Hiring workers with a criminal record

If you need to hire workers, there’s a vital, untapped labor pool that you may not be aware of:  justice-involved individuals. Businesses in a wide variety of industries have expanded their traditional hiring to include this group with great results.

Here is what some of them have to say:

“We, as employers, need to be willing to take chances. There’s a great pool of workers out there who want jobs, and if you’re just willing to take a chance, the results can be phenomenal.” Owner, Baltimore Truck Wash

“This employee has been here for a year and a-half, and I think it’s going to be long-term. She does everything! She’s very, very customer-oriented; has great communication skills; if I need her at the last minute, she comes in…”
Owner, Ain’t She Sweet Café

“About 20 percent of our workforce…are employees with criminal records. We have people in some high-level positions—in my Senior Team—people at the Director level, and all throughout our organization. And they do a phenomenal job.” President, Safer Foundation, Chicago, IL

“Don’t look at this as a social program, and don’t look at it as being altruistic. Look at it as a business decision. Johns Hopkins has a long and happy history of hiring ex-offenders.”
Vice President of Human Resources, Johns Hopkins Health Systems

Check out these common questions businesses have about hiring people who have been incarcerated, and find the answers below.

Why should I hire a formerly incarcerated person, and what’s in it for me?
Formerly incarcerated individuals represent an untapped labor pool that can support the growth of your business. Many of these men, women, and youth possess the skills needed to help your business grow and succeed. They are motivated to work, eager to learn, and enthusiastic about becoming productive citizens who can support their families and themselves.

What are the advantages of hiring these individuals?
As with any employee, you can expect dependability, productivity, teamwork, and dedication to your company’s mission. Additionally, because of the government’s belief that they have paid their debt to society and deserve a second chance, the government offers various tax credits to employers who hire them. Your company may be eligible to apply for these tax credits, including the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), UNICOR (Federal Prison Industries) Tax Credit, and other credits that may be offered by your state and/or local government.

What skills do these men, women, and youth offer?
Many people with recrods have received vocational training while they were under the supervision and guidance of the Federal, state, or local correctional system. Some have participated in vocational skills training, hands-on work experience training, soft skills instruction, or earned certifications. Vocational training opportunities include:

– Manufacturing and distribution
– Food services
– Upholstery
– Horticulture and grounds maintenance
– Hospitality
– Construction
– Drafting
– Retail and customer service

What type of work experience do they possess?
Prior to incarceration, many individuals may have held positions in retail services, clerical and business administration, customer service, call centers, construction, auto repair, food services, and more.

While incarcerated, these are areas people may have performed jobs in:

· Clothing and textile
· Office furniture
· Data and document conversion
· Electronics and components
· Electronics recycling
· Fleet and training site solution
· Industrial products and storage
· Printing and bindery
· Solar and renewable energy
· Vehicular refurbishing and repair
· Warehousing and distribution

Where do I find these employees?
American Jobs Centers in every state are equipped with a business services division that can help you with your recruitment and staffing needs, at no cost to you.
Some AJCs maintain registries of individuals who have received skills and educational assessments, job readiness training, soft skills training, and vocational skills training and are ready to work.

You can also use the ReEntry Program Finder to locate programs in your area that provide job skill training to people who have a criminal record. Many of them work with local businesses to employ program participants and would welcome your interest in hiring.

What is the WOTC Tax Credit, and how can it help me as an employer?
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups who have consistently faced challenges in finding employment.

Participating employers are able to reduce their income tax liability by receiving a tax credit that ranges from $1,200 to $9,600 per eligible employee, depending on the employee hired. Learn more.

What is the Federal Bonding Program? How does it work, and how can I sign up?
The Federal Bonding Program enables employers to “obtain worker skills without taking risk” by providing 6 months of fidelity bond coverage (through Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America). They can be issued as soon as you offer a candidate a job and will be in effect the day that he or she is scheduled to start work. There is no termination paperwork, and you can receive these bonds free-of-charge.

The bond insurance ranges from $5,000-$25,000 coverage for a 6-month period with 100% insurance coverage at no cost to you. There is never any deductible. After 6 months, you can purchas extended coverage from TRAVELERS as long as the worker demonstrated job honesty. There is a 99% success rate when used as a job placement tool for at-risk job seekers. Call toll free: 1.877.US2.JOBS (1.877.872.5627), or vist the Federal Bonding Program to learn more.

What other insurance coverage might be available?
The UNICOR (Federal Prison Industries) Bonding Program offers another option to employers who hire formerly incarcerated individuals who:

✓ Have been Federal inmates.
✓ Worked in UNICOR for at least 6 months during incarceration in a Federal correctional institution.
✓ Sought coverage within one year after release.

This program provides theft insurance up to $5,000 to employers who hire ex-offenders. Each employee is entitled to coverage for one job after completing their residence/program at a residential re-entry center.

Employers who hire eligible individuals may apply for the insurance, at no cost to the employers or to the employees. The initial bond, covers the first 6 months of employment and is renewable by the employer at commercial rates. In the event of theft of money or property, this insurance will reimburse the employer up to the bond value. Contact an ITB Federal Bonding Specialist at 202.305.3553 or email BOP-FPI/Inmate_Transition@bop.gov.

Can hiring formerly incarcerated individuals improve the economy?
According to the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, two out of every three men were employed before they were incarcerated, and many were the primary financial contributors in their households. By hiring a formerly incarcerated man, woman, or young person, you are doing your part in improving the economy overall. Because of you, these individuals can support themselves and their families, pay their taxes, and contribute to their community and our nation’s economy.

What’s the connection between employment and individuals returning to the justice system?
“In the ‘what works’ literature of reentry, meaningful employment is consistently demonstrated to be one of the strongest pathways to resistance from crime and successful reentry. Employment allows formerly incarcerated persons to take care of themselves and their families, develop valuable life skills, and strengthen self-esteem and social connectedness.” Indeed, employment has a critical role to play in keeping people out of jail.

How do I know that candidates will stay on the job?
Data indicates that many justice-involved workers appreciate the opportunity to be given a second chance, and because of their backgrounds, they understand the importance of being employed and will be dedicated to your workplace.

Do I have to treat these employees differently from others?
These individuals are not looking for any special or different treatment. They want to be a part of your team and not be isolated or identified as “different.” It is expected that you will provide them with the same rights as any other employee in your company.

I need to fill positions right away. How can I get started?
Look up your closest American Job Center and call or email them about your interest in hiring. AJCs are equipped with a business services division that can help you with your recruitment and staffing needs, at no cost to you.

Learn more at CareerOneStop’s Business Center.

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