Center for Employment Opportunities

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can provide assistance to unemployed workers and help prevent violence. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • 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

Evidence and impacts


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

  • 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

Best practices in 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.