Letter of Support by Sam Schaeffer, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer

Washington D.C. - March 21, 2023 - The time is right for a bold investment in the economic and social mobility of Americans living with a criminal conviction. Over the next 10 years, federal infrastructure investments, combined with a changing economy, aging labor force, and employer demand to reach diverse workers, will create millions of new good-paying jobs. And yet today, over half a million people return from prison each year with limited employment prospects and tens of millions more navigate employment with convictions that hinder their careers.

Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) engages individuals immediately upon returning from incarceration with the opportunity to receive daily pay for daily training that provides the resources, skills, and confidence individuals need to achieve long-term mobility. Many are starting their careers with no previous work experience, a stigmatized prior conviction, and following a long period of incarceration. Daily, I meet participants who are incredibly motivated to restart their lives and demonstrate their considerable value to employers. Despite their hard work and determination, many are not afforded the opportunity to move from origin jobs to destination careers.

Public sector investment has historically been an afterthought when it comes to reentry employment. Economic development and job creation efforts have seldom reached people with convictions. Today, however, the federal government has a once in a generation opportunity to leverage hundreds of billions of already appropriated funds to change this status quo.

Infrastructure, workforce development and every related form of anti-poverty funding, should be part of the federal response to this challenge. With the right coordination and leadership, this administration can ensure that job creation efforts meaningfully reach individuals entering their communities after incarceration

It’s time for the federal government to lead with a clear vision, and strategy, that supports the employment of every person leaving incarceration. As the nation’s largest transitional employment partner for people leaving incarceration, CEO relies on the feedback and expertise of individuals we serve to improve our programs. We believe that directly impacted leaders will be the most effective in achieving systems-wide reform to the laws, regulations, and discriminatory institutions that exacerbate reentry challenges, and fuel mass incarceration. There is no better group to lead these short and long term efforts than the amazing group of directly impacted leaders on the JustUS Coordinating Council (JCC). Their expertise is essential to ensuring successful implementation of existing and new federal investments and policy change.