Division of Criminal Justice Services

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February 5, 2010
Contact: Risa Heller 917-647-9187, CEO
John Caher, DCJS, 518-457-8415; 518-225-5240

Center for Employment Opportunities Opens New Buffalo Facility, Provides Employment Services to Erie County Residents Returning Home from Prison

Proven Model Has Been Demonstrated to Increase Public Safety, Saving Tax Dollars By Reducing Recidivism With Funding from State Division of Criminal Justice Services, CEO BUFFALO Gives Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Real Work Experience Helping Them Find and Keep Full Time Employment

BUFFALO – The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) today announced the opening of CEO Buffalo – a new program that provides employment services to people returning home from prison to Erie County.

CEO Buffalo, which is supported by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding committed to this effort by Governor David A. Paterson and Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise E. O’Donnell, works exclusively with formerly incarcerated people, helping them gain basic work skills to obtain full-time private sector jobs. It is located in downtown Buffalo at 170 Franklin Street.

“Many people coming home from prison face a steeplechase of barriers,” said Mindy Tarlow, CEO’s Executive Director. “CEO Buffalo works to break down one of the steepest barriers: finding and keeping a full time job. I am thrilled that CEO is working with our government and community partners in Buffalo to help give these men and women a path to reentering their communities successfully.”

Deputy Secretary O’Donnell said CEO Buffalo “represent a major step forward in our efforts to transform individuals’ lives and protect the public.”

“One of our major criminal justice goals is to transform former offenders into productive, tax-paying, law-abiding assets to their community, and employment is key,” Deputy Secretary O’Donnell said. “CEO has a proven record of success, and we are proud to partner with Mindy Tarlow to bring this great program to Western New York.”

CEO has been operating as an independent organization in New York City since 1996. The expansion to Buffalo is CEO’s first office outside New York City. The CEO Buffalo office is staffed by five full time employees, all of whom were hired locally.

CEO’s program has been proven to reduce crime. Findings from an independent, random-assignment evaluation of CEO programs begun in 2005 show that people who enroll in CEO have significantly lower rates of recidivism on a variety of measures—including arrests, convictions and re-incarceration. After three years of follow-up, an independent evaluator has noted that these recidivism outcomes are “rarely seen in criminal justice studies of this kind.” By reducing participants’ interaction with the criminal justice system at every level, CEO saves tax dollars by providing state and local governments a significant return on their investment.

The CEO model begins with a four-day Life Skills Education course that prepares participants for the workplace and teaches resume writing and interview skills. Upon graduation, participants are given a pair of steel-toed boots and are eligible for paid work on a transitional job site. These fully supervised sites expose participants to a real workplace, while giving them the constructive feedback and guidance they need to succeed in the workplace. Participants earn minimum wage and are given a paycheck at the end of each completed shift.

One day a week, participants come to CEO’s office for Job Coaching and Job Development. Leveraging the experience they gain on the work sites, CEO staff works one-on-one with individuals to facilitate interviews and secure full-time private sector jobs. After placement, CEO works with individuals for a full year to help them retain their employment and give them the support they need to stay connected to the workforce.
CEO Buffalo launched in early October, 2009. Since then, 46 participants have completed the Life Skills Education class and 44 have worked on the transitional job crews. After four months of operation, CEO has been successful in placing 8 participants into full time jobs.

Currently, CEO Buffalo operates two transitional work crews in the Buffalo Olmsted Park system, where they help maintain the 1,200 acres of park and parkways managed by the Buffalo Olmsted Park Conservancy. CEO and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy have signed a two-year year agreement, which started in October. Supervised by a CEO employee who maintains a line of sight supervision with all participants, up to 14 individuals work on projects daily that include grounds-keeping, debris removal and snow-shoveling, among others tasks.