Center for Employment Opportunities

Program basics

  • CEO provides highly structured job preparation and transitional employment to individuals immediately after they are released from prison
  • The model includes an initial 5-day pre-employment life skills course followed by immediate placement into a transitional job
  • Participants work 4 days per week, with day 5 reserved for meeting with job coaches and attending specialized programs.
  • Participants are paid on a daily basis
  • Once participants have demonstrated sufficient progress, CEO places them into unsubsidized jobs with local employers

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)

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Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by the Department of Labor's CLEAR database


Target population

Formerly incarcerated individuals

Program cost

$4,800 per participant

Implementation locations

Dates active

1970s-present

Outcomes and impact

  • A 2012 randomized control trial by MDRC found CEO reduced rates of recidivism by 22 percent, reduced incarceration for new crimes by 25 percent, and created $3.30 in social benefit for every $1 spent on the program
  • A quasi-experimental study completed by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services found a 19 percent reduction in recidivism, a 52 percent increase in employment rates after 12 months, and a 48 percent increase in employment rates after 36 months

Keys to successful implementation

  • The structure, support, and pay that CEO provides to its participants as soon as they are released from prison is at the core of what makes the model effective.
  • Partnerships with local governments--often through Departments of Parks and Recreation, Departments of Public Works, Departments of Transportation, etc.--often provide the support for CEO's initial transitional work crews in new locations.
  • Strong relationships with Departments of Corrections and individual probation or parole officers ensures that the individuals who can most benefit from CEO's services are able to enroll.

Center for Employment Opportunities - Philadelphia

Center for Employment Opportunities - Philadelphia

Center for Employment Opportunities: Increasing employment and reducing recidivism for formerly incarcerated adults in Philadelphia

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