Charlotte, NC
Informing and Connecting Engaged Citizens
Center for Employment Opportunities
  • The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) is an independent nonprofit corporation based in New York City, NY that connects returning inmates with transitional, paid employment and job skills training in an effort to reduce recidivism. 
    • The organization has expanded to several locations around the country including Buffalo, Albany, Rochester and Binghamton, NY, Oakland and San Diego, CA and Tulsa, OK.
  • The CEO began as a demonstration project of the Vera Institute of Justice in 1970s but acquired its nonprofit status in 1996. In the last decade, the CEO has made over 10,000 job placements for formerly incarcerated individuals in full-time positions. The CEO provides participants with life skill education, short-term paid transitional employment, full-time job placement and post-placement services.
    • The program places participants on day-labor work crews, which provides them with structure, exposure to a work environment and an income. The life skill education includes job readiness classes, job coaching, a fatherhood program and support services for other reentry challenges as needed. 
  • The CEO places an emphasis on working with the most at-risk populations, generally providing services to young adults, ages 18-25, who have limited work experience, face strong barriers to entering the workforce and are at a high risk of re-offending.

“The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) is dedicated to providing immediate, effective and comprehensive employment services to men and women with recent criminal convictions. Our highly structured and tightly supervised programs help participants regain the skills and confidence needed for a successful transition to a stable, productive life. CEO’s vision is that anyone with a recent criminal history who wants to work has the preparation and support needed to find a job and to stay connected to the labor force.”

  • In FY2011, the CEO’s total expenses amounted to $18,344,728.4 The budget was distributed in the following manner:
    • Total Program Services: $14,842,890
    • General & Administrative: $2,972,887
    • Fundraising: $528,951
  • In FY2010, the CEO’s total expenses amounted to $16,000,107; however, it should be noted that there were nearly half the number of sites in 2010 than in 2011. The budget was distributed in the following manner:
    • Total Program Services: $12,924,837
    • General & Administrative: $2,675,673
    • Fundraising: $399,597
  • CEO offers pre-employment training, transitional jobs, full-time job placement and retention services. The New York City flagship program also offers specialized parent and training programs as well as a Single Stop office devoted to helping participants navigate the public benefits system.
    • Recruitment, intake and pre-employment classes: Once a week, CEO provides an in-depth orientation for new enrollees in its New York City office.
      • Following the orientation, participants go through life skills training classes, in which participants are introduced to and rehearse the skills and behaviors required to successfully function in the workplace and overcome the barriers of a criminal record. 
      • These job readiness workshops teach participants resume writing techniques, job-searching skills, personal presentation, basics of communication, how to discuss conviction and criminal history in an interview and appropriate workplace behavior. 
      • Upon completion of the workshops, participants begin working on CEO’s transitional work sites. 
    • Paid transitional employment: The major component of CEO is the placement of participants in day-labor work crews with the intention of preparing participants for placement in a permanent job in the future. 
      • These work work crews generally involve maintenance and repair work. Participants remain on these work crews for two to three months. 
      • During this time, CEO staff work with participants to obtain longer-term employment. At the end of each day, participants receive a paycheck not only to reward them for their hard work, but also for the purpose of instilling in them the idea that honest, hard work pays off. 
      • CEO participants are evaluated by Site Supervisors each day who measure a participants’ success on a scale from 1-5 based on the following criteria known as CEOCP: Cooperation with Supervisor; Effort at Work; On Time; Cooperation with Co-workers; Personal Presentation.
      • Job coaching, development and placement: Once a participant is deemed job ready, he or she will meet with CEO’s Job Developers, who form relationships with businesses, serving as their “free-of-charge employment agency and human resource support provider.”
      • The Job Developers match the skills, interests and abilities of program participants with the needs of employers. They also create and maintain relationships with employers who are open to hiring CEO graduates. 
    • Ongoing and post-placement support:Once participants are placed in full-time jobs, CEO provides support through a team of Retention Specialists. 
      • The staff help graduates of the program stay connected to the labor market by providing work-related counseling, crisis management and help with long-term career planning. 
      • CEO has also developed an incentive-based work retention program called “Rapid Rewards” that allocates monthly bonuses to individuals. Participants become eligible for the Rapid Rewards program for one year after placement into full-time employment so long as they present their pay stubs as evidence.


  • In 2004, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services commissioned a rigorous national, multi-site evaluation of programs and organizations that serve “hard-to-employ” populations that included CEO. 
    • The evaluation was conducted by an independent evaluator, MDRC, over a three-year period. The evaluation produced the following findings:1112 CEO significantly reduced recidivism with the largest impacts for the group of participants recently released from prison. Across the impacts - arrest, conviction or incarceration - the recidivism rate was reduced from 16 to 22%. 
    • CEO significantly increased employment in the first year of the study. Employment improvement continued in years two and three for recently released people, though the gains faded following the first year. 
    • CEO’s financial benefits far outweigh its costs. A benefit cost analysis of the evaluation found a $3.85 benefit for every $1.00 spent on the program. The majority of these benefits came in the form of reduced criminal justice expenditures and the value of services that CEO participants provided to government agencies in the transitional job work sites. 
    • CEO’s impacts on employment and recidivism were stronger for those who were more disadvantaged or at higher risk of recidivism. 
      • CEO reduced convictions for new crimes by 12.8 percentage points for participants with four or more prior convictions. 
      • For those at high risk of recidivism, post-program employment outcomes (Years 2 to 3) increased average quarterly unsubsidized employment by 11 percentage points.
  • The National Reentry Resource Center of the Justice Center graded this study as one of “High Rigor.”
Point of View
  • “[MDRC study] results are notable because very few reentry initiatives have been subjected to this type of rigorous evaluation, and, even among those that have, fewer still have produced consistent reductions in recidivism. The study shows that reentry programming can be a good investment for taxpayers. Efforts to extend, confirm, and improve upon these results are now underway.” -Dan Bloom, Director of MDRC’s Health and Barriers to Employment Policy Area.
  • “The Center for Employment Opportunities has a verified track record of placing ex-convicts into jobs and providing tools for them to stabilize their lives.” -Philanthropedia.
    • “They get the hard to employ into work and reduce returns to prison and other measures of recidivism. They have participated in a gold standard random assignment control group study of their services.” -Nonprofit Senior Staff. 
    • “They are one of most effective models for using work crews and wrap around services to enhance reentry pathway for formerly incarcerated.” -Foundation Professionals. 
  • “Experts frequently praise the organization's leadership and staff. Others note effective use of data tools in order to guide continuous organizational improvement.” -Philanthropedia. 
    • “They have a strong visionary leader in Mindy Tarlow.” -Researchers and Faculty. 
  • “Experts generally see the greatest opportunity in expanding programming, optimizing impact, and scaling operations.” -Philanthropedia. 
    • “They should scale up, strengthen fatherhood services, provide management on child support, and strengthen job development services.” -Researchers and Faculty. 
    • “I think the organization has begun to recognize that it can play a role in informing and educating the community about policies that harm their consumers. I hope to see more staff involved in public policy and education activities. It is crucially important to meeting the needs of special populations.” -Nonprofit Senior Staff.
  • CEO has expanded its operations to six other sites beyond New York City.
    • Buffalo, Albany, Rochester and Binghampton, NY.
    • San Diego and Oakland, CA.
    • Tulsa, OK.
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