A Missed Opportunity for Colorado: Center for Employment Opportunities Expresses Disappointment after Senate Judiciary Postpones Reentry Cash Pilot
Legislation would have provided Coloradans returning from incarceration up to $3,000 to cover essential needs, such as housing, food, transportation, and more
Denver, CO – February 7, 2024 - Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee postponed Senate Bill 24-012.
The bill was introduced in January by Colorado State Senators Julie Gonzales and James Coleman and Representatives Mary Young and Javier Mabrey.
“Every day, as we welcome people returning from Colorado prisons to our offices, we see the optimism and immense challenges they face. They are eager to rebuild their lives, find steady employment, pay debts, contribute to the economy, and provide for their families, but they lack the most essential financial resources to help them in that transition. That’s why today’s vote is so disappointing. But, we will not rest. We will continue to build evidence and coalition support to get this pilot passed and ensure returning Coloradans have what they need to be successful in their reentry journey,” stated Valerie Greenhagen, Colorado Regional Director for CEO. “We are extremely grateful to Colorado State Senators Julie Gonzales and James Coleman and Representatives Mary Young and Javier Mabrey for introducing SB24-012, and look forward to working with them in the future to bring this bill back.”
The bill would have represented a substantial leap forward in improving reentry outcomes in Colorado by establishing a pilot program to provide direct cash payments of up to $3,000 per person to help individuals pay for essential needs while participating in employment training. The payments would be distributed in increments as people reach various milestones.
“Today’s decision is a missed opportunity for Coloradans who will soon return home from incarceration hoping to find jobs and permanent stability. When released, I was dropped off with nothing more than $100 and a local bus pass. I spent $60 on a ticket to Colorado Springs. My mother and brother picked me up, and I spent $40 taking them to lunch to thank them. All my gate money was gone, just like that,” stated Demetrius Somerville, Colorado Springs-based policy fellow for CEO, who later took part in CEO’s reentry cash pilot. “With the cash assistance, I was able to buy a car. It opened up a lot of doors for me. I was able to have a better chance to get gainful employment and to show up for employment. Most importantly, it helped me to be there for my kids. I look forward to working with lawmakers to fund this pilot and ensure we are setting other Coloradans, returning home in the future, up for success.”
The legislation builds upon recent efforts to rethink how to empower individuals in rebuilding their lives following incarceration. In 2020, CEO, in collaboration with Colorado community-based partners, distributed $1.5 million to 623 Coloradans returning from prison as part of the Returning Citizen Stimulus program. Key findings from the program include:
- Reentry cash payments were transformative in accelerating individuals’ paths to self-sufficiency following release.
- Adding reentry cash to existing services, including evidence-based programs like the CEO’s model, can boost effectiveness by approximately 50 percent.
- Financial assistance upon release from incarceration improves recidivism outcomes and can reduce rates of re-arrest by up to 30 percent.
To continue measuring the effectiveness of reentry cash and services, CEO has piloted cash assistance with an additional 120 participants in Denver and Colorado Springs. An external evaluation is currently being conducted by the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab at the University of Denver, in partnership with the Colorado Equitable Economic Mobility Initiative (CEEMI), and with support from an Urban Institute WorkRise grant. Results from this pilot will be forthcoming in 2024.
The legislation has the strong support of community members, including people who had experienced success after receiving financial support under the aforementioned program. In 2022 CEO helped launch the Coalition for Reentry Cash, bringing together justice-impacted individuals and reentry providers including the Don’t Look Back Center and the Second Chance Center, who advocated for the implementation of reentry cash in states like Colorado.
For further information or an interview, contact CEO Communications Director Matt Sutton at [email protected].
ABOUT THE CENTER FOR EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) provides immediate, effective, and comprehensive employment services exclusively to people recently released from incarceration. CEO currently operates in over 30 cities and is dedicated to ensuring that justice-impacted job seekers have opportunities to achieve social and economic mobility. For more information please visit: https://ceoworks.org