On the heels of the 15th Annual Kansas Workforce Summit in late January, representatives from more than 62 local businesses gathered in Wichita to discuss hiring people with criminal records.
Designed for corporate leaders, the forum featured two panels of local Kansas employers and members of community and state agencies. The director of the CSG Justice Center’s Corrections and Reentry division, Stefan LoBuglio (pictured left), also spoke about the national perspective on employment and reentry.
In Kansas, four out of nine people possess a criminal record. Although the Wichita City Council voted in July 2015 to “ban the box” that asks whether applicants have a criminal record on its job applications—following the lead of dozens of other states and hundreds of cities and counties —there’s still more to be done, said panelist and Wichita City Council member LaVonta Williams.
“[The City of Wichita is] proud of what we have done, but we have a way to go,” she said during the panel discussion. “I hope that we can help individuals understand that there is hope when they come out of incarceration.”
Cory Brock, an employment retention and workforce development specialist with the Kansas Department of Corrections (DOC), explained the process of matching people leaving prison with appropriate jobs. This, he said, is achieved through collaboration between the DOC and community-based organizations, such as the Wichita Workforce Center, which connects DOC staff with local business owners.
Kurt Level, associate general counsel of labor and employment for Koch Industries—which has also “banned the box” on its employment applications—said the corporation has been successful in hiring employees with criminal records, while also navigating the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines.
“We think it should be about reform and redemption,” Level said. “It’s up to employers to give individuals a second chance…Nothing stops recidivism like a job.”
The forum was hosted by the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, in conjunction with the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Wichita Society for Human Resource Management and is part of the growing conversation across the country between business leaders and policymakers on improving employment outcomes for individuals with criminal records. It is modeled on an event held in June 2014 at the White House and is inspired by “State Pathways to Prosperity,” an initiative of The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, which is supported by the CSG Justice Center’s Reentry and Employment project.
To learn more how you can host similar conversations in your jurisdiction, click here, or contact Stephanie Akhter for more information.
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