Building Second Chances: Tools for Local Reentry Coalitions

PARTS 1 & 2

This toolkit is designed for local city, county, and community leaders who want to play an active role in improving reentry policy, practice, and outcomes. Within, you will find user-friendly references to seminal publications, research findings, and noteworthy examples of the foundational knowledge needed to design new reentry strategies and reinvigorate existing ones.

Advance economic opportunity and mobility Icon of pdf document

For people who have been incarcerated, financial stability can mean the difference between thriving in the community and returning to prison or jail. This part of the toolkit will lead you through identifying and addressing specific economic mobility challenges in your community by applying the results of related screenings and assessments covered in Section 2. You will use those results to identify a variety of avenues for promoting educational attainment, workforce development, and overall economic opportunity among the reentry population.

The information and resources in this section include:

Awareness of the financial responsibilities of individuals who are reentering in your community is an important step in facilitating their reentry success:

Meeting Financial Obligations
People often leave prison and jail with significant debt. Among many other advantages, stable employment helps them meet the financial obligations that may pile up during or result from their time in the criminal justice system. For example, some people convicted of crimes receive court orders to repay victims for losses or expenses incurred as a direct result of the crime. These payments, also called “restitution,” often follow people into the community after they have served a sentence in prison or jail. Many people returning to their communities from prison or jail are also parents facing the obligation of child support payments and related debts—known as “arrears”—that accumulate during incarceration. People may face additional, lasting financial obligations, including fines and court fees. Awareness of how such financial obligations affect members of the reentry population in your community will enable your local reentry coalition to pursue activities that promote economic mobility while being realistic about the lingering costs of criminal justice system involvement.

The Questions to Consider below will help you think about what economic opportunities and barriers exist in your community for the reentry population:

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Questions to Consider
Circular icon of money in an envelope with small clock in bottom right corner Are there opportunities for the reentry population to earn immediate income?
Communities around the country are implementing models that connect people to work-based income as soon as they are released from prison or jail, with the goals of improving long-term employability and reducing recidivism. Transitional job programs, for example, typically provide temporary employment coupled with on-the-job training and other support, such as soft-skills development. Nontransitional subsidized employment programs pay a portion of participants’ wages for a trial period, during which participants receive training. Unlike transitional jobs, which generally are time limited, nontransitional subsidized employment placements often can lead to permanent jobs with the same employer after the subsidy period ends.
Circular icon of person with dollar sign connected to 3 other people Are local employers incentivized to hire people with criminal records?
Beyond federal programs that offer tax credits and protect against financial loss, some states and cities have established incentives for businesses to hire people with criminal records. Find out if such programs exist in your locale; if not, this could be an activity for your local reentry coalition to explore.
Circular icon of a document with a certification ribbon Is your local reentry coalition aware of local collateral consequences?
Although occupational licensing laws are imposed largely at the state level, cities and counties are also able to dictate licensing processes and requirements. Learning about any such local licensing restrictions can put your coalition in a position to not only understand what career paths present barriers but also work to repeal local licensing laws that may disproportionately burden the reentry population.

This Example from the Field gives an overview of how a post-release employment program in Franklin County, Tennessee filled both a local need for workers and employment needs for people reentering their community:

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Example from the Field

Paving the Way for Post-Release Employment

Headquartered at the sheriff’s office, the Middle Tennessee Rural Reentry (MTRR) program in Franklin County, Tennessee, created a job training initiative to increase job readiness and employability among people incarcerated at the jail and to connect them to employment opportunities after their release. The training program filled a gap in the community: because the closest technical school is approximately 50 miles away from the jail, technical colleges in the area have 6- to 12month waiting lists for enrollment, and access to vocational programming is limited. Soon after automotive industries moved into the surrounding area, MTRR met with the heads of the companies, learned that positions in automotive computer-machining and injection molding needed to be filled, and then focused on training program participants for those jobs.

Learn more about (PDF) the positive outcomes among the people and employers who participated in the program.

These Quick References feature toolkits, reports, and online resources to connect people involved in the criminal justice system with education and employment opportunities, as well as describing the economic challenges they face:

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Quick References

Hosting an Employer Engagement Event
This toolkit, which features sample agendas, talking points, and other resources, is designed to help businesses, public agencies, and community organizations plan and execute local dialogues about hiring people with criminal records.

Laying the Groundwork: How States Can Improve Access to Continued Education for People in the Criminal Justice System (2020)
This report presents detailed findings from a 50-state study to help state and local leaders determine whether their state is making sufficient efforts to improve educational and employment outcomes for incarcerated people by providing postsecondary education opportunities.

National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction
This website is a database of the more than 40,000 federal and state legal and regulatory provisions that prohibit people convicted of crimes from accessing employment, housing, and other rights, benefits, and opportunities.

Opportunity Index
Use this online resource to see how your county scores with respect to opportunity levels, including economic and educational opportunity indicators.

Seeking Assistance to Address Collateral Consequences [PDF] (2018)
This infographic, created specifically for people who have been in tribal justice systems, explains resources for understanding and coping with collateral consequences.

Self-Assessment for Employment-Focused Reentry Programs (2019)
This self-assessment tool helps reentry practitioners identify opportunities to build the capacity of their employment programming and services.