Does Connecting Inmates to Public Workforce Services Prior to Release Help? The Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release Program

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Labor


Close to 9 million people are released from jail each year, nearly 12 times the number released annually from prisons. Re-integrating these individuals back into society after discharge is a key policy issue. Although many experts believe that stable employment is critical for ex-offenders to transition back into the community successfully, policy initiatives and research have focused on employment services and programs available after an inmate’s release. This study looks at whether focused activities and increased coordination between the public workforce system and local correctional facilities prior to release may substantially improve employment outcomes for former inmates.

The Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP) initiative is an ambitious effort to identify effective models that can strengthen ties between the public workforce system and local correctional facilities by establishing satellite American Job Centers (AJCs) in local jails and ensuring a “hand off” of participants on release to continue service receipt at community AJCs. Mathematica is partnering with Social Policy Research Associates to evaluate the implementation of the 20 grantees’ programs and assess the feasibility of estimating the impact of up to 5 of these programs. We will document how the programs operate, services they provide, participants they serve, and the short-term outcomes of participants upon release.

Key research questions include:

  • How were programs implemented and how were outcomes tracked?
  • How and why do LEAP programs vary?
  • How does LEAP address the unique challenges of transitioning offenders?
  • What are key program elements for success and sustainability?

Data sources include document reviews; performance data provided by grantees to the U.S.Department of Labor; site visits; and focus groups with program staff, community partner organizations, pre-release participants, and post-release participants.