Reentry week, April 24-28, 2017, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Justice, calls attention to the approximately 600,000 citizens who will leave incarceration this year and return to their communities and families. While “getting out” is a big transition, what happens after release has an enormous impact on those individuals staying out.
The importance of employment for this group would be difficult to overestimate —as potential employees, providers for their families, and for preventing recidivism – and its related social costs.
Information from studies by the Pew Research Center help shed light on this critical population:
- An estimated 70 million U.S. adults have arrest or conviction records. Society can’t afford to simply banish 70 million people from the workplace
- One in 31 adults in America is in prison or jail, or on probation or parole.
- Overall, two-thirds of offenders are in the community on probation or parole, not behind bars.
Criminal records make it tough for ex-offenders to get livable wage jobs, but giving them a chance to be successful in legal jobs will give millions of people a means to achieve sustainable wages legitimately. Economic innovation consultant Mike Green notes good reasons employers should take a closer look at hiring from this population.
- Employee retention is often excellent: Workers who have criminal convictions understand their job prospects have been reduced by their record, and are likely to stay with a job that welcomes them. A number of studies note that many ex-offenders have a positive work history, and are as reliable as other workers.
- Incentives: Hiring incentives such as the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit, and the federal bonding program, help employers offset potential concerns for risk.
- Support for success: Probation often includes employment requirements that must be met, drug testing, and supervision by parole officers and halfway house staff. These supports reduce risks for employers at no cost to them.
- Societal well-being: By employing people who have a criminal record, employers help prevent recidivism, and provide a means for legitimate workers to put their skills to work and make a positive contribution to an organization, and more broadly, their community. It also saves enormous costs – in preventing the return to prison at an annual cost of over $30,000 / per person. Baylor University has estimated a $10,000 yearly positive contribution to the economy for every ex-offender employed.
- Children and families: The highest at-risk group for incarceration are the grown children of adults who were incarcerated. Family financial stability helps prevent this.
As the U.S. labor pool shrinks, it may be a good time for employers to take a closer look at their opportunity to hire good employees who hope to move from a criminal record to a strong work history.
CareerOneStop offers a range of resources both for businesses hiring a diverse workforce, and for job seekers who have a criminal conviction. To get a quick overview of the Job Search for Ex-Offenders website and learn how it can help you, check out the new introduction video.