CNCounty News

From jail to jobs: Los Angeles County ‘P2E’ program eases transition

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Key Takeaways

Job searching can be difficult even for those with supportive families and work-related skills. For those without support or who are facing the stigma associated with a criminal record, it can feel all but impossible to navigate the difficult requirements associated with the job hunt. Los Angeles County identified a gap in service and created the Prison 2 Employment program (P2E) to better support their residents.

Under the guidance of Human Services Administrator Whitney Moore-White, P2E serves the formerly incarcerated in two ways: Individual direct services and transitional subsidized employment. Those involved with individual direct services are sent to the nearest America’s Job Center of California (AJCC). Participants receive tailored services to fit their needs, including job training, transportation and resume assistance. White said even short trips can take several hours because of horrible traffic, making it difficult to get to a job interview on time.

The second component, transitional subsidized employment, provides a job for participants for up to three to four months when they can gain critical on-the-job training. After four months, the participant is offered employment. 

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Los Angeles County Prison 2 Employment is the recipient of a Best in Category 2021 NACo Achievement Award in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety category.

Submit your county's program for a 2022 NACo Achievement Award

“Some of them were able to do some things related to computers, some people did some COVID-19 work and we’re helping test people…. Others were working in food kitchens and helping to organize and run kitchens and things like that,” said White. Through flexible funding, the county was able to pay for things like housing for participants to live close to an AJCC, to remove as many barriers as possible. 

P2E is not solely about services, it is also about networking between agencies. The program helps bridge the communication gap between the county and local probation and parole services. Through weekly meetings, the P2E program helps forge bonds between services, giving county employees an idea about the services that are available so they can connect those in need to the right program, such as a job training center a counseling center or other service. 

To better promote coordination and track the success of the program, the county created cross-agency software that allows information to be shared between departments and organizations, allows partners outside the county to submit information quickly and highlights the success of P2E in all the categories required by the state. The program tracks the number of participants who went through P2E and gained employment in fields such as construction, manufacturing, retail and business services. It also records salaries. Participants in the program have an average wage of $17 an hour, $2 more than the California minimum wage of $15.  

California made funding available for programming like Prison 2 Employment to all counties, with stipulations on how many residents needed to be served and hours of training provided. In Los Angeles County, the state asked that at least 268 residents participate and the county nearly tripled that number to 767, despite the increased challenges imposed by the pandemic. The county also exceeded the required number of training hours for participants. 

“We really exceeded every category for which we had goals and I’m happy that we were not only able to exceed and excel in that way, but that we served so many people because that was the thing at the end of the day that mattered the most,” said White. 

The pilot program has currently closed. Funding is expected to be included in an upcoming state budget that would allow for counties to continue the program. White said the county will continue the program soon, regardless of funding availability from the state, now that they have uncovered the critical need for the service and seen its incredible success. 

“Even if we don’t have that [state] funding going forward, I know that we are looking for other funding to implement this program or program that’s like it. Even if it’s not this specific program, elements of [P2E] will always remain with the county because we understand the benefit.

Problem:

 Those with a criminal record often lack the skills to acquire good jobs.

Solution:

Create a program in partnership with job centers and the probation system to pair those struggling to find employment with job training and assistance.

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