Firms that focus on integrating those with criminal pasts are rare. To better understand the obstacles they face, I have spent time with Nehemiah and two other enterprises that have overcome the challenges of employing second chancers. All three firms operate in different geographies and produce different products and services. All three employers emphasized that simply being willing to hire a second chancer is not enough. An employer must be committed to the particular needs of these workers. To address this issue, each firm partners with nonprofits to offer a support ecosystem to meet the challenges inherent in this labor pool, including poverty, lack of access to transportation and struggles with addiction.
America has long been a land of second chances, but the millions of citizens with criminal pasts are often cheated of the opportunity to return to lives of meaning and contribution. There always has been a moral imperative to help such citizens reclaim their lives, but to that we should add the economic imperative. The cost and lost potential of failing to reintegrate second chancers comes at a time when the unemployment rate has fallen to 4.3 percent and businesses struggle to fill openings while outsourcing abroad and immigration may no longer be politically acceptable alternatives. Expanding the viable labor pool to include those with prison pasts represents a largely untapped opportunity for our economy.
This piece was excerpted and updated from an August 2017 article on LinkedIn by Jeff Korzenik. For the full text, visit LinkedIn. If you’d like to learn more about expanding your labor pool and hearing from Mr. Korzenik, register for the upcoming Workforce ReEntry Development Initiative event on Tuesday, September 24 at the United Way.