RecycleForce sought to help formerly incarcerated individuals reenter the workforce by placing them in transitional jobs at social enterprises, where they received job training, work experience, and support from peer mentors.

RecycleForce sought to help formerly incarcerated individuals reenter the workforce by placing them in transitional jobs at social enterprises, where they received job training, work experience, and support from peer mentors.

RecycleForce participants were placed in a subsidized job at a social enterprise (its own electronics recycling plant or a partner social enterprise), for which they received $9 per hour for up to 35 hours per week (and $10.10 per hour after March 2014). While working at their subsidized job, participants had access to case management, job development, financial support (for example, payments for drug testing, bus passes, or gas cards), assistance with child support issues, and peer mentors who taught job-related and soft skills. Subsidized jobs could last for four months. Individuals were eligible if they met the following criteria: (1) were age 18 or older; (2) had been convicted of a crime as an adult under federal or state law; (3) had not been convicted of a sex offense; (4) had been released from prison in the past 120 days; (5) scored medium to high on the Indiana Risk Assessment System; (6) were not in violation of supervision; and (7) did not have recent continuous employment for four or more quarters. The program took place at three social enterprises in Indianapolis, IN. The evaluation also tested similar subsidized employment interventions in Atlanta, GA (Good Transitions); Milwaukee, WI (Supporting Families Through Work); San Francisco, CA (TransitionsSF); Syracuse, NY (Parent Success Initiative); Fort Worth, TX (Next STEP); and New York, NY (Ready, Willing and Able Pathways2Work).

Year evaluation began: 2011
Populations and employment barriers: Former incarceration
Intervention services: Case management, Employment retention services, Supportive services, Training, Occupational or sectoral training, Soft skills training, Work and work-based learning, Subsidized employment, Transitional jobs, Work readiness activities, Job development/job placement
Setting(s): Urban only

Effectiveness Rating and Effect By Outcome Domain

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Outcome domain Term Effectiveness rating Effect in 2018 dollars and percentages Effect in standard deviations Sample size
Increase earnings Short-term Supported favorable $2,552 per year 0.12 996
Long-term Supported favorable $1,067 per year 0.05 997
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Supported favorable 13% (in percentage points) 0.31 996
Long-term Supported favorable 6% (in percentage points) 0.15 997
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term No evidence to assess support
Long-term Little evidence to assess support favorable $-399 per year -0.15 770
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods Supported favorable 24% (in percentage points) 0.47 801

Implementation Details

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Dates covered by study

The RecycleForce transitional jobs intervention began in 2006 and is currently active. Referral partners were recruited and enrollment for the study began in January 2012. Study enrollment continued until November 2013. Study participants worked in subsidized jobs at RecycleForce through March 2014. Participant impacts were measured 12 and 30 months after random assignment.

Organizations implementing intervention

RecycleForce is a social enterprise operating an electronics recycling plant that aims to provide paid employment, training, and social services to individuals who were formerly incarcerated in order to help them reenter society.

Populations served

RecycleForce served formerly incarcerated individuals that met the following criteria: (1) were age 18 or older; (2) had been convicted of a crime as an adult under federal or state law; (3) had not been convicted of a sex offense; (4) had been released from prison in the past 120 days; (5) scored medium to high on the Indiana Risk Assessment System; (6) were not in violation of supervision; and (7) did not have recent continuous employment for four or more quarters. Local criminal justice system partners were the referral source for all participants.

The population was 96 percent male and 82 percent Black. Sixty-nine percent of the population had high school diplomas or the equivalent. Fifty-one percent of the population reported being noncustodial parents and 25 percent of all parents had child support orders. Sixty-three percent of the population had children who were minors.

Description of services implemented

RecycleForce placed program participants in subsidized jobs at social enterprises for four months to provide them with work experience. Participants also took part in occupational and soft-skills classroom trainings designed to help them obtain permanent jobs and reintegrate into their communities. They received a starting wage of $9 an hour ($10.10 an hour after March 2014) and worked up to 35 hours per week.

In addition to these key program components, participants received the following additional services:

  • Peer mentors supervise and engage with participants at the social enterprises to strengthen soft skills and job skills
  • Case management meetings to develop goals and track progress toward them
  • A daily group meeting in which participants discussed topics suggested by a peer mentor, such as successes and challenges in navigating conversations with employers, efficient job searching, and previous interview experiences
  • Supportive services, such as five hours of weekly unpaid, excused time for nonwork-related activities like drug screening; money for transportation and required drug testing; and child support consultations
  • Job development and placement services

Implementation of peer mentoring differed from initial plans, as peer mentors at placements outside of the RecycleForce social enterprise did not provide training and support as intended because they did not work side by side with participants. In addition, at placements outside of RecycleForce, the daily group meeting was not a paid activity as intended.

Furthermore, RecycleForce initially planned employment retention services but was unable to provide them because a partner was not able to verify employment.

Participants had difficulty finding unsubsidized employment during the four-month program, and most participants received two-to-four-week extensions to remain in the program beyond four months. Participants were placed in temporary jobs as a buffer between their subsidized employment in RecycleForce and unsubsidized employment.

Service intensity

Participants worked in subsidized jobs at a social enterprise up to 35 hours a week for up to 4 months. All participants worked in transitional jobs; more than 90 percent of participants accessed supportive services; more than 70 percent of parents received child support services; and half of participants received an extension to remain in the program for more than four months. Participants determined the number of hours they worked each week, which training modules they completed, and when they met with case managers.

Comparison conditions

Individuals who were randomly assigned to the comparison group received a list of alternative employment-related services, including information about local American Job Centers, child support services, and basic needs assistance (for example, housing, health, and food).

Partnerships

RecycleForce engaged New Life Development Ministries and The Changed Life, two other local social enterprise transitional job providers, to implement their program model and serve individuals enrolled in the study. This partnership allowed RecycleForce to meet federal grant requirements of providing services to 500 individuals. Combined, the two partner organizations served about one-quarter of study participants.

Five organizations collaborated with the implementing organizations to provide specific components of the program:

  • Educational Data System, Inc. (EDSI), a national workforce development organization, provided job development placement.
  • Keys to Work, a staffing agency serving central Indiana, received referrals, facilitated program orientations, conducted participant intake, and connected some participants with temporary employment opportunities at the Department of Public Works.
  • Child Support Consulting of Indiana consulted with noncustodial parents about child support issues.
  • Criminal justice system partners, including a county probation office, city parole district, residential work-release facility, and county reentry court, referred participants.
  • Managepoint, an organization that provides human resource services, provided employee management services and weekly OSHA (for example, forklift operator safety) or soft-skills training. Managepoint provided participants with certificates of completion for each training.

Staffing

A site coordinator oversaw participants in their transitional jobs and provided job development. One program manager, one evaluation coordinator, and one database manager oversaw operations and provided administrative support. Forty peer mentors—formerly incarcerated individuals who had worked in transitional jobs—supervised work activities at the transitional job site and worked alongside participants to teach workplace skills and behavior. Three case managers supported participants’ work through one-on-one meetings and informal communications.

New Life Development Ministries and The Changed Life had case managers, peer mentors, and site coordinators who provided services under the intervention.

Managepoint staff provided weekly trainings and employee management services.

Keys to Work provided staff to conduct intakes. Child Support Consulting of Indiana staff consulted with participants about child support–related issues like order modifications and reinstating drivers’ licenses. EDSI and Keys to Work placed participants in temporary employment positions after they participated in RecycleForce.

The study authors did not include information on staff training, degrees, or certifications.

    Local context

    The intervention took place in Indianapolis, IN. This program filled a community need because no other programs in Indianapolis provided transitional jobs and services specifically for formerly incarcerated individuals.

    Fidelity measures

    The study did not discuss any tools to measure fidelity to the intervention model.

    Funding source

    The RecycleForce intervention was part of the federal Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration. RecycleForce received a federal grant through this demonstration from the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor.

    Cost information

    The cost per participant in RecycleForce was about $11,100, which included program operations and participant wages. The cost per participant included some costs of running RecycleForce as a social enterprise that earns revenue from recycled electronic sales. After accounting for revenue, the cost per participant was about $7,800. The study did not discuss a comparison of costs and benefits.

    A cost benefit analysis revealed that benefits to society—that is, to the government, victims of crime (from reduced recidivism among program group members), and program participants—exceeded the cost of the intervention by approximately $2,200, in 2016 dollars. Participants benefited by approximately $4,700 per person and potential victims of crime by approximately $700 per person, while the government incurred an increase in costs of approximately $3,200.
     

    Studies of this Intervention

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    Study Quality Rating Study Counts per Rating
    High High 1