The New Safety Net: A Job

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Governor Brown’s announcement of the May budget revision paints a stark picture of what eats up taxpayer dollars that might otherwise go to building the economy and the future.  Prison costs are now neck in neck with General Fund spending on higher education.

While the costs alone are motivating all ends of the political spectrum to call for prison reform, a recent New York Times editorial makes the case that the human costs have to be part of the equation to make a change of the magnitude required.

And we know that a job, along with a place to live, is at the core of the solution.

There’s a bright spot on the near-term horizon.  After more than two years of cajoling and hard work, the first California replication of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) social enterprise/transitional jobs model will start up this summer in Oakland.   The City selected Volunteers of America Bay Area, and their subcontractor Rubicon, to implement the model with the full hands-on support of CEO, a member of REDF’s new portfolio.

CEO now employs and serves thousands of parolees each year in New York.  Parolees secure immediate placement on CEO’s work crews, part of their social enterprise delivering maintenance and other services in public buildings and properties; and intensive assistance in landing a next step, private sector job, with a year of carefully crafted support services from CEO to make sure they stay employed.

CEO makes the job itself the new safety net — if a ‘graduate’ loses their job, they can come back on a CEO work crew while they seek a new one.

MDRC – the gold standard of evaluators – has assessed the impact and found decreases in crime and recidivism across the board.

With this kind of track record, in Sacramento and many counties around the State the approach is gaining support, and there is significant interest in replication.  Stay tuned here as CEO’s work grows in the Golden State.

Meanwhile, if you want to make a personal contribution to tilting the playing field toward higher education, attend the “F is for Foster” benefit hosted by the John Burton Foundation at Fort Mason Wednesday May 25.  Food trucks and entertainment by the Bay, with the proceeds going to help former foster and homeless youth get a higher education.  Can’t beat that.  See you there.