Smart on Crime, Smart on Job Creation

Newly elected Attorney General Kamala Harris met with her “Smart on Crime” transition team a few weeks ago.   She listened to recommendations from eleven working groups including the one I served on — reentry and recidivism reduction – which made many recommendations to cut California’s highest-in-the-country prison recidivism rate of 70%, highlighting, among other solutions, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) as a best practice model, and calling for increased public procurement from social enterprise as a way to create transitional jobs for people exiting prison.

REDF’s newly issued 2010 Social Impact Report offers even more evidence about the power of a social enterprise job, and what to do to further strengthen the model in the future.

The Report summarizes data collected by BTW informing change from 1163 individuals employed in social enterprises between 1998 and 2008.  The headlines:

  • Social enterprises employ people who face barriers who are willing and able to work; and
  • Social enterprise employment helps people who face barriers enter the workforce and increase their income.

Findings revealed the power of a social enterprise job, and teach us what to concentrate on in improving the model in the future.

The following data has fueled REDF’s commitment to our five year strategy to expand social enterprise to multiple California communities, and develop a nationally replicable model:

  • People who are employed at any job 6 months after hire in a social enterprise were nearly twice as likely to be employed 18-24 months after hire compared to those not working 6 months after hire, indicating that supporting employees through this early stage was critical to long-term employment.
  • Over time, the proportion of REDF social enterprise hires moving on to other employment increased.
  • 77% of those interviewed 18-24 months after hire had worked in the past 6 months.
  • Both the hourly wage and hours worked per week increased dramatically over time among those working  — wages by 31%.  Among those working at 18-24 months after hire, monthly income from work increased by 90% – an increase of $454 per month.

And a new summary of data from a national survey of social enterprise offers a glimpse into the scope of this growing field.

It’s not only traditional ‘liberals’ that are calling for new ways to address costly problems like recidivism to prison.  The fiscal realities are such that even conservative Grover Norquist is calling for action.

Where we have this much common ground, and social enterprise can play a role in solving the problem – it’s time to make progress.