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Second Chances, Safer Counties

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New NACo research tracks how counties intersect workforce development and reentry

Getting formerly incarcerated individuals into good paying jobs helps the local economy and efforts to reduce recidivism. 

This month, NACo released Second Chances, Safer Counties: Workforce Development and Reentry, research examining how counties intersect workforce development and reentry. 

The study shows that reentry programs offer a way for counties to reintegrate formerly incarcerated residents into the labor market to keep them in the community and out of jail.  The study finds that reentry programs are largely supported by the federal government, through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

WIOA is the federal statute that supports and governs the funding of a public workforce development system.  WIOA expands workforce opportunities by increasing labor market access for individuals with employment barriers such as a criminal record. 

Local workforce development boards (local WDBs) put WIOA into action.  Counties are involved in more than 90 percent of the nation’s 557 local workforce development boards.  With the support of the National Association of Workforce Boards, NACo surveyed local WDBs to better understand how counties collaborate in reentry programs developed by local WDBs.  Nearly half (47 percent) of local WDBs responding to NACo’s survey operate a reentry program. 

Federal funding helps local WDBs and counties to innovate and provide reentry programs that improve county economies and reduce crime.  Two-thirds of local WDBs with a reentry program receive more than 50 percent of program funding from the federal government, according to this new research.  WIOA provided more than $3.2 billion to states and local areas in 2015 for education, training and employment services that grow county economies. 

County governments benefit directly from reentry programs.  County jails assist local WDBs by providing inmates with information on workforce services available in the community.  A large majority (92 percent) of responding local WDBs with reentry programs indicate that individuals who are incarcerated or released from county jails or juvenile detention centers receive program services.  Reentry programs report success in increasing the number of formerly incarcerated individuals employed and reducing recidivism, including new arrests and incarceration. 

Funding is vital to the ability of counties to improve their economies and reduce crime.  More than half of local WDBs identify funding as a major challenge to creating or maintaining reentry programs that reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals.  The issue of funding will only become more serious for counties as the federal government and many states have recently enacted, or are currently considering, policies that reduce incarceration.

 These policies would enable prisoners to return to their communities, which will increase the demand for reentry services. 

A decline in funding for reentry programs would reduce resources at a time when reliable and adequate funding is necessary to meet public safety and policy goals.

Local workforce development boards partner with a wide network of agencies and organizations to improve reentry and employment for formerly incarcerated individuals. 

The reentry program in Clackamas County, Ore. is a joint effort between the Clackamas Workforce Partnership, the Clackamas Health, Housing and Human Services Department and the Clackamas County Sheriff.

In 2012, the three agencies received a Department of Labor grant to provide formerly incarcerated women with educational and employment opportunities.  The grant has since expired, but the program continues to be funded by the Clackamas Workforce Partnership. 

Bridget Dazey, executive director, Clackamas Workforce Partnership, said, “Through our partnerships, we now have one workforce system to serve our population rather than three disjointed programs, making us better able to support our residents.”

Counties are centrally situated in the workforce development and justice systems to help realize the public safety and economic benefits of reentry and employment. 

The county role in local WDBs facilitates the partnership that implements and delivers reentry programs to reintegrate individuals into the workforce and reduce recidivism. 

Reentry programs are part of larger county efforts to maintain public safety while reducing the jail population and jail costs, including preventing jail inmates from cycling in and out of county jails. 

To read NACo’s new research report on reentry and workforce development or to learn more about Clackamas County and its re-entry program, visit:


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