Shares strategies to address staffing and partner engagement challenges for jail-based American Job Centers under the Linking to Employment Activities Pre-release grants.
“This issue brief…explores lessons from the planning phase of the Linking to Employment Activities Pre-release (LEAP) grants. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, LEAP pilots the creation of jail-based American Job Centers (AJCs) to support the successful reentry of participants and directly link them to community-based AJCs upon release” (p.1).   “To operate specialized…AJCs…within jail facilities, workforce development agencies had to adapt their standard approaches to hiring and staffing to accommodate the operations and security requirements of the jail and hiring processes of various partners. Drawing on data from site visits to seven LEAP sites, this brief explores their approach to staffing jail-based AJCs, including the varying staffing configurations, key staff qualifications, hiring and onboarding processes, and strategies to expedite hiring based on lessons learned” (p.1).Note that this issue brief is one in a series of five briefs that explore lessons from the early stages of LEAP.

Major Findings & Recommendations

“Grantees sought to hire staff with a combination of criminal justice experience, workforce development experience, group facilitation skills, and interpersonal skills, but found it difficult to find candidates who possessed all of these skills” (p.1). There were several common approaches across sites: • “Sites considered the expertise of their different partners to determine whose staff should provide the core jail-based AJC services. Partners typically included county jails and local workforce development agencies, but sometimes also included community-based organizations…and educational institutions” (p.1). • “Roles of jail staff ranged from coordination to supporting partners to delivering most direct services” (p.1). • “Four of the seven sites used the same staff for pre- and post-release services” (p.2). “Lengthy background checks required to work in the jails, difficulty recruiting qualified candidates, and long, bureaucratic hiring processes contributed to staffing delays” (p.1). “The hiring and onboarding processes for jail-based AJC staff typically involved several steps and took from a few weeks to a few months. The main steps included: • Step 1: Develop job descriptions, recruit and screen candidates.… • Step 2: Conduct background checks.… • Step 3: Train staff” (p.2). Training topics included jail policies, case management skills, and workforce development systems (p.3). “[T]he following challenges affected hiring timelines: (1) grantees had a limited pool of job candidates who had the right combination of desired qualifications and were willing to work in a jail, especially in rural areas; (2) background checks further limited this pool by screening out some qualified candidates who were passionate about the work due to their personal experiences, such as having a criminal history or a close family member with a criminal history; (3) procedural requirements, such as background checks and the civil service hiring process, were time consuming; and (4) although grantees valued achieving consensus among key partners on hiring and selecting staff, scheduling meetings with multiple partners sometimes required additional time” (p.3). “Engaging partners in the hiring process and being flexible with staffing plans helped mitigate hiring challenges” (p.1). Grantees addressed hiring concerns by “engag[ing] partners in hiring and leverag[ing] existing resources…and keep[ing] staffing plans flexible” (p.3). (Abstractor : Author and Website Staff)