had previously included any
form of mentoring among their services.
In addition, mentoring adults—particularly
former prisoners—is, for the most part,
uncharted territory. While a number of
effective practices have been identified for
mentoring programs in general, they grew
from programs that match adult mentors
with youth. The Ready4Work sites are pioneers in learning how to adapt those practices to programs in which the mentees are
adult former prisoners.

Promising practices:
• Hire a mentor coordinator.
• Recruit mentors from congregations
whose pastors are strong believers in
the power of mentoring and will convey
that message to congregation members.
• Address the practical and psychological
barriers that can hinder participants’
involvement in mentoring.
• Provide training in building relationships
and other relevant skills and knowledge,
to help prepare mentors for their roles.
• Ensure that the case manager has a
role in supporting the mentor-mentee
• Be sure mentors comply with federal
guidelines that prohibit the use of federal money for proselytizing or requiring
their mentees to participate in any form
of religious activity.

Some of the challenges that the sites have
faced are typical of the issues that nearly
all mentoring programs encounter early
on, including recruiting mentors, training
them so they can succeed in a potentially
difficult role and providing effective supervision and support. However, these issues
may be more intense at the Ready4Work
sites. It can, for example, be much more
difficult to attract volunteers to mentor
adult former prisoners than to mentor
children or youth. In addition, the sites
are facing one challenge that seems
particular to recently released prisoners:
a slew of practical and psychological
barriers that can deter former prisoners
from becoming involved in a mentoring
relationship. These include transportation or scheduling problems and more
complex interpersonal challenges (for
example, the difficulty of connecting with
former prisoners who may be wary of any
new relationship).
Even with these early challenges, there
are promising signs about the potential of
the mentoring component. While some


Table 2
Mentor Demographics













































Total Number of Mentors
Mentor Gender:

Missing Information
Mentor Race:
African American

Missing Information
Mentor Age:

Missing Information
Average Age = 46

sites are still working to find the most
effective strategies for recruiting mentors,
they have, overall, been quite successful in
attracting a high percentage of male mentors and, particularly, African American
males—a group that most programs find
difficult to recruit. One survey of 722
mentoring programs, for example, found
that only 40 percent of the mentors were
male; at the Ready4Work sites, as a whole,
that number is almost 60 percent.11 And
while studies have found that, across
mentoring programs, 15 to 20 percent

of adult volunteers are members of a
racial minority, more than 80 percent of
Ready4Work mentors (79 percent of the
men and 83 percent of the women) are
African American (see Table 2).12
These numbers are especially meaningful
because the Ready4Work participants
are predominantly male and African
American. The sites require that mentors
and participants share the same gender
(although male and female mentors team
up occasionally for group mentoring sessions). While there is ongoing debate in


the mentoring field about the importance
of mentors and participants sharing the
same race, having a mentor who is of
the same race may be more effective for
former prisoners, who are often resistant
to developing trust.13
As the Ready4Work demonstration
continues, P/PV will look more closely at
who makes an effective mentor for adult
former prisoners. Are people of the same
race most likely to be able to build a longterm, positive relationship? Does it matter
if the mentor lives in the former prisoner’s neighborhood and, thus, has firsthand experience with some of the issues
he or she may face? Does the mentor’s
educational background matter? What
about his or her previous involvement, if
any, with the criminal justice system? So
far, 39 percent of the Ready4Work mentors are age 50 or older. Is the difference
in age between mentors and participants
a barrier to their forming positive relationships, or an advantage? Or do all of
these characteristics take second place to
personal qualities and skills—like being a
good listener?
While these are questions for future
examination, what is known already is
that some supportive relationships have
formed; and where they have, participants
speak with real feeling about the importance of the mentors in their lives. For
example, this 30-year-old participant in a
mentoring group described how the mentors contribute to keeping him hopeful
and out of trouble:
They’ve been helpful because I got
through school, and I might have the opportunity to have a job that’s good. They
keep my mind on the right track and
keep me thinking positive. If I’m feeling
depressed, they would give you words of
encouragement to keep you from doing
stuff that you really don’t want to do.

A 24-year-old woman offered this description of her relationship with her mentor:
She [the mentor] works a lot; she works at
the chemical plant. I meet with her twice
a month. She calls me almost every day;
she asks me how I’m doing and how my
son is doing. She’s making sure I’m okay.
We talk about me taking care of my business, talking to people at the college. We
meet like a whole day—like, for example,
we go to…lunch, then we go see her
relatives, then she comes to my parents’
house. When I have problems…when I
don’t have anybody to turn to—me and
my mom have a good relationship, [but]
my mom’s busy raising my 15-year-oldsister, [and] it’s hard to find somebody
to talk to about my problems—she [the
mentor] gives me advice on what to do.
I had some problems with child support,
and she’ll give me a number. How are me
and my son going to get diapers? [She’ll]
call the neighborhood center. [She’s]
guiding me to the right direction—[she
says] if you see old friends, just go to the
other direction. It changed me a lot. I
wasn’t as talkative; I was always hiding
things inside. When I found out I was
pregnant or in trouble with the law, I
didn’t tell anybody. She’s helping me
speak up.
Sites are encouraged by mentoring
relationships like these. And in response
to early challenges and a growing understanding about the potential value of
mentoring, many sites have drawn from
their experiences to modify their initial
approaches. While still in the early stages
of implementation, several program
practices hold promise for contributing to
strong mentoring relationships that can
support former prisoners as they reenter
society. These practices relate to the
staffing and structuring of the mentoring
component; the approaches sites take to
recruiting, training and supporting mentors; and the strategies they use to address
barriers that make some participants reluctant to become involved in mentoring.


Hiring a Mentor Coordinator
Some sites faced initial challenges in
getting their mentoring components
operating effectively because they did not
have a mentor coordinator. When responsibilities were divided among various staff
members, it became difficult to develop a
coherent process of implementation. Sites
have thus begun hiring someone who is
specifically responsible for implementing
the mentoring component, including
recruiting, training, matching and supporting mentors. As an alternative, some
sites have contracted with intermediaries
to run their mentoring component. In
Memphis, for example, Hope Works, a
local faith-based organization, is responsible for mentoring, and the mentor coordinator is part of the Hope Works staff.
The Washington, DC site which is
partnering with eight congregations for
its mentoring component, recently implemented the model that has been used
successfully in the Amachi mentoring program, an initiative that matches mentors
recruited from congregations with children
of incarcerated parents.14 In this model,
each church selects its own mentor coordinator, who is a member of the congregation. That person helps to recruit mentors
from the congregation and is responsible
for checking in with them on a weekly
basis to ensure they are meeting with
their mentees, to answer questions they
might have about the developing relationship and to support and motivate them.
Because the coordinator is a member
of the congregation, she or he is likely
to see the mentors at services or church
events, and their conversations about the
mentoring relationship can often take
place in this more informal setting. Each
church receives a stipend, which it can use
to pay its mentor coordinator.
Recruiting Mentors
All of the sites are, thus far, turning to
congregations as a primary source of
mentors, and they are finding that their

recruitment efforts are far more successful
when pastors are strong advocates for the
effort. The Amachi mentoring initiative
also found this to be true: Faith is a powerful motivator, and when pastors explain
to congregation members how mentoring
contributes to fulfilling the mission of the
church, people step forward and volunteer to serve.15
The role of the pastor can be seen at
the Detroit site, which recruits mentors
through a partnership with the Hartford
Memorial Baptist Church. Its pastor, who
for more than a decade has addressed
the needs of young African Americans in
that city’s prisons, calls on the congregation at services every Sunday to volunteer
to become a mentor. The site’s mentor
coordinator—a former prisoner who
is a member of the congregation and
who was, as a prisoner, mentored by the
pastor—also speaks during services about
the importance the mentoring relationship has had in his life.
Because the Detroit site has far more
male than female participants and, thus,
particularly needs male mentors, the
pastor specifically asks men in the congregation to become mentors. And this large
congregation is responding. In only the
first three months, the pastor recruited
approximately 80 mentors, about 60 of
whom are men.
Addressing Participants’ Barriers
Many of the participants in Ready4Work
face legitimate barriers that can make
it difficult for them to meet with their
mentor or, if they are part of a group
mentoring program, to attend the sessions. They may work two jobs and
have very real time constraints or have
work schedules that conflict with group
meeting times. They may also have transportation needs or problems arranging
child care. As sites have identified these
barriers, they have begun taking practical
steps to remove them. They have, for example, provided participants with stipends


to cover transportation and scheduled
group mentoring meetings at more convenient times and places.
But sites are also learning that removing
concrete, practical barriers may not be
enough. There are additional reasons
why some participants are resistant to
becoming involved in a mentoring relationship. Attending a mentoring group
session or meeting with a mentor oneon-one can feel like yet another form of
“reporting”—something akin to mandated
counseling sessions or having to meet
regularly with a parole officer after release.
In addition, some former prisoners see
having a mentor as a sign of weakness,
a statement that they cannot make it on
their own. As one 30-year-old male participant explained: “For people that are
kind of like not as strong as other people,
it takes guys like mentors and people to
talk to them, especially if they don’t have
a father figure. But for people who are
strong, it takes themselves.”
Renaming “Mentors”

The Washington, DC Ready4Work program provides an illustration of how sites
can begin to address those psychological
barriers to participation. One strategy has
been to replace the word “mentor” with
“life coach,” a term that both mentors
and participants seem to prefer. To some
people, “mentoring” might imply a hierarchical relationship, with the mentee being
in a childlike role. And, for participants
especially, the word “coach” may have
more familiar and comfortable connotations. There is a difference between saying
to a family member or oneself “I’m going
to meet with my mentor” and saying “I’m
going to meet with my coach.”
Taking Advantage of Characteristics of
Group Mentoring

The Washington, DC site is also attempting to structure its mentoring
component in a way that helps remove
barriers to participation. Like most of the

sites, it uses a group mentoring model. To
some extent, the reliance on the model
has been a practical response to the challenges of recruiting mentors and, particularly, male mentors. But in addition, there
are potential advantages to having group
mentoring sessions, where there is peer interaction and the consequent support that
can develop among members of the group,
and where participants have the opportunity to feel that they are giving—sharing
their own knowledge and experience—
so that involvement in the group does
not feel like a sign of weakness.
The Washington, DC site, like other
sites, also tries to ensure that one-to-one
mentor-participant relationships develop
within the group context—relationships
that might further motivate participants to
attend the sessions. The groups are kept
small—each one includes a life coach
and three participants—and they meet
twice a month. The first monthly meeting
takes place at one of the eight churches
involved in the initiative; after the group
session, there is time for the mentor to
meet individually with each member. The
second monthly meeting consists of an
activity in the city, during which there are
opportunities for individual conversations.
In addition, mentors telephone each
member of their group on a weekly basis.
Allowing Participants to Determine the Content of
the Mentoring Meetings

To change the perception that the group
sessions are just another reporting requirement, the DC site works to ensure they
are unlike any sessions participants have
attended in prison or a halfway house.
The monthly meetings at the church have
no curriculum or preplanned topic. In
fact, during the very first meeting, the life
coach focuses on finding out the issues
participants want to address. The participants decide what is important to discuss,
while the coach’s role is to listen, guide
and support.


Similarly, the monthly group activity is
intended to be useful to participants; they
decide how to spend the time. The group
might go to a restaurant or to a museum,
or they might spend their time together
learning to navigate challenges that the
participants have identified. They could,
for example, go to a library and learn how
to use computers to access information
over the Internet, or they might spend
time refamiliarizing themselves with how
to use mass transit after years in prison.
While this approach is still in its early
implementation, it is grounded in the
belief that if participants find the meetings valuable, they will attend. That, in
turn, will provide the life coaches and
participants with the opportunity to build
trusting relationships that can make
a positive difference in people’s lives,
beyond even the specific support they
receive in the meetings themselves.
Beginning Mentoring While Participants
Are Still in Prison

An additional way sites attempt to break
through former prisoners’ barriers to
becoming involved in mentoring is to
offer their services to pre-release participants. Sites in Philadelphia, New York and
Houston provide mentors for participants
while they are still incarcerated in an
effort to develop supportive relationships
that can continue to grow after participants are released. The Washington,
DC site designed a unique mentoring
program for its pre-release participants
who are in the federal prison system and
housed in a prison in North Carolina. The
site conducts group mentoring through
videoconferencing, allowing mentors and
mentees to meet “face-to-face” and develop
a relationship despite the distance.
Training Mentors
Serving as a mentor is typically both
rewarding and challenging. It can be particularly difficult to form a positive, supportive relationship with an adult former

prisoner who has only recently been
released from prison and may still have
what one participant referred to as “the
penitentiary thought,” which can include
both a distrust of others and a tendency
to be untrustworthy. Successful mentoring
relationships can be a powerful force in
helping participants make the transition
to a productive life in the community. But
as research into mentoring programs has
demonstrated, these kinds of relationships
do not necessarily happen automatically.
Mentors benefit from training that helps
them develop the skills and acquire the
knowledge they need to be successful in
their roles.16
The Ready4Work sites have developed
approaches to mentor training that
combine practicing mentoring skills with
the provision of information that mentors may need in their particular program. Milwaukee, for example, created a
training curriculum that prepares mentors to develop nurturing relationships
with their mentees and includes presentations by representatives of the city’s police
and health departments to help mentors
understand some of the issues the former
prisoners face.
Other sites have arranged for outside
training. In Washington, DC, for example, a P/PV staff member developed
a curriculum to train new mentors in
relationship-building skills, such as active
listening, and in the specific group-facilitation techniques needed for the DC program. The training also focused on issues
that are essential for Ready4Work mentors
at all sites. These included helping mentors learn to recognize crises that participants may experience and know how to
respond if a participant indicates that he
or she is considering committing a crime.
Mentors also receive clear instruction on
the federal guidelines that prohibit the
use of federal money for proselytizing or
requiring their mentees to participate in
any form of religious activity. In order to
fully respect the religious freedom of all


program participants, mentors can answer
questions but cannot impose their religious viewpoint in any way.
Involving the Case Manager in
Supporting the Relationship
While sites have found it important to
have a mentor coordinator, it is also
becoming clear that the case manager
should have a role in supervising and supporting mentoring relationships. In fact,
recent research on mentoring indicates
that relationships last for a longer period
of time and are more likely to result in
positive outcomes when the case manager
has an active role in them.17
The mentor coordinator is immediately
responsible for making sure relationships
are developing, but the case manager has
the deepest knowledge about each participant and is best positioned to address
serious issues that may arise. Thus, part
of the mentor coordinator’s duties when
regularly checking in with mentors should
be to identify problems and contact the
case manager if a participant appears to
need additional help.
What’s more, sites are encouraged to have
the case manager speak with each mentor
once a month for at least the first six
months of his or her involvement with the
program so the two can directly discuss any
concerns the mentor may have. Because
case managers talk to participants regularly—and, thus, can touch base with them
frequently about the mentoring relationship—they are also in a position to give
mentors feedback about how participants
feel they are benefiting from the relationship. This can be important for helping
mentors remain motivated and committed.


While a key objective of Ready4Work is
to place participants in jobs, sites like
Memphis and Jacksonville explicitly emphasize that the ultimate goal is not just
jobs, but jobs that offer a good salary and
benefits. Memphis, in fact, distinguishes
between transitional jobs—entry-level positions that are valuable because they allow
participants to acclimate or reacclimate
themselves to the world of work, develop
job skills and establish a work history—and
more permanent, higher-skilled and betterpaying jobs that people ultimately need to
support themselves and their families.
Achieving this goal is obviously a complex
task that requires a range of strategies and
practices, strong partners and persistence
on the part of the Ready4Work sites. At
all the sites, training includes a job readiness course, a necessity for people who are
reentering the work world after being in
prison or, in some cases, entering the work
world for the first time. Sites also provide
opportunities for education, particularly
adult basic education and GED courses,
and hard skills training either in a classroom or on the job. But while many participants would ultimately benefit from these
forms of ongoing training and education,
they also face a significant need to get jobs
quickly so they can begin to earn money.
Building on their early experiences, sites
have been modifying their approaches,
strengthening their staffing and forming
new partnerships as they work to integrally
connect job training and placement and to
accommodate the varying needs and priorities of both participants and employers.
Accomplishing this is a difficult task, but
five interrelated practices seem promising:
providing a range of opportunities for
education and job training; achieving a
balance between participants’ need to find
work quickly and their often conflicting
need to have the time to become workready or prepare for better-paying jobs;
hiring a specialist in employer recruitment;
matching the “right” participants with job
openings; and following up with participants after they begin working.

Job Training, Placement and Follow-Up
Promising practices:
• Develop partnerships to provide a
range of opportunities for education
and job training.
• Work to achieve a balance between
participants’ apparently conflicting
needs to find a job quickly and for
training and education.
• Hire a staff member whose job is to
recruit employers and who has professional experience in that role.
• Think like a job placement organization—use a strategy to match the right
participant with each job opening.
• Follow up with participants, and their
employers, after they have been placed
in a job.

Providing Opportunities for Education
and Job Training
Participants who enroll in Ready4Work
enter the program with a range of educational backgrounds, job histories and
skills, and with a range of expectations
about their work futures. Thus, while
participants need to get a job quickly—
and programs feel pressure to connect
them with work as rapidly as possible—a
number of sites provide a range of education and training opportunities so participants can ultimately move into full-time
jobs with good salaries and benefits.
Requiring Job Readiness Training

All sites require participants to take a job
readiness course that focuses on soft skills
such as interviewing, including the issue
of responding to questions about their
criminal background; résumé writing;
and work attitudes and behaviors. In sites
such as Oakland, job readiness includes
some training in computer literacy. And
Houston, among other sites, also has a life
skills course that addresses issues such as
anger management.


Encouraging Education

Because 40 percent of people who leave
prison have neither earned a high school
diploma nor completed their GED18—
and, therefore, face a significant barrier to long-term employment—all sites
also provide access to GED classes and,
in some cases, to adult basic-education
classes for people who are not yet ready
to start work toward their GED. While
most sites refer participants to outside
providers for education services—either
city colleges or community- or faith-based
organizations—several sites provide the
classes themselves. In Milwaukee, for
example, Word of Hope Ministries, the
lead agency, provides classes through its
Family Resource Center, which offers services to members of the local community.
Partnering for Skills-Training Opportunities

Some sites are working to develop partnerships that can provide skills-based job
training opportunities for participants
who are ready for them. In Memphis,
Ready4Work participants are co-enrolled
in the Workforce Investment Network
(WIN), a One-Stop Career Center that can
connect them with training opportunities.
Through its partnership with a city college,
the Chicago site is able to enroll participants in its truck-driver training program.
Stipends are an important strategy in
making it possible for participants to
complete hard skills training programs,
providing some financial support while
they prepare for better jobs in the future.
Identifying and forming partnerships with
stipended training programs is obviously a
challenge—such programs are relatively
rare, and where they exist, they are in
high demand—but sites are working to
make the connections. Memphis is
developing relationships with several
labor unions that have apprenticeship
programs. And the Safer Foundation, in
Chicago, built a partnership with the
Illinois Manufacturing Foundation (IMF),
an organization that provides hard skills

training in the manufacturing field to
people who are hard to employ.
Participants receive a stipend while they
complete IMF’s 14-week training course,
and IMF then places them in jobs with
starting wages that can be as high as $14
an hour. While relatively few participants
are able to enroll in this type of long-term
training, Safer also obtains state funding
for stipends that will support participants
for three months as they get on-the-job
training and experience with private
employers in areas that include food
service, construction and manufacturing.
Finding the Balance
While sites work to have a range of
options available for training and education that can help participants get work,
succeed and ultimately find jobs with
higher wages and benefits, they simultaneously have to address the reality that
participants need to find jobs quickly.
Developing strategies to balance these
apparently conflicting interests is an
ongoing process.
What is the “right” amount of time and
training? There is obviously no single or
simple answer to this question. At the
very least, participants need job readiness
training that is sufficiently intense and of
sufficient length so they develop the soft
skills that will enable them to find and
hold an initial job. But, as one participant
noted, a short, required course, while
adequate for some people, may not be
sufficient for others:
[It’s] a very good class. It’s my second
time taking it; they came…while I was in
prison. I already knew them, and they are
high-powered and get yourself together.
It’s three days. For people who have
worked before and those that have been
through interviews and have had jobs,
it is [a] refresher. But for those that have
never worked, they need longer training.
They need to understand the importance
of wearing the appropriate clothes; they
can’t wear their pants hanging way


down or women showing their midriff.
They teach them, but it may need to be
more. They need [to understand] the
importance of language.
Building in the Flexibility to Meet Individual Needs

Several sites have developed flexible
approaches for dealing with new participants’ varying levels of job readiness.
Memphis, for example, has a required
one-week job readiness orientation, with
some participants then immediately
placed in jobs or beginning job search
activities through the WIN’s One-Stop
Career Center. Participants who need
additional job readiness training or help
with skills such as anger management
meet for one-on-one sessions with the
Memphis job counselor, and the site also
has a partnership with Hope Works, a
faith-based organization, to provide a
13-week program that includes a focus on
employment barriers, such as work attitudes and behaviors, for participants who
need extended training in this area.
The Jacksonville site uses a similarly flexible approach. All participants enroll in a
two-week job readiness course when they
enter the program. After the first week—
which includes training in topics such as
interviewing, résumé writing and anger
management—participants begin to
meet individually with the job placement
specialist to start their job search. During
this time, they also receive one-on-one
job readiness counseling from her. If
they are not placed in a job quickly, they
continue with individualized counseling
and return to the job readiness course
for additional training.
While the sites have found that they need
to offer job readiness training that allows
for different levels of intensity and duration based on individual participants’
needs, they are trying to develop similarly
flexible strategies for delivering education and hard skills training. Many sites
have found that participants sign up for
hard skills training but soon drop out

because they have found a job and need
the income. Similarly, while a number of
sites strongly encourage participants to
earn their GEDs, education is often not a
priority for people when their immediate
need is to earn money. One approach is
to offer more flexible scheduling of GED
and hard skills classes so participants will
be able to attend while they hold jobs.
Providing stipends for job training is also
an important strategy, although one that
will inevitably be limited in its ability to
reach large numbers of participants.
Interweaving Jobs and Work-Readiness Training

The Detroit site takes a different approach
that emphasizes getting an entry-level job
first and addressing longer-term needs
second. America Works, the for-profit
employment service that is the site’s lead
agency, developed its model through its
work with women making the transition
from welfare to work and its previous
experience with placing former prisoners.
Participants begin the program with a
week-long job readiness training that addresses topics similar to those at the other
sites, but the focus from the start is on
rapid attachment to work. From the first
day, participants learn about job openings;
and with business clothes and bus passes
provided by the site, they begin going to
job interviews as early as their third day in
the program. The program expects that it
may take five or six interviews for participants to get a job, and they continue with
job readiness training while their search
continues. People with major barriers, such
as substance abuse, are referred to services
quickly through their case manager, but
much of the work in addressing needs and
additional job training is done through
the case manager after the participant is
already working.
There are early indications that the site’s
rapid-attachment strategy may be effective. Participants work in areas such as
telemarketing, clerical services, construction cleanup, food services, supermarkets


and manufacturing. While some make
only $6.50 an hour, other jobs pay $8.00
to $10.00 an hour. As the initiative continues, it will become possible to gauge
the success of this approach in terms of
job retention and moving participants
into higher-wage jobs.
Hiring an Employer Recruitment
Early in the initiative, some sites relied
on case managers or job training staff to
recruit employers. That arrangement generally proved to be a challenge because
developing relationships with employers
and proactively identifying job openings
requires a specialist who can devote fulltime hours to the effort.
Sites now take several different, promising
approaches to this issue. The Philadelphia
Ready4Work program contracted with
the Transitional Work Corporation, a
local nonprofit organization that recruits
employers and provides job training and
placement services to entry-level workers,
to handle some of its job placement activities. Several other sites have hired a staff
member—called either a job developer
or a salesperson—who has experience in
employer recruitment and employment
services for hard-to-place populations.
Using a Business-to-Business Approach

At sites like Detroit, which uses an employer-recruitment model developed by
America Works, the salesperson uses a
business-to-business approach. Because
companies generally have enormous turnover in entry-level jobs, the salesperson
emphasizes that Ready4Work participants
have been screened, trained and are,
in fact, ready for work. This approach
builds on the fact that companies often
prefer to hire through networks because
that means they have a recommendation
from a reliable source. The site in this
way functions as a network for participants, vouching for their reliability and

suitability for the job. The salesperson
helps employers see that it makes sense
to hire through Ready4Work rather than
go through the expense and uncertainty
of placing help-wanted ads and screening
unknown applicants.
Other sites also emphasize the potential tax benefit, through the Work
Opportunity Tax Credit, for hiring
former prisoners, and the security provided by the Federal Bonding Program,
which protects employers from the risk
of financial loss when they hire someone
who has been convicted of a crime. Some
of the sites also make clear to employers
that they will serve as a resource after the
participant is hired—that they follow up
regularly with participants once they start
a job and are available to address any
problems that may arise.
Casting a Wide Net

While the first job placement for many
participants is an entry-level position, job
developers at some of the sites have been
able to recruit a wide range of employers,
including a number with jobs that offer
good wages and benefits. Some have immediate job openings and, at times, multiple openings so sites can make several
placements at the same workplace. Others
may not have anything currently available
but will become potential sources of jobs
in the future. In Memphis, for example,
which has a full-time staff member dedicated to employer recruitment, the site
has placed participants in jobs in restaurants, hotels, the city’s animal shelter, a
construction company and a university,
among other organizations and businesses. The Jacksonville site, which has a
salesperson whose approach is similar to
the one used in Detroit, has relationships
with employers that similarly include restaurants and building contractors, along
with a supermarket, health care organizations and other businesses.


Matching the Right Participant with
Each Job Opening
In one sense, Ready4Work sites are job
placement organizations. Houston, for
example, emphasizes that employers are
the consumers for their services, and
employer satisfaction is as important
as participant satisfaction. Sites have to
maintain a positive relationship with each
employer in order to have opportunities
for additional placements at that worksite
and so they can develop a strong reputation in the community as a source of
good employees. If a participant does not
appear for a scheduled job interview or
proves unsatisfactory on the job, it reflects
negatively on the entire program.
To increase the likelihood that participants will be hired and perform well in
the workplace—and that employers will
be satisfied with placements—some of
the Ready4Work sites have developed
specific strategies for screening participants before deciding whom to send on
an interview for a particular job opening.
Houston assesses general factors such
as work readiness as well as focusing on
specific job skills that can contribute to
a successful employer-employee match.
In Jacksonville, after participants complete the first week of their job readiness
training, they meet one-on-one with the
job placement specialist to develop their
individual employment profile. The
placement specialist then matches the
participant with a potential employer,
speaks to the employer to discuss the
candidate and often drives the participant to the interview. If requested by the
employer or participant, she also joins
them for the interview.
Detroit uses a somewhat different approach, basing its matching decisions
primarily on observations. During the job
readiness course, the trainer keeps careful
tracking notes about each participant’s
reliability, attitudes and performance. And
while the site’s salesperson is recruiting
employers, he pays close attention to

the workplace environment, the kinds
of people who work there and the characteristics of the person who will be the
new employee’s manager. What kind of
employee is more likely to succeed in that
workplace? A person who shows initiative
or someone who is best in responding
to direct orders? Someone who is quiet
or someone who interacts easily with the
other employees? The salesperson is
responsible for understanding the worksite,
and the trainer is responsible for understanding the strengths and drawbacks of
each participant’s workplace attitudes
and skills. Using these perspectives, they
match participants with job openings.
Following-Up with Participants and
Their Employers
When a participant is placed in a job, it
should be a beginning, not the end of
program services. Case managers and
job specialists are expected to perform
regular follow-up visits to the workplace
to provide coaching and support to the
new employees and address issues that
might be arising. These visits are intended
to provide support to the employers as
well—one of the points sites make in
recruiting employers is that they will be
available to handle problems that affect
new employees’ performance on the job.
At the Jacksonville site, the job placement specialist and case managers
perform monthly visits to each worksite
to support the employer-employee relationship. In most cases, the placement
specialist has a preexisting relationship
with employers because she has recruited
them, and this can make communication easier. In Detroit, where participants
often are placed with less job readiness
training than at other sites and, thus,
may need more intensive support early
on, the case manager is responsible for
visiting the job site at first weekly, then
every other week, with the frequency
of visits gradually diminishing as the
employee’s tenure increases.


Whatever the schedule of visits, they can
provide an opportunity to observe the
employee in the workplace to identify
possible sources of problems. How, for
example, does the manager talk to
employees? Is he brusque? Inconsistent in
the kinds of instructions he gives? The
case manager can then coach the employee
on how to deal with these issues before
they become a problem. The visits may
also allow the case manager to talk
directly to the employer about any
concerns. Is the employee returning late
from breaks? Hanging out with fellow
employees who stretch the rules? The case
manager can then work with the employee
to modify behaviors and attitudes that are
creating problems on the job. In addition,
case managers can use the visits to help
employees deal with other issues, such as
court appearances, so that external
complications in their lives do not affect
their job performance.
These workplace visits provide an additional benefit. Experienced job placement
organizations like America Works expect
that a participant is likely to have two or
three jobs before the right one sticks. He
or she may lose a job or may leave due
to frustration or boredom and want a
job that is more challenging. Losing or
leaving the first or second job is not necessarily a negative event. Participants can
work with program staff from the perspective of what they learned from the experience. Do they have to become better at
communicating with their manager? Do
they need to develop negotiation skills so
they can handle situations that come up
in the workplace? Do they want to develop
specific work skills so they can find a more
challenging job? The experience of being
with and observing participants at the
workplace is valuable for case managers
or employment specialists as they work
to help the participant benefit from that
initial job loss.


In interviews, participants across
Ready4Work sites often spoke about a
characteristic of the program that was
especially important to them. One 33year-old man put it this way: “The people
themselves grabbed my attention—it’s like
no matter how much they are doing, they
always have time for you as an individual.”
In fact, a key to Ready4Work is that each
participant is an individual—cared about,
cared for and accountable. Participants are
expected to be responsible in taking the
steps necessary to make a change in their
lives. The program, in turn, does whatever
it takes to help that person become jobready. That may involve providing angermanagement classes or training in specific
job skills, or getting them appropriate
clothes for a job interview, or buying them
tools they need to be hired for a particular
job. It also means accessing resources for
participants to deal with any of the many
issues that may be barriers to their successful
reentry—including substance abuse problems, physical and mental health issues,
and housing.
Accomplishing that, and keeping each
participant at the center, requires
ongoing communication among the
site’s staff, and between staff and other
people who are involved in the reentry
effort. Successful sites have a system in
place that fosters communication and
coordination. This includes regular
staff meetings to discuss the progress of
participants and their existing needs. It
also includes conversations between the
case manager and the job trainer, the job
developer, the mentor coordinator and
the mentors, as well as ongoing conversations between the job developer and job
trainer so their work is coordinated.
When a site’s services take place primarily
at one location, as they do, for example,
in Jacksonville, it is somewhat easier to
ensure there is a system of ongoing communication. Sites like Chicago, where the
program is decentralized and operates out
of both the Safer Foundation’s downtown

office and through offices near each of
the five partner congregations, have to
take additional steps to ensure that the
reentry counselors at the churches are in
regular communication with the training
and employment specialists at Safer. And
sites that contract out services to other
organizations—including mentoring, job
training or job placement—have to be
sure there is a system in place that ensures
ongoing communication.
Reentering the community after spending
months or years in prison is a journey
fraught with obstacles. To help former
prisoners keep moving along that passage,
staff have to coordinate with one another
and stay connected to each participant. As
one participant explained, giving voice to
both his struggles and his determination:
“Sometimes I don’t want to go, but I say,
‘I have to do this, it’s what I’m a part of, it
keeps me focused.’ Ain’t nothing going to
come to me—they help me see that life,
in order to make it, you have to get up
and do these things.”


1 “Learn About Reentry.” Serious and
Violent Offender Reentry Initiative. U.S.
Department of Justice, Office of Justice
2 Bureau of Justice Statistics. U.S.
Department of Justice, Office of Justice
3 Report of the Re-entry Policy Council: Charting
the Safe and Successful Return of Prisoners
to the Community. The Council of State
Governments. New York, 2004, xviii.
4 Data from 1997 show that nearly one third
of adult prisoners were unemployed in the
month before their arrest, compared with
7 percent unemployment in the general
population, and that 5 percent of state prisoners and 3 percent of federal prisoners had
never been employed. Postincarceration,
employment rates only worsen—unemployment among ex-prisoners has been estimated at between 25 and 40 percent. See
Joan Petersilia. When Prisoners Come Home:
Parole and Prisoner Reentry. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2003.
5 S. B. Rossman and C. G. Roman. “CaseManaged Reentry and Employment:
Lessons from the Opportunity to Succeed
Program.” In Justice Research and Policy. 5(2),
2003, 75–100.
6 Svenja Heinrich. Reducing Recidivism
Through Work: Barriers and Opportunities
for Employment of Former Prisoners. Chicago:
Great Cities Institute, University of Illinois
at Chicago, 2000.
7 Economic and Employment Projections. Bureau
of Labor Statistics.
release/ecopro.toc.htm. According to
the Bureau’s findings, the service sector
will have the largest increase in jobs, and
worker shortages, during the next four to
eight years.
8 Because Ready4Work is a demonstration
project, it includes a systematic process
of identifying challenges so that sites are
continuously learning about where and how
to modify practices to meet the specific program requirements. P/PV program officers
regularly visit the sites for monitoring and
technical assistance, and ongoing data

collection enables sites to track their progress
toward goals and to immediately see how
changes in practices contribute to intermediate program outcomes, such as the number
of participants matched with mentors and the
number who are placed in jobs.
9 Joseph P. Tierney, Jean B. Grossman,
and Nancy T. Resch. Making a Difference:
An Impact Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures, 1995.
10 For a description of team mentoring as
it was implemented in an initiative that
focuses on youth involved in the juvenile
justice system, see Susan Blank and Fred
Davie. Faith in Their Futures: The Youth
and Congregations in Partnership Program
of the Kings County (Brooklyn, NY) District
Attorney’s Office. Philadelphia: Public/Private
Ventures, 2004, 25-29.
11 Cynthia L. Sipe and Anne E. Roder.
Mentoring School-Age Children: A Classification
of Programs. Philadelphia: Public/Private
Ventures and The National Mentoring
Partnership’s Public Policy Council, 17.
12 Jean E. Rhodes. “What’s Race Got To
Do With It?” Research Corner. National
Mentoring Partnership. www.mentoring.
adp. March 2002.
13 For a summary of the arguments about
whether mentoring matches should be
between people of the same race, at least
when the mentees are children and youth,
see Linda Jucovy. Same-Race and Cross-Race
Matching. Portland, OR: The National
Mentoring Center at Northwest Regional
Educational Laboratory and Public/Private
Ventures, 3-8.
14 Amachi, a partnership of secular and faithbased organizations, provides mentoring
to children of incarcerated parents. Faith
institutions work with human service
providers and public agencies (particularly
justice institutions) to identify children
of prisoners and match them with caring
adults, who are primarily recruited from
congregations. Designed by Public/Private
Ventures in partnership with Big Brothers
Big Sisters of America and first implemented in 2001, Amachi now operates at
110 sites across the nation.


15 Linda Jucovy. Amachi: Mentoring Children
of Prisoners in Philadelphia. Philadelphia:
Public/Private Ventures and the Center
for Research on Religion and Urban Civil
Society, 2003, 21-22.
16 Cynthia L. Sipe. “Mentoring Adolescents:
What Have We Learned?” In Contemporary
Issues in Mentoring. Jean Baldwin Grossman
(ed.). 1999. Philadelphia: Public/Private
Ventures, 18-19.
17 A study of high-risk youth involved in
mentoring relationships found that when
there was intensive case management of the
mentor pairs, the matches met for a longer
period of time. See Shawn Bauldry and
Tracey Hartmann. The Promise and Challenge
of Mentoring High-Risk Youth: Findings from the
National Faith-Based Initiative. Philadelphia:
Public/Private Ventures, 2004, 25. In addition, a study of the InnerChange Freedom
Initiative found that when the parole officer
was involved in the relationship between
an former prisoner and mentor, the former
prisoner was much less likely to be rearrested or reincarcerated. See Byron R.
Johnson, with David Larson. The InnerChange
Freedom Initiative: A Preliminary Evaluation of
a Faith-Based Program. Philadelphia: Center
for Research on Religion and Urban Civil
Society, 2003, 21-22, 34-35.
18 Report Preview: Report of the Re-entry Policy
Council. The Council of State Governments.
New York, 2004, 1. Some of the Ready4Work
sites report even higher percentages of
participants without these basic education

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