Not Just a Job: A Career

Implementation of a Sectoral Training Program for People Impacted by the Criminal Legal System

By Emily Brennan, Chelsea Jackson, Anna Kyler

Employment is an important factor in determining an individual’s success upon reentering the community following incarceration. When individuals who were formerly incarcer­ated return home, employment offers benefits for their mental health and well-being, provides structure and stability, and supplies earnings to support them and their families. The benefits of employment are more pronounced when individuals earn higher incomes. However, individuals who have been involved with the criminal legal system face structural disadvantages in finding high-wage employment, such as difficulty establishing work history or education credentials or developing the skills needed in today’s job market; they must also confront the stigma associated with having a criminal record.

In 2019, when California’s Reentry Division operated within the Office of Diversion and Reentry, the California Board of State and Community Corrections awarded the Division a grant from the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act (Proposition 47 or “Prop 47”) grant program to launch the Skills and Experience for the Careers of Tomorrow (SECTOR) program. The SECTOR program provides employment and training services, cognitive behavioral interventions, and connections to mental health and substance use disorder services for people with previous legal system involvement.

The SECTOR program uses a sector-based approach, which involves connecting individuals to training opportunities that offer a livable wage, career advancement opportunities, and benefits for job seekers. Through partnerships with five community-based Los Angeles County organi­zations, SECTOR aims to (1) increase employment and earnings, (2) improve behavioral health and well-being, and (3) reduce participant recidivism. The model anticipates that behavioral health, well-being, employment, and earnings improvements will reduce future interactions with the criminal legal system.

This report presents the findings of the SECTOR program evaluation as part of the Los Angeles County Reentry Integrated Services Project (LA CRISP), a multi-year, multi-study evaluation of the Reentry Division’s services led by MDRC. The SECTOR evaluation includes an implementation study and an outcomes study. The implementation study describes how the community-based organizations implemented the SECTOR program, whether it was implemented as intended, and whether it met its intended service quality and outcome goals. The outcomes study tracks one-year outcomes for the cohort of participants enrolled between January 1, 2021, and December 31, 2021 (the study period and first year of operation). The outcomes study focuses mainly on employment and criminal legal system contact and whether SECTOR successfully connects individuals to mental health and substance use disorder services.

Based on descriptive analyses of administrative management information system data, qualita­tive data from semi-structured interviews with staff members from SECTOR providers, program participants, training providers, employers, and Reentry Division staff members, and an analysis of official planning and program documents, this evaluation finds that the SECTOR program offers a promising approach to help participants with previous criminal legal system involve­ment in finding employment in high-growth sectors.

In the future, the SECTOR program could benefit from focusing on strengthening participant engagement and completion of services. As currently designed, the study allowed for a detailed analysis of the implementation of SECTOR and the outcome findings. A study design with a comparison group to rigorously measure the impact of SECTOR against outcomes for those who did not participate in the program may benefit future research.

Document Details

Publication Type
September 2023
Brennan, Emily, Chelsea Jackson, and Anna Kyler. 2023. Not Just a Job: A Career. New York: MDRC.