Barack Obama promised to help ex-cons find jobs.
There were several components to his 2008 promise, which said his administration would "create a prison-to-work incentive program, modeled on the Welfare-to-Work Partnership, to create ties with employers, third-party agencies that provide training and support services to ex-offenders, and to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates."
The Welfare to Work Partnership, a national nonprofit, was founded by five companies in 1997 in an effort by the private sector to take the lead in the welfare reform law. Thousands of businesses hired former welfare recipients.
We didn't find a similar program initiated by the private sector for ex-offenders. However, we found efforts by the federal government to increase private-sector job opportunities.
In April 2016, the White House announced the Fair Chance Business Pledge, a call to businesses to offer jobs to those with a criminal record. More than 300 companies have pledged to reduce barriers to employment (for example, by delaying criminal history questions until later in the hiring process).
There were other steps that the federal government took toward the goal of helping ex-offenders including the formation of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council in 2011. That council comprises multiple federal agencies that work toward helping prisoners find jobs.
Through the Second Chances Act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2008, Congress has provided about $540 million which includes grants for job training and education.
Experts have said while there have been some strides, there is much room for improvement and the volume of people in prison means that the demand exceeds capacity for many programs.
Harvard sociologist Devah Pager said it is difficult to evaluate progress on ex-offender employment because there isn't solid, broad data on the employment of people with criminal records. The available data is limited in scope.
"There are some evaluation studies that suggest prison-to-work programs can have substantial effects," she said
Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, said it is a challenge to quantify the impact of these initiatives. But Mauer said there have been some encouraging improvements, including Obama's initiative to partially restore Pell grant funding for higher education in prison.
The Obama administration took some steps toward helping ex-offenders find jobs, but we did not find the creation of a prison-to-work incentive program modeled on the Welfare-to-Work Partnership.
We rate this promise Compromise.