Opportunities for Ex-Offenders in California
Ex-offenders face various barriers as they try to re-enter society after serving their sentence. Former offenders often find it challenging to find employment or housing with their record. Because of these obstacles to reintegrating into society, they are more likely to commit additional offenses and end up back in the criminal justice system.
Below is a list of assistance programs, organizations, and other resources that are available to ex-offenders in California to assist with reentering society, many with a specific focus on finding employment.
The Jail to Jobs - California Training Benefits Program is for formerly incarcerated offenders. This program targets those offenders who are lacking in essential job skills. Through the Jail to Jobs - California Training Benefits Program, an ex-offender can attend job training through one of numerous programs approved by the Employment Development Department and can receive unemployment insurance benefits while actively in the training program. The approved list of training programs is available from the Employment Development Department.
The state of California participates in the National HIRE Network. The National HIRE Network is a comprehensive program designed to offer incentives to employers to encourage them to hire ex-offenders. In addition, the National HIRE Network is designed to assist individual ex-offenders in finding employers who are inclined to hire people with criminal histories. The incentives available to employers include access to the federal bonding program and tax credits for hiring an ex-offender.
The CHANGE or Choosing A New Generation of Excellence program is designed to assist ex-offenders in developing their skills in order to better their chances of obtaining gainful employment. CHANGE is a comprehensive program that includes workforce development, personal development and educational development opportunities. Violent and sex offenders cannot participate in this program. An ex-offender must enroll in the CHANGE program within six months of release to be able to participate in the programming.
Female ex-offenders tend to have even a greater challenge in finding employment upon their return to the proverbial real world. The Female Offender Treatment and Employment Program is designed specifically to assist women who have criminal records. The programming includes an array of services to assist women in obtaining gainful employment, including aiding in identifying employers more inclined to engage the services of females with criminal histories. The program is operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Preparing to find gainful employment as an ex-offender really needs to begin while a person is incarcerated. The California Prison Industry Authority - Inmate Employability Program is designed to assist in this regard. First, the California Prison Industry Authority - Inmate Employability Program provides incarcerated individuals with hands-on job training during the term of imprisonment. Second, the program assists offenders in transitioning from their institutional jobs to positions of gainful employment upon their release back into society. The program is offered through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Second Chance is a private sector, comprehensive reentry program for individuals released from incarceration. The program's services include literacy enhancement, computer training and life skills classes. In addition, Second Chance provides an array of services designed to assist ex-offenders in finding gainful employment, including with some of the major and more highly regarded businesses operating in the state of California. Second Chance has cultivated relationships with these respected business enterprises.
The California Division of Adult Parole Operations maintains services that are designed to assist formerly incarcerated individuals in finding gainful employment. The exact set of services available to a parolee varies from one local office to another. The assigned parole officer is charged with assisting an ex-offender in accessing services designed to assist in obtaining gainful employment.
In many counties in the state of California, the California Division of Adult Parole Operations has assisted in establishing Reentry Centers. These Reentry Centers supplement the services that are available through the California Division of Adult Parole Operations. An offender’s parole officer can provide information on the availability of Reentry Center services in a particular jurisdiction.
The Walden House Female Offender Treatment Employment Program specifically meets the needs of female ex-offenders seeking employment. The programs offered through Walden House Female Offender Treatment Employment Program include different types of educational offerings, life skills programs and workforce preparation classes. The program also pairs its participants with employers that are willing to engage the services of a person -- including women -- with criminal histories.
In the state of California, many local sheriff departments -- those that have oversight authority over jails -- maintain offender reentry programs. These programs include employment assistance. The availability of these programs differs from one county to another. These programs are tailored to individuals serving sentences in county jails as opposed to the California prison system itself. The reality is that even individuals convicted of less serious crimes that result in jail rather than prison sentences can still end up having problems finding gainful employment. Because the availability of these programs differ from one county to another, the California Sheriff's Association provides a starting point to see what is available.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation - Office of Offender Services is another state run program that exists to supplement the services offered to ex-offenders through the parole office. The programming offered through California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation - Office of Offender Services is fairly comprehensive and includes assistance with finding employment. This includes informational resources about businesses in the state of California that consider hiring ex-offenders. The agency serves all types offenders, including those charged with violent crimes and sex offenses.
Another program that assists California ex-offenders in finding gainful employment is the Urban Institute - Transition from Jail to Community Initiative. The program is not available to all offenders in the state. However, in those counties in which this programming is available, an ex-offender can access job training and assistance in finding a job. The program offers an array of other transitional services to ex-offenders in the state as well.
The National Institute of Corrections - Transition from Jail to Community offers supplemental transitional services of ex-offenders in California and other states in the country. Services offered through the NIC are accessible through different organizations and agencies in the state of California. A parole (or probation officer, as the case may be) can provide essential information about these services. The services available do include those associated with assisting an ex-offender in finding gainful employment in the state of California or in another U.S. jurisdiction.