By Pinkston News Service
WASHINGTON, DC—(Pinkston News Service)—In his March 31 proclamation marking April as Second Chance Month, President Biden said “by supporting people who are committed to rectifying their mistakes, redefining themselves, and making meaningful contributions to society, we help reduce recidivism and build safer communities.” As corporate America struggles with a labor shortage gap, some businesses are hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds to fill open job roles.
Last year, a group of approximately 40 major corporations and organizations created the Second Chance Business Coalition, to expand employment opportunities for people with criminal records. Last month, Brian Lamb, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at JPMorgan Chase & Co., a Second Chance Business Coalition member, told CNBC that because of the labor shortage, “it’s going to require unconventional approaches” to hiring.
“In this challenging economic climate, businesses are doubling down on their efforts to ensure that the potential of Americans with a criminal record is not left on the sidelines. We applaud the companies, large and small, who recognize second chance hiring as a catalyst for safer, stronger, and more prosperous communities and families,” said Kate Trammell, Vice President of Advocacy at Prison Fellowship in a statement.
Prison Fellowship (www.prisonfellowship.org) is the nation’s largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners and their families with biblically based programming focused on helping people become productive members of society again and ensuring they have access to a quality education, housing, job training and employment.
One of the organization’s initiatives is pushing for occupational licensing reforms to help eliminate employment barriers for people with prior convictions. A state-issued occupational license is required to pursue many specialty careers, such as a real estate broker. Prison Fellowship backed such a reform measure that passed the state Senate in Oklahoma earlier this year. Separately, more than 35 states have adopted Ban the Box policies that remove discrimination barriers during the hiring process for job applicants with criminal records.
As to whether second chance hiring programs work, statistics suggest they do. A report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce finds employing formerly incarcerated individuals would increase Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P.), boost earning power and reduce recidivism rates. Another survey found that 81% of business leaders and 85% of human resource professionals believe that employees with a criminal record “perform their jobs about the same or better than workers without criminal records.”
It is estimated that 77 million Americans, or 1 in 3 adults, have a criminal record. And, according to Prison Policy Initiative data, formerly incarcerated individuals are unemployed at a rate that is “higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression.”
“When I was provided an opportunity for employment after being incarcerated, that helped me personally with my dignity. It helped me to be a contributor not only to my family but society,” said Prison Fellowship graduate Sean Oliver in a video testimonial.