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

  • Re-entry support for formerly incarcerated individuals: Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) is a transitional employment and re-entry support program for individuals returning from incarceration. By providing paid employment, skills training, and career supports, CEO aims to reduce recidivism and increase employment.

  • Preparing participants for employment: Participants complete a two-day paid orientation upon joining the program. With the support of CEO staff, participants prepare to reenter the workforce by writing a resume, practicing responses to interview questions, learning to complete job applications, among other skills. CEO staff also connect participants to social services (e.g., SNAP benefits).

  • Providing transitional employment: After completing the orientation, participants are guaranteed up to four days a week of work on an outdoor maintenance and neighborhood beautification crew. As part of their employment, they receive on-the-job training from their supervisor, daily pay, and feedback on their work performance.

  • Offering job coaching and retention services: While participants are on a CEO work crew, they meet with a Job Coach one day per week. The Coach assists participants in preparing for the job application and interview process. Once the participant is ready to obtain and retain unsubsidized employment, a Job Developer leverages their relationships with area employers to assist the participant in securing employment that matches their skills, experiences, and goals. For one year after their placement, participants also receive support from a job retention specialist, who specializes in workplace counseling, crisis management, and career planning.

  • Partnering with government and nonprofit agencies: Typically, CEO contracts with local community-based organizations or government agencies (e.g., a Department of Parks and Recreation) to provide outdoor maintenance and neighborhood beautification services. Philanthropic organizations or local and state governments often provide additional financial support to fund key services.

Cost per Participant
$4,800 per participant

Two studies of varying rigor demonstrate that CEO is a well-supported strategy for reducing recidivism and increasing employment.

  • A 2012 randomized controlled trial found that participants were significantly less likely than their control group counterparts to be arrested, convicted of a new crime, and reincarcerated.

  • A 2019 quasi-experimental study found that, three years post-enrollment, CEO participants were 48 percent more likely to be employed and 19 percent less likely to be re-convicted or re-arrested for a felony than members of the control group.

  • Developing an enrollment pipeline: The CEO model is most effective when participants are connected with the program shortly after returning from incarceration. As such, developing close relationships with the relevant state department of corrections or individual probation officers can ensure that prospective participants are directly connected to CEO upon their release.

  • Providing immediate and frequent pay: Participants are paid for completing the CEO orientation program, and they are then placed on a work crew. On a work crew, participants are paid daily for their work. By providing participants with immediate and frequent pay, CEO ensures that participants are able to meet their basic needs through paid employment.

  • Identifying partners for work crews: To provide subsidized employment opportunities, CEO needs to identify partners to contract for outside maintenance and neighborhood beautification services. Often, local government agencies, like Departments of Parks and Recreation or Departments of Public Works, are strong candidates.

  • Hiring experienced crew supervisors: Each work crew is supported by a site supervisor, who provides crewmembers with transportation to and from the site and ensures that crews meet quality standards. Hiring supervisors with significant industry experience and strong communication skills can improve the satisfaction of partners contracting with CEO.