In 2009, Newark established the Office of Reentry, which pushes ex-offenders toward “rapid attachment to work.” They’re referred to one of several job-placement programs, which help them with interviewing skills and send them to employers, writes Howard Husock of the Manhattan Institute in the Wall Street Journal. This fast-track approach isn’t typical. For the newly released, the usual approach might be called services first—offering job training, drug treatment, and help finding housing, all thought to necessarily precede job-seeking.
The results often haven’t been tracked and overall have been disappointing, based on recidivism data. Now, programs that emphasize work first have begun to sprout up around the country, typically run by nonprofit groups. They’re trying to address a problem of unappreciated national importance: prisoner re-entry. More than 700,000 prisoners are released from state and federal institutions every year. So far the Newark program has seen 1,800 ex-offenders (all of whom sought help voluntarily), and placed 1,090 in private, unsubsidized jobs. While New Jersey’s Department of Corrections estimates that 50% of those released from prison will be rearrested for a new crime within nine months, the Newark office has seen only 29% rearrested—and believes that figure to be exaggerated by arrests which do not lead to charges. (The best national estimate, prepared by the Pew Center on the States, puts the comparable national recidivism rate at 43.3%.)