This Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP) evaluation is an implementation study designed to provide a comprehensive picture of how the LEAP grantees created and implemented jail-based American Job Centers (AJCs) to help participants reenter the community and directly link them to community-based AJCs upon release.

This evaluation report describes the evaluators' findings and considers lessons learned and practices that appear promising for future efforts to improve employment outcomes among people with histories of justice involvement.

The evaluation addressed seven main research questions:

  1. How is the LEAP grant tailored to the local jail and workforce system context?
  2. What types of services are delivered through the jail-based AJCs funded by LEAP?
  3. How do participants move through the jail-based AJC and transition to services at community-based AJCs upon release?
  4. What types of services do participants receive at community-based AJCs?
  5. How is the data on participants collected, shared, and reported?
  6. How do stakeholders view LEAP?
  7. What do LEAP grantees report as the most promising elements of implementation, and how can they inform future efforts?

The evaluators' analysis included a mix of quantitative and qualitative data from five primary sources (early implementation site visits, site visits, telephone interviews, virtual grantee focus groups, grantee performance reports) that bring together information at different points in time to address the research questions.

The evaluation team analyzed the information collected from all sources using following steps: (1) organizing and coding the qualitative data from site visits, telephone interviews, and virtual focus groups; (2) conducting descriptive analyses of the quantitative data in the grantee quarterly performance reports (QPRs); (3) triangulating the coded data across the various sources to provide a full picture of LEAP implementation in each site; and (4) comparing data across sites to reveal common challenges and promising practices.

This evaluation provides a comprehensive picture of the perceived successes and challenges in implementing jail-based AJCs across 20 sites and lays the foundation for future efforts to study the continuation, expansion, and effectiveness of this approach to supporting individuals as they return to the community.

Major Findings & Recommendations

Key findings:

  1. The LEAP pilot demonstrated the feasibility of offering AJC services within a jail setting.
  2. Bridging cultural, mission, and operations differences between workforce development and corrections partners required early and ongoing communication from leaders and staff members from both systems.
  3. Close collaboration between the workforce agencies and the jails was crucial for establishing the jail-based AJCs, recruiting participants, delivering pre-release services, and planning transitions.
  4. Despite connecting pre-release with participants, sites struggled to engage participants after release.
  5. In most sites, grantees required partnerships with more specialized service providers to deal with the significant challenges facing the reentry population.
  6. Although sites met the recidivism targets established by DOL, the employment and education outcomes appear less encouraging.

The following practices appear promising for future jail-based employment service efforts:

  • Recognize that service delivery has three distinct stages.
  • Leverage the expertise of specialized service providers in local communities.
  • Remain flexible in adapting to changing jail conditions.
  • Treat participants in the jails as AJC customers.
  • Plan staffing and service delivery to facilitate overlap between pre-release and post-release services to promote continuity.
  • Use incentives and transportation support as important tools to boost post-release engagement.

Although this implementation evaluation cannot make causal claims about the effectiveness of these strategies or the LEAP grants, the evidence suggests that it is possible to use jail-based AJCs to link participants to post-release services and that this may be a promising approach to support returning individuals in successful reentry.