When addressing the impact of criminal convictions and prison on our society, we look to the numbers. Roughly 1 in 5 of the world’s incarcerated population are housed in the United States. Furthering this, the SHRM Foundation states that 78 million Americans, or a quarter of the population, has a criminal record.  

These facts exercise looming effects on those who live with this reality every day. If previously convicted, acquiring and maintaining a job can be incredibly difficult. Additional data from the SHRM Foundation states that having a criminal record reduces the chances of a second interview by 50%. 

With the goal of prison being reformation, many returning citizens can be left without support and ample opportunities to truly reassimilate back into society. They exit these institutions having paid their debt, but still face the many barriers of returning to a normal life. These barriers range from housing, transportation, mental health, and even food security. These necessities can act as obstacles in ensuring those impacted by the justice system have opportunities once they leave these institutions.  

However, there has been a movement gaining momentum to help individuals impacted by the stigmas of prison. This movement is called Fair Chance hiring or Second Chance hiring. The idea postulates how these individuals deserve fair chances to reenter society and the benefits of returning to the workforce. The movement is gaining traction as many employers are finding how these individuals often bring experience and a fresh perspective to their organizations. Much of the groundwork advancing the movement has been achieved by advocating for these individuals and seeing them succeed.  

Employers rightfully want to consider the risk and rewards of hiring someone with a criminal record. According to the SHRM Foundation, 82% of managers report that the value second-chance employees bring to the organization is as high or higher than that of workers without records. They found that even at companies open to hiring people with criminal records, only 5% of managers and 3% of HR professionals said their company actively recruits people with criminal records. Although these individuals can strengthen their workforce, they are underutilized due to the stigma of having a criminal record. 

Various non-profit organizations support returning citizens to re-enter the workforce and avoid recidivism. National collaboratives like the Second Chance Business Coalition promote the benefits of Fair Chance hiring and provide employers with the resources to hire and provide career advancement to people with criminal records. Reentry and workforce development organizations assist to transition individuals from incarcerated life back into the community and support employers in bringing them on board. In the Cincinnati region, a rich network of organizations including Hamilton County Office of Reentry,Beacon of Hope,Center for Employment Opportunities, Cincinnati Works, and Life Learning Centerhelp individuals overcome barriers, obtain employment, and provide support services to retain employment. 

Companies likeNehemiah Manufacturing and JBM Packaging practice Fair Chance hiring and have done so successfully. These companies understand that additional support is beneficial to help individuals succeed in retaining employment. Nehemiah Manufacturing has an onsite social service team to help support their employees with life challenges that affect their ability to work. Our partner, Cincinnati Works, offers workforce coaching servicesfor companies to provide internal employee support, including returning citizens. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce states that there are an additional 8 million open jobs across the country, and there is a pool of individuals who deserve to be able to work and give back to their communities. There has not been a greater opportunity to match the needs to fill open positions with people looking for fair chances.  

Are there policies and practices that can be changed within your company to consider this talent pool that may help meet your hiring needs? Are you an employer that is interested in hiring returning citizens but not sure where to start? Reach out to the Workforce Innovation Center to get directly connected to the organizations mentioned above. 

You can also explore the Getting Talent Back to Work Toolkit recently released by the SHRM Foundation to help businesses confidently hire and develop employees with a criminal background.