On December 21, 2018, President Trump signed the First Step Act into law, reauthorizing the Second Chance Act to reform the federal prison system. The new law will provide significant changes to federal sentencing laws as well as improvements to programs that aim to reduce recidivism and give support to people who are involved in the criminal justice system by establishing and enhancing state and local programs that promote successful reentry for people returning to the community after incarceration.
As a result of the First Step Act people who return to state prison three years after being released—the most common measure of recidivism—dropped by nearly a quarter over a recent period. Longer-term recurrence also decreased. Included in these numbers are people sent back to prison for a new crime or for violating the terms of their post-prison supervision. Providing jobs and housing is an essential step for ex-offenders to successfully integrate back into society and solidify a more positive path.
As employers face the struggle to fill open positions, many are considering the benefits of hiring an ex-offender. An individual with a criminal record has a longer tenure and is less likely to quit their job willingly than other employees. Another benefit for employers is available tax credits for hiring individuals within certain groups that experience substantial barriers to employment. Ex-offenders are one group that allows your business to be eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. There is not a maximum requirement for the number of individuals an employer can hire within this group. The tax credits can add up, which can considerably reduce an employer’s tax burden.
Reducing recidivism improves public safety, reduces taxpayer spending on prisons, and helps formerly incarcerated people successfully resume family and community responsibilities. A person who has been given a second chance – when many others would not – will be more dedicated and loyal to their employer. They work harder and tend to break fewer rules because they know they have already used their second chance. People who have been incarcerated can bring specific insights to the workplace that others lack. As an employer, if you are interested in hiring the formerly incarcerated explore resources within your community and non-profit organizations who assist with hiring those with criminal backgrounds. The outcome is a positive result for an employer and employee.
As an example, we can look to the Westside Catholic Center and its Economic Opportunity Program. Their Workforce Development Certificate Program is a four-week job-readiness program. Participation and completion of this program are required for clients to receive any incentives, or to participate in on-site interviews or job fairs. To learn more, visit their website and watch their videos here.