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Taking a Deep Dive into RAND Research

NNPA NEWSWIRE — RAND’s study of the Sacramento Probation Department’s Career Training Partnership (CTP) program suggests that hiring ex-offenders from career training programs, like ours, can save employers time and resources because the employer does not have to invest in training and vetting. I agree. We are successful in getting ex-offenders hired because they are prepared based upon employers’ specific needs, such as construction and truck driving.

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Jon Ponder is a three-time convicted bank robber who spent five years in prison. After his release in 2009, he founded the "Hope for Prisoners" program in Nevada which helps former prisoners successfully reintegrate into society
Jon Ponder is a three-time convicted bank robber who spent five years in prison. After his release in 2009, he founded the "Hope for Prisoners" program in Nevada which helps former prisoners successfully reintegrate into society

By Jon Ponder

In some circles, I’m considered “undereducated.” That’s why as the person in charge of all aspects of a prison reform program, given my non-traditional path to the position, I’m curious about how we are doing, according to the experts. In my capacity, I receive quite a bit of research. Ultimately, I was drawn to the RAND Corporation, a pre-eminent research institution. In reviewing some of their key findings, here’s what I learned.

RAND’s study of the Sacramento Probation Department’s Career Training Partnership (CTP) program suggests that hiring ex-offenders from career training programs, like ours, can save employers time and resources because the employer does not have to invest in training and vetting. I agree. We are successful in getting ex-offenders hired because they are prepared based upon employers’ specific needs, such as construction and truck driving.

In fact, in our experience, employers are not “unwilling” to hire ex-cons. What they’re unwilling to do is hire “projects,” so it’s important for ex-offenders to get training, which most don’t have— neither vocational nor educational. Our ex-offenders receive ready-to-work training. This aligns with RAND findings that employers who hired participants from CTP typically had fewer concerns about the job readiness of the probationers.

A related RAND study says most surveyed employers would consider hiring a non-violent felon for an entry-level job based on tax credit incentives. At HFP, we have found that in addition to job readiness, tax incentives are key for our employer partners because they provide a sense of assurance. Some incentives offer up to 90 percent reimbursement for this training. Other incentives might include Federal Bonding Programs for damage or stealing.

For ex-offenders, securing employment at a living wage is one of the most significant challenges they face, which again, aligns with RAND’s findings. The training we provide and the employers we partner with are focused on jobs that offer above the minimum wage, which helps ex-offenders get their lives in order. This could include working to help get child support arrears either erased or minimized or covering court costs and restitution obligations. In addition to employment, we address the need for transportation, housing, and family reunification. We provide boots, tools, a commercial driver’s license (if necessary) and proper ID, testing mentors and other work essentials when needed.

RAND also found that employers prefer working with staffing agencies that guarantee replacement workers when initial candidates are not a good fit. In our case, if one of our people fails to work out, we ask employers not to fire that hire, but to allow us the opportunity to help give them what they need to overcome any shortcomings.

The research suggests that there’s often positive results when probation officers, training programs, and employers work together to help ex-offenders. I agree. By including the PO at the table, we can help foster a collaborative and supportive relationship between the PO and the trainee in a more relaxed environment.

In conclusion, upon review of the RAND findings, I am reassured that here at “Hope for Prisoners” we must be doing something right. But don’t take my word for it. Look at the research. Ask the experts.

Jon Ponder is a three-time convicted bank robber who spent five years in prison. After his release in 2009, he founded the “Hope for Prisoners” program in Nevada which helps former prisoners successfully reintegrate into society. Because of the vital work he provides to the community, his current criminal status is “Pardoned.”

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