Ex-Offenders/Returning Citizens

Welcome to our Returning Citizens Resource Page!

Please know that this resource page is to assist you the returning citizen on your journey to becoming a whole person again. You may have been psychologically or physically injured while incarcerated and treated as less than the person you were created to be. However, it is our hope that engaging with the following services and programs will assist you on your journey to wellness.

Although much of the work will be internal-rediscovering who you are and what’s your purpose. Most of the resources below are social service resources and employment resources but I’d be remiss as a therapist if I did not offer you the opportunity to work on some thoughts/behaviors/feelings to do the “inner work” exploring the possible psychological damage done to you while incarcerated or before that, in childhood.

It is my hope that you visit our mental health resources page to find a therapist, counselor or social worker that can assist individually to go into depth with you regarding your entry and transition from jail/prison, the psychological trauma experienced, hurt/pain, the lack of or reconnecting to family/friends/intimate relationships and to explore your career/life goals and hopeful future. Below you will find returning citizen resources including but not limited to prison transition checklists, sample resumes, ex-offender programs, job training/ex-offender friendly jobs and more to assist you to successfully re-enter into society as a productive citizen.

*I do not prefer the term “ex-offender” instead we utilize the term “returning citizen”; however, much of the literature and resources are listed as such. So we may use the term interchangeably. Just remember it is not what “they” call you, it is what you call yourself! Speak LIFE!


Whatever occurred in the past was a mistake that I have made amends for and I have forgiven myself. I have a very bright future when I utilize my inner resources, follow my positive value system and connect with community members and the village resources.









Ex-offender sample resumes






6 Steps to get back in the workforce


Chicago Urban League jobs for exoffenders. Contact Andre Boulrece 773-285-1500

Employment Programs for Ex-offenders

What are Employment Programs?

Programs which increases an ex-offender’s capacity for and access to legitimate employment and/or promotes employment stability.  Very often paired with education programs.

Why are they important for ex-offenders?

Lack of employment/attachment to the labor market, coupled with educational achievement, is one of the ‘Central Eight’ risk factors for criminal offending.[1]

  • Finding stable employment has been cited as the single greatest barrier to the success of ex-offenders in Missouri[2]
  • Employment provides a legal and stable form of income
  • Incarceration and a criminal record construct major barriers to legal employment
  • Many businesses and occupations will not hire individuals with felony convictions

Promising Practices of Employment Programs

Job Placement

 Organization provides either referrals or direct placement in jobs for clients.

  • Promising practices for job placement programs[3]

o   Develop partnerships to provide a range of opportunities for education and job training

o   Work to achieve a balance between participants’ apparently conflicting needs to find a job quickly and for training and education

o   Hire a staff member whose job is to recruit employers and who has professional experience in that role

o   Think like a job placement organization—use a strategy to match the right participant with each job opening

o   Follow up with participants, and their employers, after they have been placed in a job.

o   Relationships with employers should be on-going and collaborative

  • Including visits to job sites
  • Ineffective practices

o   Job/employer lists[4]

Transitional Jobs

 Program places participants in short-term jobs contracted through the agency.  These jobs are generally not full-time, but the participant commits to a full-time, 40 hour/week, schedule with the agency.  The rest of their time with the agency is expected to be filled with other services within the agency such as skills training, job placement and case management.

  • One program, CEO in NYC, found that transitional jobs had the greatest effect on high-risk offenders, however, these effects on recidivism were not apparent until after the first year[5][6].

Job Training

Pre-Employment Training

Organizations provide courses to clients around skills needed to procure and maintain a job.  These courses address expectations and may include coaching around interviewing and applications.  Curricula are generally split into two primary categories:

Soft Skills

Soft skills are informal skills that promote success in employment other life aspects

  • How to dress for work or an interview
  • Time management (showing up on time, consistently)
  • Positive interactions with coworkers
  • Writing a resume
  • Conflict management

Hard Skills

Skills that are specific to the job or work that the individual is doing.  Some form of formal education or certification may be required to demonstrate hard skills

  • Computer skills
  • Wood working
  • Cooking  and food preparation

Educational Programs (see Educational Programs handout)


  • Ready4Work, a federal initiative, has found that including a mentoring aspect to an employment program increases the average length of time that individuals remain in the program and doubles their likelihood of finding a job[7]
  • When mentoring is a supplement to other services such as job training or placement, mentees were also 35% less likely to recidivate than participants who were not mentored.[8] Mentoring is not effective as a stand-alone program

Motivational Interviewing

“A consumer-centered, directive method for enhancing intrinsic motivation to change by exploring and resolving ambivalence.” [9]Both MI is recognized as a model practice by NREPP.

Financial/Asset Management

Many ex-offenders do not have basic financial management or banking skills and may not have access to banking services due to lack of work history and the neighborhoods in which they live (Cite)

Asset development ( gaining higher education, owning a car or home, having a savings account and or credit) promotes both short and long term success for reentering offenders[10]

Needs Assessment

Establish readiness for work and possible work options[11]

Case Management/Wraparound Services (See Case Management for Ex-Offenders handout)

Measurable Outcomes for Employment Programs


Development of Skills to acquire employment

  • Soft Skills
  • Hard Skills

Job Placement


Long-term, consistent involvement with Labor Market

Retention of same job for at least 6 months

Remaining consistently and legally employed even if not at original placement location

Upward or horizontal mobility within the labor market

Financial Stability

  • Financial capacity to care for basic needs of self and/or children

o   Includes ability to pay child support if applicable

o   Financial capacity to repay court-mandated fees

  • Asset accumulation and development

o   Savings for self and/or children

o   Build or establish credit

o   Car or home

Housing Stability

Reduced Recidivism

  • A meta-analysis found that traditional post-release employment programs showed no significant effect on rates of rearrest[12]
  • An evaluation of the Missouri Reentry Process found that employment programs had a significant effect on recividism when they were the only service offered[13]
  • While it is difficult to ascertain the effects on employment programs specifically, unemployment has been linked to higher rates of recidivism[14]
  • Some programs do show promise:

o   Ready4Work participants were found to be half as likely to return to prison at both 6 months and 1 year compared to average[15]

Barriers to Outcomes

Stigma around hiring former prisoners

  • “Checking the box”

Lack of soft skills

Unstable housing

Unstable transportation[16]

Ongoing substance abuse or dependence

Untreated mental illness

Requirements of probation, parole or treatment

  • Release requirements often have specific timetables that may or may not conflict with the individual’s work schedule
  • Regular urinalysis testing
  • Regular in-person visits with PO
  • Regular attendance of treatment/program meetings

Fear of rearrest

  • Former prisoners often stop going to work if they know they are in violation of release or fear they will have be incarcerated because their work is known to their PO.

Unregulated/illegal markets

  • Ability to make more money
  • Wages aren’t tracked and automatically deducted for court compensation or back payments
  • More flexible time


Career OneStop: http://www.careeronestop.org

Cities Pave the Way: Promising Reentry Policies that Promote Local Hiring of People with Criminal Records (2010): http://www.saferfoundation.org/files/documents/NLC%20Reentry%20Strategy%20Guide.pdf

National Reentry Resource Center: http://nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/

The Safer Foundation (Program Example): http://www.saferfoundation.org/

U.S. Dept. of Labor- Employment and Training Administration: http://www.doleta.gov/

Urban Institute: http://www.urban.org/

[1] Andrews, D. A., & Bonta, J. (2010)The psychology of criminal conduct (5th ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Company.

[2]  Insititute of Public Policy. (2011)Missouri Department of Corrections Community Reentry Funding Initiative 2010: Executive Summary. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri.

[3]  Jucovy, L. (2006)Just Out: Early Lessons from the Ready4Work Prisoner Reentry Initiative. Baltimore: Annie E. Casey Foundation.

[4]  Bureau of Justice Assistance. (2012, December 11)Faith & Community Based Approaches to Transitional Employment Programs for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals. Retrieved from National Center for Justice Progams: http://www.ncjp.org/content/faith-community-based-approaches-transitional-employment-programs-formerly-incarcerated-indi

[5]  Zweig, J., Yahner, J., & Redcross, C. (2011). For whom does a transitional jobs program work? Criminology & Public Policy, 10(4), 945-972. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2011.00767.x

[6]  More information on this program can be found at http://ceoworks.org/

[7]  Farley, C., & McClanahan, W. S. (2007)Ready4Work in Brief: Update on Outcomes; Reentry May Be Critical for States, Cities. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.

[8]  Bauldry, S., Korom-Djakovic, D., McClanahan, W., McMaken, J., & Kotloff, L. (2009)Mentoring Formerly Incarcerated Adults: Insights from the Ready4Work Reentry Initiative. New York: Public/Private Ventures.

[9] Blandford, A. M., & Osher, F. C. (2012)A Checklist for Implementing Evidence-Based Practices and Programs for Justice-Involved Adults with Behavioral Health Disorders. Rockville, MD: SAMHSA’s GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation.;

Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2002)Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change (2nd ed.). New York: GuilfordPress.;

Orbis Partners, Inc. (2005)Motivational Interviewing: An Introduction [Lesson Plan and Participant’s Manual]. Washington, DC: National Institute of Corrections.

[10] Martin, L. (2011). Debt to Society: Asset Poverty and Prisoner Reentry. Review Of Black Political Economy, 38(2), 131-143.

[11]  Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2012

[12]  Visher, C. A., Winterfield, L., & Coggeshall, M. B. (2005). Ex-offender employment programs and recidivism: A meta-analysis. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 1, 295-315.

[13]  Insititute of Public Policy, 2011

[14] Lockwood, S., Nally, J., Ho, T., & Knutson, K. (2012). The Effect of Correctional Education on Postrelease Employment and Recidivism: A 5-Year Follow-Up Study in the State of Indiana. Crime & Delinquency, 58(3), 380-396.

[15] Farley, C., & McClanahan, W. S. (2007)Ready4Work in Brief: Update on Outcomes; Reentry May Be Critical for States, Cities. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.;

Solomon, A. L., Visher, C., La Vigne, N. G., & Osborne, J. (2006)Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry: Research Findings from the Urban Institute’s Prisoner Reentry Portfolio. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=411289

[16]  Insititute of Public Policy, 2011; Solomon, Visher, La Vigne, & Osborne, 2006