Colorado Legislators Introduce Innovative Bill to Create Pilot Program That Would Provide Direct Cash Payments to People Returning from Incarceration

CEO Media Contact:
Matt Sutton | [email protected] | (202) 556-3291

Legislation would provide Coloradans returning from incarceration up to $3,000 to cover essential needs, such as housing, food, transportation, and more

Denver, CO January 11, 2024 Colorado State Senators Julie Gonzalez and James Coleman and Representatives Mary Young and Javier Mabrey introduced SB24-012, an innovative new bill establishing a reentry pilot program connecting formerly incarcerated people with critical financial assistance to help them get on their feet as they return to their communities. The bill is supported by the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), the nation's largest reentry employment provider.

Currently, people returning from incarceration in Colorado receive only $100 in "dress out" funds to navigate reentry and the process of rebuilding their lives. Recognizing the inadequacy of this support, the legislation establishes a pilot program to provide reentry cash payments of up to $3,000 per person to help individuals pay for essential needs.

“We are thrilled to see Colorado leaders build on the success of CEO’s Returning Citizen Stimulus program that provided critical financial assistance during the pandemic to Coloradans returning from incarceration,” said Sam Schaeffer, CEO of the Center for Employment Opportunities. “These payments have shown to have a transformative impact on a person’s ability to successfully reintegrate into their communities. CEO has offered cash support to nearly 750 Coloradans returning from incarceration. Recipients primarily used the money to cover their most essential needs, like housing, food, transportation, and other necessary personal items. And, by not having to worry as much about these basic survival needs, they were more likely to be able to find quality employment and less likely to end up incarcerated again.”

These payments aim to help people meet employment training milestones, cover essential costs such as housing and transportation, and cover necessary expenses for obtaining a job, including transportation and work-appropriate clothing.

“Formerly incarcerated people face challenges and lack support and stability upon release,” says Senator Julie Gonzales. “With the Reentry Workforce Development Cash Assistance Pilot Program we can set people up for success, prevent people returning to prison and save money in the long run by providing interventions up front instead of paying for prison beds.”

“Poverty and incarceration are inextricably linked, largely due to limited housing and workforce options,” says Senator James Coleman. “Formerly incarcerated individuals need access to resources like reentry cash and workforce training to earn a living wage and stop the poverty to prison pipeline. This legislation reflects our shared commitment to public safety and second chances, and is a meaningful step towards a safer, more productive and more inclusive economy for all Coloradans.”

In addition to providing much-needed financial assistance, the pilot program will assess the impact of providing direct cash payments to the reentry population in the state.

“Currently, formerly incarcerated people experience the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment, which we know not only impacts the individual, but the entire family unit and community”, says Representative Mary Young. “It is the goal of this legislation to pilot and measure the effectiveness of providing reentry cash support coupled with workforce services to get formerly incarcerated Coloradans the support they need to be active, contributing members of our communities.”

“The Reentry Workforce Development Cash Assistance Pilot Bill is an innovative opportunity to address the inequities that intersect between the criminal justice system and for those experiencing poverty,” says Representative Javier Mabrey. “Giving individuals the opportunity to pay for their basic necessities - food, housing, healthcare – upon release restores dignity and is an upfront investment in one’s continued success to find long-term, quality employment.”

The legislation builds upon recent efforts to rethink how to empower individuals in rebuilding their lives following incarceration. In 2020, CEO, in collaboration with 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 returning individuals, including those who received reentry cash payments under CEO’s 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.



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: