For a prisoner exiting the corrections system, the ability to secure steady employment may determine whether he or she is able to successfully reenter society and begin a productive, law-abiding life.

In Texas and New York, two vocational programs—one for those behind bars and one for those freshly out—aim to increase the odds that an ex-inmate will be gainfully employed.

The Texas Correctional Industries system includes factories in 37 prisons for over 5,000 inmates, and it produces license plates, inmate clothing, tires, signs, furniture, shoes, and repaired computer equipment. TCI boasts a recidivism rate for its longest tenured employees that is half that of the general population. It aims not only to keep prisoners busy while behind bars, but also to provide technical skills useful for the job hunt on the outside.

In New York, the Transitional Jobs program out of the Center for Employment Opportunities puts ex-offenders to work, first by learning soft work skills, then through low-skill employment. An independent evaluation of the Transitional Jobs program found that it reduced recidivism by 16 to 22 percent.