Trading Jail Beds for Paychecks: Salt Lake County’s New PFS Project

A new Pay for Success project will reduce recidivism and improve quality of life for those most likely to re-enter the prison system

Trading Jail Beds for Paychecks: Salt Lake County’s New PFS Project

Today marks the launch of the Salt Lake County R.E.A.C.H. Pay for Success Project, which seeks to address the revolving door of the criminal justice system by providing comprehensive services to reduce recidivism and improve the quality of life for those most likely to re-enter the Salt Lake County jail or Utah State prison system.

Based on our Pay for Success (PFS) Initial Screening Criteria, which we use to help us decide which PFS transactions to invest in, here are a few of the highlights of why we are so excited about this latest investment from our Blended Catalyst Fund:


County analysis indicates that seventy-four percent of high-risk offenders in Salt Lake County return to the criminal justice system within four years of their release and spend, on average, a year incarcerated during that time. To better serve these individuals, our investment, along with investments from other philanthropic and commercial lenders, will help First Step House, a local non-profit, scale its services to implement the R.E.A.C.H. (Recovery, Engagement, Assessment, Career and Housing) program, a community-based treatment model to decrease recidivism and increase employment for 225 individuals in Salt Lake County over the next six years. At the target impact level, the R.E.A.C.H. Project will generate 26,800 fewer days in jail or prison and 225 fewer arrests.

Government Champion & Public Sector Innovation

Under the leadership of Mayor Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County has become a national leader in government innovation and supporting the use of PFS as a mechanism to provide better services to those who need it most. The County was an advocate of the Utah Pre-Kindergarten Pay for Success Project in 2013, which was one of the earliest PFS projects in the country. Since then, starting in 2014, the Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office has led the development of two PFS projects, one of which is the R.E.A.C.H. PFS Project. Working with a broad range of State and County departments, the Mayor’s Office has sought to use PFS as a tool to implement performance-based contracting for social services to ensure government resources are spent on what works. Salt Lake County’s movement towards being data and outcomes-driven is exactly the kind of enduring change we hope to see as a result of PFS and a shift we hope to one day see in all cities, counties and states across the country.


The ability of a PFS project to weather the challenges that come its way depends upon how well project partners can work together to overcome them. The strength of the team behind the R.E.A.C.H .project is one of the primary reasons this PFS project has stood out to us. Between the strong local support, shared vocabulary on goals and the ability of the project partners to articulate how they’ve been using data to continuously improve the intervention prior to launch, it’s evident that they have developed a close camaraderie that will allow them to work through issues effectively and efficiently.

Capital Innovation

Typically, upfront activities for PFS project development have been grant-funded or done for free. Salt Lake County’s PFS Initiative, however, used a Living Cities Pay for Success Construction Loan to help fund some of those upfront costs as it developed both the R.E.A.C.H. Project and related Homes Not Jail Project. Leveraging loan dollars for upfront costs, rather than grant dollars, takes a step forward in making PFS projects replicable since it means development costs are included in the transaction budget, and keeps us honest about the true cost of these transactions. Read more about what we hope to achieve through our PFS Construction Loans.

We’re thrilled to be supporting a project such as the R.E.A.C.H. PFS Project, since it’s one that will measurably improve the lives of individuals. We are looking forward to continuing to evolve our thinking around PFS through this investment, and we will share our updates here.


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