The Pathways intervention provided four sequential stages of nonresidential services and supports to develop participants’ work and soft skills in increasingly independent settings.
Stage 1: Orientation. Participants attended a paid one- or two-week orientation in a cohort, participating in workshops on soft skills and learning about the transitional job options at the Doe Fund’s social enterprise street-cleaning or culinary businesses. For attending orientation, they received $15 total—later increased to $30—plus the cost of the subway. Participants also completed computer skills and vocational assessments as well as the Test of Adult Basic Education. Participants selected the type of transitional job they were interested in at the end of orientation and then moved through the other intervention stages with their cohort.
Stage 2: Transitional job. After orientation, participants worked for six to eight weeks in a transitional job for three days a week, either on a street-cleaning crew or in a kitchen. Participants received a starting wage of $7.40 per hour (slightly above the minimum wage of $7.25) for 3 days a week, 21 hours total. The starting wage changed to $8.20 per hour after November 2013, timed with an impending New York State minimum wage increase to $8.00. The intervention provided weekly subway cards, brown-bag lunches, and the option to be served breakfast and dinner at the Doe Fund program site.
Stage 3: Internship. After participants’ transitional job period ended, Pathways placed participants in an eight-week subsidized internship at a partner employer for 3 days a week, 21 hours total, based on their skills, background, career interests, location preferences, and internship slot availability. Participants received the same wage they received in Stage 2, paid by the intervention.
Stage 4: Job search. After the internship, participants not hired for unsubsidized employment where they interned received job-search assistance, including a weekly job club, for 6 to 9 weeks. The intervention paid participants the wage they received in their Stage 3 internship for 3 days a week (21 hours total) until the last week of the paid job search, when they received $15 total.
In addition to these central components, the program offered the following services:
- Case management. Case managers met with participants as needed during their transitional jobs to help participants transition to life post-incarceration. Case management continued but was less frequent during the participant’s internship, occurring in weekly meetings as well as in a weekly internship support group.
- Unpaid classroom-based activities. Participants attended a variety of classes for 2 unpaid days a week (15 hours total) during Stage 2 and 3. Topics included job readiness, financial education, soft skills, and parenting classes if participants had children who were minors.
- Occupational skills training. Pathways offered a training on building maintenance that allowed participants to earn boiler, fireguard, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration certifications. It was unpaid, optional, and offered outside of work hours. Pathways reimbursed participants for test costs associated with earning certifications.
- Child support assistance. Pathways helped develop a payment plan for participants who owed child support that involved deductions of $25 from their subsidized wages each month.
- Post-intervention services. Pathways provided a financial incentive of $100 when participants got a job and up to $1,000 for retaining a job for at least 32 hours per week for 5 months (in $200 increments). Pathways also hosted monthly check-in events for graduates. The Doe Fund provided lifetime case management to graduates.
Participation was voluntary, and most intervention referrals came from parole officers. However, receiving enough referrals to fill intervention enrollment was challenging. Pathways staff reported that parole officers sometimes hesitated to refer participants to Pathways, rather than a competing subsidized job program for individuals with criminal records, because they knew the program randomly assigned participants to a comparison or intervention group. The program initially planned to serve only men but later enrolled some women to increase enrollment. Similarly, the program initially required applicants to pass drug tests but later began to enroll individuals who tested positive for alcohol and marijuana. (Pathways still required participants to pass regular drug tests while in the program.)
Implementation differed from initial plans in terms of the size and timing of cohorts. The intervention enrolled smaller but more frequent cohorts than originally planned and served multiple cohorts at the same time in different stages to reduce the attrition that had occurred among potential participants who had had to wait to enroll in the next available cohort. The Doe Fund also modified the program stages to shorten the time in orientation and transitional jobs and to extend participants’ time receiving paid job-search assistance.