HOWARD HUSOCK: I think it is fair to say that, over
the course of our discussions at this conference, the content
has evolved from a description of the problem to reflections
on how to approach the problem. Specifically, I think we
have begun to focus on the re-entering ex-offender population
as a specific niche that, as criminal justice expert Jeremy
Travis said, is something we are going to have to figure
out over the long-term. I think this panel will now point
us into the apogee of that discussion.
With us now are the guys who are on the front lines, working
day-to-day with people coming out of prison, thinking about
what are the right strategies. They are here to report to
us. I understand that there may be big policy changes that
we need to consider, and that the reports that we get from
the field may not be the sum total of what we ought to be
doing, but I hope that this panel can, at the very least,
put a face on some of the statistics that we have heard
about and give us some specific information about the approaches
they have found to be successful.
Peter Cove and Mindy Tarlow are operating programs that
are taking people off the streets and trying to point them
toward the mainstream. Fred Davie from Public/Private Ventures
in Philadelphia is evaluating an ambitious 17-city program
that involves government money and faith-based groups to
find out whether that approach is working. Finally, we will
hear from Brent Orrell, who works for the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services and who has been thinking about
what role the federal government ought to play. I would
like to start by asking Mindy Tarlow to describe the typical
person her organization deals with, and how she thinks they
can reach him.
MS. TARLOW: The individuals who walk into programs
like the Center for Employment Opportunities in New York
City are primarily men of color and on average they are
in their late twenties. Most of our clients are fathers
who are trying to make a connection or a re-connection with
their children. Most people who come home from prison and
come to places like CEO or America Works have limited to
no work experience, limited educational histories, very
low reading and math scores, andmost importantlyfragile
family and community ties. Difficult housing situations
and tricky relationships can be very hard for anyone to
navigate, but those challenges are particularly pronounced
when incarceration has literally and physically disconnected
someone from his relationships, family, and community. The
number one priority of people coming out of prison and to
programs like ours is to get a job.
MR. HUSOCK: But why do they come in the door? Do
they have to come to you?
MS. TARLOW: I think it varies, and I appreciate
you raising that point because I think it is an important
one. About half of our clients come to CEO because the criminal
justice system has mandated them to come. In many cases,
the condition of someone's release is either that they generally
seek, obtain, and maintain employment, or a requirement
that they show up to a program like CEO. That gives programs
like ours an opportunity to engage with a person because
he has to come through our doors. Others come to us voluntarily,
and perhaps they might be more motivated to work, but we
are happy with whatever gets someone in the door because
we want the opportunity to engage with as many people as
possible, as quickly as possible after release from jail
MR. HUSOCK: How are you going to get them on the
MS. TARLOW: In our case, the theory is to pay someone
for transitional work that leads to full-time employment.
We believe that the best way to get a job is to have a job,
and the best way for adults to learn is by doing, so in
our model we put people to work immediately in a coached
setting so that they can build the basic work skills of
showing up on time, working with a supervisor, cooperating
with other people, presenting themselves well, and making
MR. HUSOCK: Do you have actual businesses that you
own and operate where you can place them?
MS. TARLOW: In our situation, the transitional work
is with supervised work crews that work in and around government
facilities throughout New York City. Folks do maintenance
and repair work for government agencies each day, and get
paid state minimum wage.
MR. HUSOCK: America Works has had a lot of experience
with welfare mothers as a contractor to the state. Peter
was involved in the first wave of working with welfare mothers,
and now I would like for him to compliment what Mindy said
about the population she is working with and contrast that
with the men.
PETER COVE: First, I want to compliment Mindy on
the program, as well as the Vera Institute for having started
that program. There is precious little going on with this
population, as I think you all know, and this has been a
very successful program.
This may surprise you, but my wife and I, in our 25 years
with American Works, have seen that the ex-offenders often
do better in holding jobs and succeeding than the welfare
MR. HUSOCK: Men do better than women do?
MR. COVE: It is unproven, and it may be counterintuitive,
but our experience is telling us that the men are doing
better than the women are. I can give you some anecdotal
Number one, if you get to the men right as they are coming
out of jail, they have learned to take orders, while the
women we have coming to us often do not particularly enjoy
taking orders from anyone. These men coming to us will be
subservient, and when someone asks them to get a cup of
coffee, they will do that without giving lip back to the
supervisor. We are finding that employers like them, and
this is terribly important. Do all employers like them?
No, of course not. Is there discrimination in terms of ex-offenders?
Of course, but we have had no problem whatsoever finding
work for the men.
MR. HUSOCK: Peter, we are hearing that the economy
is tilted against former prisoners and there is legal and
racial discrimination against them. What does the situation
look like? What jobs are they taking?
MR. COVE: We heard the same thing about welfare
recipients before we established work requirements, but
to everyone's surprise, companies were willing to hire welfare
recipients, who succeeded there. What employers see are
people who are willing to work, and frankly, who will do
some of the jobs that other people are unwilling to do,
such as heavy lifting. Men who come out of prison are usually
physically strong, and physical work pays pretty well and
usually includes benefits, and hopefully keeps them away
from crime. We are finding that companies are very willing
to accept workers coming out of prison, but we have to do
it right, and I think America Works learned some important
lessons in this respect from its work with welfare recipients.
We could never sell welfare recipients to businesses, but
instead we sold a servicegood employees who would
stayand that is exactly what we do with ex-offenders.
We do not approach businesses and ask them to do something
good for somebody who has paid their debt to society; we
tell them that we found somebody who will come to work on
time, who will do the things that they need done, and we
will monitor that.
MR. HUSOCK: So you are acting as an employment agency?
MR. COVE: We are very much an employment agency.
Think of us as Manpower Inc., but for people who are less
likely to get into the mainstream. We have a tough sales
force that works for us, and they are paid for performance
because we are a for- profit company; the more people they
get into jobs and the longer they stay in those jobs, the
more money our staff makes.
I would like to make another comment. The issue that we
are facing in terms of moving men into the mainstream is
the absent father, and until we get at programs that actually
bring about a successful re-entry of the man into the family,
we are going to continue to discuss peripheral issues. If
we really want to look at the root of our societal problems
in the inner city, we need to look at fathers; we have seen
that their reintegration into their children's lives makes
a significant difference in the child's life and in the
man's life as well. We are not proposing policies that will
reintegrate the man into the family; we are discussing moving
men into the mainstream, but have not talked about moving
men back into their families.
MR. HUSOCK: Well, at the same time we have to do
something first. Large social changes that have evolved
over decades are hard to get a handle on quickly. Should
we do something about it? Yes, but we have to do some things
first. You are not paralyzed because there is such a larger
problemyou are doing something to improve the situation.
I would like to ask Fred Davie to tell us about Ready4Work
and how that program should be structured to be on a path
to success. Do you see promise there, or are these larger
conditions trumping them?
FREDERICK A. DAVIE: The project, which we undertook
with the Department of Labor, had several objectives: to
see if we could build partnerships between faith institutions,
community, the criminal justice system, and business; to
see if we could recruit participants at the point of exit
from correctional facilities; to see if we could get the
former prisoners to work and surround them with a set of
supports; and finally, to see if we could reduce recidivism.
Those were the questions we asked, that was the model that
we set up, and we found that indeed we could get faith-based
and community-based organizations to partner with the criminal
justice system and with businesses to provide a set of services
to men and women coming out of prison. We have 17 lead agencies
around the country, in 17 urban areas, with about 300 to
400 churches and other community-based organizations as
a part of a national network.
MR. HUSOCK: So those churches are putting up volunteers
to work with people who are coming out of prison?
MR. DAVIE: Correct. In some cases, the faith institutions
are hiring caseworkers and case managers as well, but there
are a considerable number of volunteers.
MR. HUSOCK: Let me ask then about the theory. Mindy
says the theory is pay transitional work, and in effect,
she has government offices to provide that work. Peter is
saying that he has an employment agency model and places
people in the private sector. What is the theory of getting
men from the margins into the mainstream and ready for work?
MR. DAVIE: Given the orientation of this administration,
the Department of Labor wanted us to make sure that our
participants were put in for-profit jobs, and of the roughly
5,000 people we recruited to be a part of the program, we
placed 70 percent of them in for-profit jobs. We recruited
about 800 small to mid-sized for-profit businesses around
the country that absorb these participants, so we were actually
able to place the vast majority of them in for-profit jobs.
MR. HUSOCK: In other words, you are lining up pieces
in these different cities. You have churches to talk to
these guys and local employers who agree to hire them if
they are doing right. Is that it?
MR. DAVIE: That is correct. We learned from Peter
Cove, and from some of the work that we had done in labor
market and workforce development, that we should really
look at the employer as our client as much as we look at
the participant as clients. We did a lot of work on the
employer development side. We had a job developer that interacted
with the employer and the participant, and that proved to
be very effective. The only other thing I would say is that
many of the employers told us that our labor pool of men
and women coming out of jailprimarily African-American
men between the ages of 18 and 34were not that different
from the labor pool from which they choose their workforce
anyway; the only difference is that our men and women came
with a set of supports that the general labor pool does
MR. HUSOCK: So it is possible that they will be
more attractive. Where do they work? Do they work at Home
MR. DAVIE: Home Depot, yes, and they work at prefab
housing manufacturing firms, coffee shops, and those are
just some of the ones that I visited.
MR. HUSOCK: Wal-Mart?
MR. DAVIE: Wal-Mart, yes, but they mainly work in
small to mid-size businessespackaging companies and
things like that.
MR. HUSOCK: I want to get to Brent Orrell, especially
on the issue of scale, but I just want to point out that
while we have heard so much about the problem. Fred Davie
is telling us that there is a significant initiative going
on in 17 cities, so we are not at ground zero.
MS. TARLOW: I would like to clarify something that
might not be as clear as I meant it to be. At CEO, and I
think with other paid transitional work organizations such
as America Works and the Transitional Work Corporation,
the point of the transitional work is to lead to unsubsidized,
full-time employment. Toward this end, we start out with
these paid transitional government-oriented jobs, and then
we use that transitional employment experience as a gateway
to a full-time, unsubsidized job in many of the sectors
that Fred was just pointing out.
MR. HUSOCK: Finally, we have a representative from
the federal government who has been helping Ready4Work get
off the ground, but Brent, you must be daunted by the issue
of scale as you confront this.
BRENT ORRELL: No, I am not. I think that faith-based
and community organizations that are active on prisoner
re-entry are part of the answer. Grassroots organizations
provide a level of intervention in the lives of individuals
that larger institutions simply cannot replicate, and a
lot of that is related to the mentoring component. If we
had to pay for mentors for this population, we could not
do it; we have to access the volunteer resources that are
available inside grassroots organizations, particularly
faith-based organizations. One of the startling findings
coming out of the early analysis on Ready4Work is the role
that mentoring plays in helping people find and retain employment.
In this project, a participant is about 63 percent more
likely to find a job and 35 percent more likely to keep
a job if they have a mentor. That is an important finding,
and it is especially important because we have so little
research on the issue of mentoring adults. When we talk
about mentoring, we are usually talking about youth with
the Amachi Program or some other program that targets youth
or children. The numbers coming in off Ready4Work indicate
that having those supports in the form of a friend is going
to be extremely important in terms of someone's ability
to find and retain employment.
MR. HUSOCK: When you say that you could not do this
program without volunteer mentors, some people would say
that is because the government is unwilling to spend what
it takes, right? They would say that the government needs
to spend more because the scale of this problem is too big
to trust to informal, spontaneously organized churches that
may or may not hit the target, right? What is the plan for
getting to the 600,000 people who are coming out of jail
MR. ORRELL: I think if you try to turn this into
a money question, you are ultimately going to undermine
MR. HUSOCK: I am trying to turn it into a scale
MR. ORRELL: The scale question is this: when the
President's Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative, which is loosely
modeled on Ready4Work, hit the streets we got 500 applications
for about 40 grants. There is clearly more capacity out
there that we can utilize. We do not know how large that
capacity will ultimately be, but the fact of the matter
is that Fred and PPV's project management team has been
able to help these organizations expand their capacity.
There is more to do out there.
The other thing I would note on the mentoring issue is
that the other remarkable aspect of this is the ability
of faith institutions to recruit men to be mentors, which
is critical when you are dealing with a population returning
from prison that is 80 or 90 percent male. You need men
to be involved. The pastors have made this part of their
mission, and 75 percent of the people who have agreed to
be mentors in this project are men. This means that, given
the disproportionate number of women versus men who actually
attend church, they are effectively mining these congregations
for men to participate in this project. This is very important,
because there are thousands of grassroots organizations
in neighborhoods where there is often no other institution.
MR. HUSOCK: What is a grassroots organization? Give
me a name, and where are they?
MR. ORRELL: In Jacksonville, Florida, Operation
New Hope is a faith-based, community development corporation
that works on housing. They tried to hire ex-offenders to
work on projects, but they ultimately transitioned into
helping ex-offenders return to the core neighborhoods of
Jacksonville, where they link up with other employers and
work with the pastors in the surrounding community to find
mentors to support those individuals.
MR. HUSOCK: Fred, let me ask you, what is the formula?
I think we have to cope with the idea that demonstration
projects are nice, but we have a big problem here, and we
may not even think it is a good idea to have a major new
federal program to do it, right?
MR. DAVIE: Let me just address the scale issue if
I can. Another strategy that we are pursuing now is a state-by-state
strategy. We have had some early conversations with Brent
and others about that because it is our belief that ultimately
this is a state issue, because men and women are usually
in state and local correctional facilities. They come back
to communities and cities, and it is the governors of the
states and the mayors of the cities who really have to grapple
with this question, so we are beginning to retool our thinking
about this to see if we can develop a state strategy.
Brent Orrell mentioned the President's Re-Entry Initiative,
and you all should know that Brent pretty much single-handedly
got a request for 300 million dollars over four years to
support this work into the President's January 2004 State
of the Union Address. Unfortunately, Congress did not fund
it to that degree, but it put the whole re-entry question
on the national agenda in a way it had not been before.
It led The New York Times to opine that they were surprised
that this was even of interest to the President at all.
Unfortunately, there is not the political will on the Hill
right now to really support this kind of work.
MR. HUSOCK: Maybe you would agree with Reverend
Goode that looking to state corrections budgets might be
a good way to go?
MR. DAVIE: I got the idea from him.
MR. HUSOCK: If we are going to talk about scale,
I would love to ask Mindy and Peter, what are the mistakes
that we might make? What are the mistakes that you have
made, and what causes people to go off the rails programmatically?
MS. TARLOW: First I think you can make a big mistake
in thinking that boutique programs can go to scale. You
know, you can spend many resources on a couple hundred people
and have some fairly good outcomes, but then to say that
we want to do the same thing for 20,000 people is probably
not going to happen. I think we have made those mistakes,
in trying to figure out what is and what is not scalable.
I also think that when you are looking to scale you have
to be very clear about what works in one place and what
works in another. We are trying to avoid those kinds of
mistakes at CEO by not being doctrinaire about the CEO model.
We want people to be able to adapt to their own jurisdictions,
and to their own political and geographic landscapes, which
can be an important difference between urban and rural communities.
There are many things to think about community by community
and jurisdiction by jurisdictionsuch as the availability
of public transportationthat really matter when you
are trying to bring these projects to scale.
Finally, I will say a word about one of the things that
works, and I appreciate Peter mentioning the Vera Institute
of Justice. I think organizations like Vera and PPV bring
in the capacity to experiment and do demonstration projects,
and then to prove that they work so that government agencies
can actually help us bring things to scale.
MR. HUSOCK: Peter, do you want to answer the question
about where we could go off the rails?
MR. COVE: Yes, I do. America Works fought very hard
against education and training as a first strike in getting
welfare recipients off welfare. We knew we were right, but
Senator Moynihan fought us for years until Manpower Demonstration
Research Corporation (MDRC) finally said that it did not
seem to work. It is not that education and training are
not good ideas, rather it is a matter of where you place
it, and we always felt work first was the best way to go,
and the welfare reform bill that Clinton signed reflected
It is the same thing with transitional jobs; it is our
belief that you first want to try to get a person into a
privatesector job. If that does not work then you
use the transitional jobs or public jobs as a way to reintegrate
the individual into the world of work. America Works has
not been against transitional jobs or against education
and training, it just depends where you place it along the
way, because if you pay people a lot of money for transitional
jobs, you will get a lot of people in transitional jobs.
Some of them might find their way to the private sector,
but if you put the emphasis first on attachment to the private
labor market and then use the transitional jobs as a back
up, I think you will find greater success. Welfare reform
proved this, and I do not want us to repeat mistakes in
working with ex-offenders.
MR. ORRELL: I want to pick up on that point because
the Administration for Children and Families (HHS) just
published another study showing that education and training
does not help people find and retain jobs or increase their
earnings. In fact, education and training programs seem
to make a negative difference. Attachment to work is extremely
important as the very first principle, and that is what
we have tried to do in Ready4Work. America Works has a great
theory of operation, which realizes that somebody is not
necessarily going to attach permanently to the first job,
they may have four or five jobs until they find something
that suits them. Everybody should have a choice about what
they do in life, even ex-offenders, and the principle of
getting people attached to the workforce first is extremely
important with this population.
MR. HUSOCK: Would you speak to whether we need to
be tough using the probation system, manipulate child support
enforcement, and make work mandatory, as other speakers
at this conference have suggested? Fred, how do you think
the guys that you see in Ready4Work would react? Would you
like to have those tools, or do they strike you as onerous
MR. DAVIE: I think you need all of the above. I
think you are essentially talking about accountability,
and that you recognize that the Left made a mistake in terms
of how it has dealt with people in distressed situations.
That is, it forgets the agency or the industry that I think
a lot of these men and women bring to life itself. If the
Right has made a mistake, I think it has been much too punitive,
and I think we should find the middle ground. I think this
middle ground can center around accountability; believe
that you can hold people accountable for what they do, and
then try to provide them a set of supports. We should provide
what Brent Orrell has called the iron fist of accountability
in the velvet glove of social supports. If we do that, I
think we get the best of both worlds, so all of those things
should be a part of a package that we deliver to these men
and women who are re-entering communities after a time in
MR. COVE: Just to give you a quick history lesson,
we had a company in Albany about 12 years ago, and we were
running a welfare-to-work program. We also had a company
in New York City running a welfare-to-work program. In Albany,
the Commissioner decided that he was going to make enforcement
and requiring work a centerpiece, and he was willing to
cut people off if they did not go to work. In New York City,
on the other hand, Mayor Giuliani was not in office yet,
and we did not have the same requirements as in Albany.
We looked at our retention rates after placing people in
jobs in Albany and in New York City, and to no one's surprise,
they were much higher in Albany than they were in New York
City. Having that stick is critical to the success of any
efforts to reintegrate people.
LINDA MILLS: I am a consultant with the Annie E.
Casey Foundation. With welfare reform the stick was that
you would not get the grant if you did not comply. In Florida,
for instance, the vast majority of people released from
prison have completed their sentencesFlorida has truth
in sentencingand they will not get parole, so there
is no analogous stick. I am wondering, in that case, what
is the stick that you use, or is it all carrots?
MR. DAVIE: I guess I would respond by saying that,
if you are a returning offender, despair is its own stick.
People are in dire need of making this transition, so they
try to find their way to organizations that will help them.
If they have a requirement to get a job within two weeks,
which most ex-offenders do, they are looking for people
who can help them find work.
MR. HUSOCK: I think that is one of the open questions
that comes out of this gathering. What are the sticks, and
what would be too punitive? Is child support enforcement
arrears a form of stick?
MR. DAVIE: We cannot believe that the people who
are coming out of jail do not have some desire to improve
their lives; it just happens that very often when they take
that step there is nobody to support and help them. I think
that if we start with the assumption that people have industry,
agency, and imagination, and they really do dream about
doing well once they got out of prison, we can capture that
and try to help people make that happen when the harsh realities
of what it means to be an ex-offender confront them.
ERIC WHITE: I work with Catholic Charities USA in
Washington, D.C. The Washington Post recently ran an article
that I think had relevance for many of us. In the opening
paragraph it said there are three Black boys, each about
6 or 7 years old, and in ten years one boy will be dropping
out of school, one boy will be on track to the mainstream,
and one will be in the valley of decision. I have a question,
because we have been talking about the boy who has dropped
out of school and is a criminal, but we have not talked
about public policies to influence the young man who is
in the valley of decision. If you think about it from an
economic prospective, what is a greater return on investment,
the young man who is in trouble and has dropped outas
tragic and deserving of our attention as that isor
the young man who is still in the valley of decision? Is
there any conversation from a public policy standpoint that
will capture those young men before they make the decision
to drop out or become criminals? I ask because, while there
are a number of men of color who are criminals, not all
of them are; yet they still find themselves disconnected
from the mainstream.
MR. HUSOCK: Reverend W. Wilson Goode Sr., director
of the Amachi Program, focused on the fact that the best
re-entry is no entry into prison at all.1 His idea is to
mentor children of incarcerated persons because they have
a far greater likelihood of going to prison, so that would
be his answer to your question.
MR. WHITE: Seven of those eight children that do
not go to jail have an absent father, so they also need
a mentor. I recognize that. My question is will there be
conversations regarding those other children, or are we
going to wait until they fall into prison?
MR. HUSOCK: Professor Ron Mincy and Abbie Thernstrom
have discussed how to structure education to do that.2
MR. DAVIE: Most of the resources currently focused
on communities of distress are for prevention work and not
on the kind of intervention that we are discussing here.
I do not think we have done it very well as a public. We
did an analysis of 50 top foundations that give in the areas
of children and youth, and most of the money goes to 0 to
12 year olds, and after age 12 it drops off precipitously,
and once you get to 16 year olds there is almost nothing.
Federal money is probably about the same, except I suspect
once you factor in what goes into corrections it is tilted
a little. I think the problem here is not a lack of resources
or attention on that child in the valley of decision, rather,
I think it is the quality of alternatives. One of the things
that we are going to wrestle with at PPV over the next year
is the question of how to get values in the social programming
so that a kid who is trying to choose between messages they
hear from us and what they hear from 50 Cent decides to
choose our side. That is the real struggle, and there is
not a quality program out there to help prepare that kid
to make the right decision.
STEVENSON DUNN: I am from the National Society of
Black Engineers. The issues that we are discussing are mainstreaming
Black men, the struggle of Black men, and the plight of
Black men in society. How do we help address the active
involvement of Black men?
MR. DAVIE: Initially when we set out to recruit
mentors for the programs that we have launched and studied,
we really focused on trying to recruit African-Americans
from the urban core, and we were not very successful. Instead,
we discovered that there was a great desire on the part
of African-Americans who had done well and moved out of
the urban center to "give back." So we worked
with the pastors of local congregations and with fraternities,
and we were able to recruit for Ready4Work. In fact, the
majority of the men who volunteer in the Ready4Work program
are Black men.
Clearly, Black men are under-represented in places where
we really want and need to be, and over-represented in other
places where they obviously should not be.