April has been designated Second Chance Month in the U.S. in recognition of the importance of supporting people’s successful reentry into society and the workforce after incarceration. Amid ongoing workforce shortages, the potential benefit of supporting these community members is more significant than ever.
As the U.S. economy recovers following the pandemic-induced recession, employers are scrambling to fill almost 10 million vacant jobs. At the same time, more than 70 million (1 in 3) American adults have some form of criminal record, which creates substantial — and often completely unreasonable — barriers to employment. Businesses large and small are increasingly looking to tap into the justice-impacted workforce to meet demand while becoming more inclusive. Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, there has been an ongoing reckoning for the U.S. justice system, and there remains widespread opportunity to combat the vast inequity mass incarceration perpetuates. Helping people with records bridge successful pathways to meaningful work is a way to do both.
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Such efforts can do more than just offer employers access to a diverse and underutilized talent pool. In the United States, 1 out of 4 Black men can expect to spend time in prison — resulting in Black males having the lowest labor force participation among men. Helping people with records join the workforce can help combat racial inequity in the U.S., honor commitments and public pledges to inclusion and social justice, and create safer communities.
Research has shown that access to good jobs is a critical factor in reducing recidivism rates; people who remain unemployed two months after reentry are twice as likely to reoffend. In addition, justice-impacted employees have been found to have higher retention and lower turnover rates than the general population, resulting in significant recruitment cost savings for companies. Furthermore, 85% of HR leaders have reported that second-chance hires perform as well as or better than employees without criminal records, suggesting that hiring formerly incarcerated people can actually boost productivity within companies.
Employers are taking various measures to increase access to employment for justice-impacted people. Companies that adopt second-chance hiring (SCH) practices and amend their application and interview processes to consider justice-impacted individuals can more effectively open themselves up to this marginalized group.