How Second Chance Hiring Can Help Fill Jobs and Empower Workers

Did you know? Between 70 million and 100 million Americans have a criminal record, a barrier that may prevent them from obtaining reliable employment. 

With an abundance of hourly job openings available around the country, this often-overlooked segment of the population can be a valuable source of skilled workers. As part of a movement called “second chance hiring,” people with a criminal past have the chance to empower themselves with employment and help keep the economy running.

Why is second chance hiring important?

Committing to a steady job upon release from prison has been shown to help decrease the likelihood of recidivism among the formerly incarcerated and increase the chances for successful reintegration into the community. 

“If we truly want to reduce recidivism and increase public safety, all while empowering those returning to our communities to contribute at their fullest potential, we need to expand second chance hiring opportunities,” said Derek Johnson, Executive Director of the Charles Koch Institute.

The benefits of second chance hiring

Prison education and training programs are intended to prepare prisoners for the real world, which means many are released from prison with a new set of skills they can apply to a career. This allows employers to bypass lengthy on-the-job training periods and put new hires to work right away.

Employers can take advantage of the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a credit that is granted to organizations that hire workers who have faced significant barriers to employment, such as criminal records. 

How to implement second chance hiring 

To make second chance hiring a part of your recruitment process, reach out to local social service agencies to learn how to get started.

In one example, Cincinnati Works—a job readiness organization in Ohio—helps reformed convicts get driver’s licenses, fill out job applications, and more. Informing these types of organizations about job openings at your facility can provide a direct link between you and a new applicant pool.

Once hired, ensure new workers can get to work each day by offering benefits like transportation stipends as well as childcare and healthcare.

Finally, consider joining companies like Home Depot, Starbucks, and Walmart by removing questions about criminal backgrounds from job applications. This removes the fear some applicants may have of being automatically dismissed because of a response to a knockout question.

Second chance hiring is an opportunity for you to show that your company values talented and hard workers of all backgrounds, and is willing to help rebuild the confidence of former inmates. According to Lee, “This is not only the right thing to do for our businesses, but it’s also the right thing to strengthen our communities.”