Update from Los Angeles: City of L.A. Expands Employment Program for Ex-Offenders

posted on: August 30, 2010

Ex-Offender Action Network constituents attend a job fair in 2008. Photo courtesy LAM.

Over three years ago, Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches (LAM) executive director Cheryl Branch worked with the City of Los Angeles to draw down state funds for an employment-focused program for ex-offenders called Re-Entry Employment Options Project (REEOP). This accomplishment was profiled in NCRP’s report, Strenghtening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities: Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing and Civic Engagement in Los Angeles. Cheryl used the report when she presented about the accomplishments of REEOP to state lawmakers in Sacramento earlier this year.

Last week, Cheryl emailed me with good news: The L.A. City Council approved the use of new state funds from the Employment Development Corporation, administered by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, to continue the REEOP model now known as the New Start LA model. In addition to its ongoing work in South L.A., the New Start program will be expanded to serve ex-offenders in the San Fernando Valley, which has the second highest population of formerly incarcerated individuals in the city.

According to Sue Quigley with the City of L.A., the highly successful employment-focused service delivery model, jointly developed by LAM, the Ex-Offender Action Network (a project of LAM) and the City, contributed to the City Council’s decision to continue allocating funding. New Start is a collaborative effort between community/faith based organizations and city government that provides employment-focused services to assist ex-felons with the necessary community supports to successfully reintegrate into their communities.

The program collaborates with: Friends Outside, a national group that provides a five day job-readiness “boot camp,” the Chicago School of Psychology, which sends students to conduct mental health and employment assessments, and to conduct one-on-one and group therapy sessions with participants, Special Services for Groups who provide intensive case management and the City’s Workforce Development System (One-Stops) for employment and retention services.

While the funding is small – $523,000 for the expansion – it does give the program additional resources to provide services to ex-felons who are being released as a result of severe overcrowding and budget cuts in California prisons.

(For more on the connections between the U.S. mass incarceration epidemic and poverty, homelessness, drug use and other social problems check out a terrific article by the Open Society Institute’s Ann Beeson in the spring 2010 issue of Responsive Philanthropy.)

Congrats to LAM and the City of L.A New Start collaborative!

Julia Craig is research associate at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP).