“An Opportunity for a Reset”: The Experiences of Jail-Based American Job Center Customers Before and After Release

Issue Brief, Lessons from LEAP
Publisher: Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research
May 31, 2018
Alix Gould-Werth

Key Findings:

  • Participants valued job-search preparation and assistance, instruction in cognitive-behavioral change, and supportive services such as help obtaining identification cards and transportation.
  • Participants “felt human” in the jail-based AJCs, primarily because of their interactions with staff.
  • Participants overwhelmingly reported strong, positive relationships with AJC staff, though in some sites they reported staff members were stretched thin.
  • Participants requested more occupation-specific skill training and better coordination between jail- and community-based AJC staff and corrections staff to facilitate participation in post-release services and employment.
In 2015, 20 LEAP grantees across the country began developing and operating jail-based AJCs. The jail-based AJCs they set up aim to break the cycle of recidivism by linking participants to work and the workforce system early, before and immediately upon participant re-entry into the community. Preparation for employment and assistance with the job-search process were the core of jail-based AJC services, but according to participants, offerings went “way beyond resumes and interviews.” Participants described an array of assistance, including help reframing their thinking, access to supportive services, and comprehensive case management. This brief describes participants’ experiences, their impressions of the staff they encountered, and their suggestions for improvement, based on data from 18 pre-release and 9 post-release focus groups. Of the 3,110 LEAP participants enrolled as of June 2017, 104 attended the focus groups.