Portrait of the Reentry Project Grantees (Issue Brief)

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Portrait of the Reentry Project Grantees (Issue Brief)

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For two decades, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has invested substantial funding toward programs serving justice-involved individuals. Among its recent investments, DOL awarded over $243 million in Reentry Projects (RP) grant programs between 2017 and 2019 to improve participants’ employment and justice outcomes. DOL prioritized awarding grants to programs that were evidence-informed, and many went to experienced providers. They were awarded across a broad range of intermediaries and non-profit community-based organizations serving a total of 17,361 participants across 34 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. RP grants were 36-39 months long and were at different phases when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. RP grantees served a total of 9,098 adults (individuals over 24) and 8,263 young adults (individuals between ages 18 and 24) after their release from jail or prison.

In 2017, the Chief Evaluation Office, in collaboration with the Employment and Training Administration funded the Reentry Project Grants Evaluation. This implementation and impact evaluation aims to identify and evaluate promising practices used in reentry employment programs, which are comprehensive strategies to address the range of challenges formerly incarcerated adults and young adults who have been involved in the justice system face in making a successful transition back to the community. A 20-minute web-based survey was a part of the implementation study. Mathematica administered surveys near the end of each grant cycle for RP grantees awarded grants.

This brief describes the 116 RP grantees funded from 2017 to 2019 and aims to address the research question, "What are the variations in the model, structure, partnerships, and services of the grants?" To answer this question, descriptive statistics from survey data collected in all three grant years was used to summarize and highlight findings about the RP programs on those aspects. The evaluation team surveyed community-based organizations (CBOs) that provided services directly to participants and intermediary grantees that funded other organizations (sub-grantees) to provide direct services.

Some key findings include:

  • All community-based organization grantees provided education and training programs before receiving RP grant funding, for about 22 years on average. Ninety-nine percent of CBO grantees also previously provided services to people with justice involvement.
  • Probation and parole officers were the largest source of participant referrals to RP programs.
  • CBO grantees indicated they offered a wide variety of employment, education, legal, and supportive services, though the survey did not measure the share of participants who received each service.
  • The percentage of grantees serving young adults who reported challenges related to recruiting, engaging, and retaining participants in program services, and placing participants into jobs was significantly higher than that of the grantees serving adults.