Senator Cornyn

Cornyn, Tillis Introduce Bill to Improve Career Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

June 18, 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today introduced their Workforce Reentry Act, which would strengthen and make permanent a pilot program that awards funding to organizations with a successful track record of providing career development opportunities to formerly incarcerated individuals:

“One of the greatest challenges individuals face when leaving prison is the ability to find and hold a job,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would help fill this gap and reduce recidivism by ensuring more Texans have access to the tools and training needed to gain employment and turn their lives around.”  

“Finding gainful employment is a critical first step for those looking for a fresh start and is necessary to become a productive member of society,”said Sen. Tillis. “This legislation will reduce recidivism by making the transition back to society easier and the paving the way for a better future for those leaving incarceration.”


More than 650,000 men and women nationwide, including 78,000 inmates in Texas, are released from prison each year. Unfortunately, more than 40% of individuals released are rearrested within one year, and more than 75% are rearrested within five years. Ensuring formerly incarcerated individuals have access to career development opportunities, including mentoring and skills-based training, can help them integrate, remain, and succeed in the workforce, which reduces recidivism and strengthens communities across Texas.

Since 2005, the U.S. Department of Labor has been operating the loosely-structured Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) program under the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Over the years, the REO program has awarded funding to numerous organizations providing mentoring, job training, education, and case management services to formerly incarcerated individuals. However, independent evaluations have found the REO program lacks direction, accountability, and oversight, which undermine its effectiveness.

The Workforce Reentry Act would incorporate necessary reforms and strengthen the program to improve employment outcomes for justice-involved individuals by:

  • Making permanent the U.S. Department of Labor’s Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) pilot program that provides funding to entities training individuals exiting the criminal justice system;
  • Promoting the sharing of best practices for preparing previously incarcerated individuals for the workforce;
  • And allowing additional funding to be awarded to programs proven successful to expand their capacity.

U.S. Congressmen Nathaniel Moran (TX-01) and Lloyd Smucker (PA-11) led the legislation in the House of Representatives, which was included in the larger Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act reauthorization package that passed in the House as part of the Stronger Workforce for America Act, authored by Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (NC-05).