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One Fast, Easy Way to Reduce Recidivism

W. Scott Cole

Posted on June 3, 2018 01:40

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America is the land of the second chance -- and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life. --George W. Bush

The quote above is how it should be, but getting that second chance starts with finding a job. The importance of that one thing after release from prison cannot be overestimated. Employment is the single biggest factor that determines if an ex-inmate will return to prison or have a shot at a second chance.

One of the hardest obstacles to overcome for anyone leaving prison is finding a job. It is estimated that over half of the businesses in this country will not consider hiring a person that has a felony conviction. At the same time, a study done by the Indiana Department of Corrections found that unemployed felons are more than twice as likely to commit another crime than those that are employed.

So how do we change this? Get businesses to understand how their “no felons” policies impact job seekers that have been to prison. Barriers to employment kept 1.9 million Americans from working in 2014, costing the economy $78 to $87 billion in annual GDP in 2014.

A job alone can reduce recidivism by up to 20%, yet for many, submitting 100 resumes for jobs might get them 10 to 15 interviews. Imagine how discouraging that can be, especially when most of those jobs are low wage, menial labor jobs.

What can businesses do? It’s pretty simple. Forbidding businesses from asking if an applicant has a felony is really not viable. For instance, a bank can be excused for not wanting to hire an embezzler, even as a janitor, and schools can also be excused for not wanting to hire a sex offender, even as a janitor.

But if a school was to hire an embezzler as a janitor, he would have no access to money so his chances of embezzling school funds is lower than the chances of a school board treasurer pocketing thousands of dollars. If a bank hired a sex offender as a janitor, chances are he would be working after the bank closes, which reduces the pool of potential victims to zero.

In other jobs, if a felon is qualified, businesses should give them the same consideration as they give other applicants. As it is right now, a person without a criminal record and poor qualifications will be hired ahead of a well qualified applicant with a criminal record. That needs to change.

What do businesses get out of it? Many, if not most felons, are desperate to find a job to support themselves, their families and live a law-abiding life. As a result of a company giving a felon a second chance, the business that hires them has a fiercely loyal, extremely dependable employee. Their turnover rate will drop, saving them money in the long run. The uptick in the economy through the increase in GDP means more people have money to spend, increasing the companies’ bottom line.

In the end, it’s a win-win situation all the way around.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on June 3, 2018 01:40

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