Prison Reentry Strategies Project

Prison Reentry Strategies strives to advance the employment side of prisoner reentry in the midst of a recession and severe job loss. Its work focuses on developing and promoting new approaches to reentry and to develop new, effective and cost-efficient program models that will connect returning prisoners with jobs.

Prison Reentry Strategies provides research and technical assistance in the design and implementation of employment-related prison reentry programs. The project takes on the challenges of implementing criminal justice reform and mastering the complex interplay between federal, state and local policy makers and agencies, law, public opinion and political debate.

Efforts involve:

  • Shaping strategies and designing programs that connect returning prisoners to jobs in new and expanding industries
  • Engaging private enterprise in the design, delivery, funding and follow-up to employment-related reentry programs
  • Developing prisoner reentry program models that gain financial and political support through integration with state and community economic development
  • Making the case that sentencing reform and community-based alternatives to reduce prison populations are a prerequisite to affordable, effective reentry programs that reduce recidivism

Experience to date includes:

  • A review of employment-related reentry programs in use or proposed for Illinois
  • Research to identify Illinois businesses that have the capacity provide unsubsidized private sector employment for returning prisoners including: “green” and sustainable energy industries, heavy manufacturing, local and urban farming, and urban fresh food distribution and sales
  • Collaboration with IDOC and business entities in the clean coal industry to design a model employment reentry program
  • Legal and factual investigation of the potential the City of Chicago’s Tax Increment Financing program (TIF) holds for increasing reentry training, employment and neighborhood betterment
  • Developing entrepreneurial business models as a source of post-prison employment
  • Reevaluating private sector prison industries (the PIE program) for their value as cost-efficient, effective prisoner reentry programs

Prison Reentry Strategies finds answers for questions like these:

  • Where can Illinois find the tens of millions of dollars needed to bring employment-related reentry programs to scale?
  • What changes in policies and practices can the Departments of Corrections make to engage private enterprise in employment-related prisoner reentry programs?
  • How do reentry program planners most accurately determine which industries and businesses will be hiring, when they will be hiring and where they will be hiring?
  • For which industries does a corrections setting provide advantages in training and hiring employees?
  • Is there a way that IDOC might make better use of its well-regarded vocational training in food service and horticultural to move returning prisoners into new and emerging “local foods” urban farming, restaurant and grocery businesses? Where is the potential for paid jobs in those industries?
  • Is there a role in Illinois for private sector prison industries operating as cost-efficient, effective employment reentry programs?
  • How can prisoner reentry be designed so that returning prisoners make a positive contribution to the distressed communities to which they return in large numbers while working in adequately-paid private sector jobs?
  • What steps could be taken to introduce entrepreneurial skills to capable and motivated inmates?

Prison Reentry Strategies Advocacy:

  • Restoration of Pell grant aid to inmates motivated and able to prepare themselves for employment through educational programs
  • Reduction in barriers, including automatic and permanent exclusions from fields of employment because of a felony conviction
  • Increase the breadth and amount of incentives to employers who hire returning prisoners
  • Educate industry and corrections about mutual advantages of partnerships in reentry training and workforce preparation for returning prisoners
  • Promote new approaches and innovative program models