Last year, Massachusetts passed legislation representing the most significant changes to the state’s criminal justice system in decades. This legislation took concrete steps to incentivize good behavior in prison, divert people to treatment and programming as an alternative to incarceration, and strengthen community supervision.
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“As a new governor, I have great respect for the innovative work that past Connecticut leaders have done to reduce our prison population and prepare people for their return to the community—all while driving crime down. But we have to build on that success. There’s far more work to be done to ensure that Connecticut is as safe and successful as possible.”
In November 2018, WI DOC’s Oakhill Correctional Institution (OCI) opened an in-house job center to help people who are incarcerated prepare for employment after they reenter the community.
“Part of the success of this has been an openness to identifying how we can do things differently in our community when it comes to mental health care and the criminal justice system,” said Paula Verrett, a NAMI recovery specialist who has worked directly with the OCMHC since its inception.
The 10th anniversary of the passage of SCA is an opportune moment to reflect on the changes in criminal justice policy and practice that have taken place over time.
This is the first in a series of posts on aspects of successful reentry. Each post will include curated resources related to the featured reentry topic.
While many approaches were touted, governors urged the use of research-based strategies proven to be effective, including technical skill and workforce development programs as well as addiction and mental health treatment provided during incarceration.
The White House, joined by a bipartisan pair of governors, led a discussion with executives from large and small businesses on the challenges and benefits of hiring people who have criminal records.
When Dave’s Killer Bread managers find out an applicant has a record, they see it not as a deterrent, but as “an opportunity to have a candid conversation about that person’s past and what they’re looking for in the future.”
“They knew I had a record, but I was never judged,” Haley George said. “They don’t treat me like I’m a number at that plant, they treat me like I’m a person.”
As of September 2017, 51 Vocational Village program participants had been released on parole, 16 of which had secured employment prior to their release. Thirty-eight of the 51 are currently employed.
During their visit, Gov. Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg met with inmates participating in Iowa’s largest apprenticeship program, in addition to leading a roundtable discussion with many of the program’s stakeholders and local business leaders where they discussed the importance of providing reentry services and employment opportunities for those being released from prisons and jails.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections was one of five organizations in the country to receive the 2017 Outstanding Criminal Justice Program Award from the National Criminal Justice Association for its High-Risk Revocation Reduction program.
The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, in partnership with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, has been awarded a $500,000 contract to help support businesses in hiring people with criminal records. The proposal was selected by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Reentry Resource Center in a competitive process from a pool of more than 60 applicants.
New York Nonprofit (NYN) Media recently recognized Stephanie Akhter, the CSG Justice Center’s Reentry and Employment Program director, as one of 30 Front-Line Heroes chosen from a pool of 250 nominees.
“These grants are an important step in fulfilling our promise as a land of second chances by moving beyond locking people up and instead working together to unlock their potential,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.
After a conviction, people often face severe, unanticipated penalties beyond the court’s sentence, commonly known as collateral consequences. More than half of all collateral consequences are employment related, according to the National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction. For example, in an effort to advance public safety and ensure high-quality services, states require licenses for particular businesses or occupations, such as health care professionals, transportation specialists and cosmetologists.
Several presenters at the event pointed to the SmartHire program—a public-private partnership funded by the State of California and Santa Cruz County that pre-screens and subsidizes qualified candidates for their first six months on the job—as an incentive for employers to hire people with records.
Often times, one word stands in the way of connecting people who need jobs with the jobs that need to be filled, according to Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary and member of The Council of State Governments Justice Center Board John Wetzel. “Think of the term ‘offender,’” said Wetzel. “We tell someone coming out of the back end of our system, ‘We want you to do well. We want you to work,’ but then we put a nametag on their chest that says ‘offender.’ That’s not setting folks up for success.”
Washington is one state that has been deliberate in its efforts to promote job readiness and vocational success for its incarcerated youth, many of whom are 18 to 20 years of age. From October 2013 to September 2015, Washington State’s Juvenile Rehabilitation division—which operates juvenile correctional facilities across the state under the Department of Social and Health Services—administered a Job Readiness to Employment Project called Manufacturing Academy, made possible through a 2013 Second Chance Act Juvenile Demonstration grant.
Although the guide was developed as a tool for Second Chance Act grantees, its exercises and supporting resources may be helpful for other reentry programs.
RESET, which is funded by a 2014 Second Chance Act grant, is a six-month program designed specifically for women and implemented through a partnership between a residential reentry center and a nonprofit behavioral health agency. A typical participant in RESET has a co-occurring substance use and mental disorder and a moderate- to high-risk of committing another crime.
For Stephanie Mason—human resources manager at Dunn Building Company in Birmingham, Alabama—what appears on a potential employee’s job application is not necessarily the most important factor to consider when hiring.
Michael Thompson, director of the CSG Justice Center, examines the results of a recent evaluation of a federal reentry program and asks: What happens when a program or policy championed by data loyalists doesn’t yield the positive results they’d hoped for?
Leaders of 25 local businesses joined Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and other state and city officials on Oct. 14 to promote employment opportunities for people formerly involved with the justice system.
In 2012, three Michigan-based employers—Butterball Farms, Cascade Engineering, and Grand Rapids Community College—set out to prove to the business community what they had known for years: hiring people with criminal records is an investment worth making.
“Returning citizens will tell you that not having a job is the biggest barrier to success,” said Barbara L. McQuade (pictured left), U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, at an employment event last month in Detroit. “If we don’t help them, it’s a recipe for recidivism.”
Working I.T. Out’s job readiness training, which focuses in part on hard skills directly related to job operations and functions, is delivered in partnership with Hostos Community College in the Bronx, while the New York City Department of Education teaches participants essential computer literacy skills. Soft skills training, such as how to talk appropriately with customers and be a team player in the workplace, is provided by STRIVE International.
“It’s so easy to get in trouble,” Spruill said, “but it can take a lifetime to get out of it. That’s why you need that support, to help you remember to stay on track, stay patient.”
Engaging with business leaders, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, can provide criminal justice stakeholders “the opportunity to bring resources to the table to break the cycle of incarceration.”
A group of influential local business leaders joined state and local policymakers in Memphis last month to discuss opportunities and challenges associated with connecting individuals with criminal records to employment.
Each year in Indianapolis, 5,000 to 8,000 people return home from incarceration. To support these individuals’ successful reentry, local government and business leaders met in the capital city recently to discuss strategies for improving the employment outcomes of people with criminal records.
Sometimes, formerly incarcerated individuals simply lack the knowledge and skills that would make them employable; other times, they are barred from filling certain jobs by federal or state laws.
The NRRC, a project of the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, will provide intensive technical assistance to support the design and implementation of strategies that unite corrections and workforce development partners in Philadelphia and Milwaukee counties.
Margaret Love, executive director of the recently launched Collateral Consequences Resource Center, talks with the CSG Justice Center about the center’s mission, goals, and featured resources, including national and state-specific information on post-conviction restoration of civil rights laws and policies.
State leaders and business executives convened in Atlanta recently to address barriers to employment faced by individuals with criminal records, and to discuss strategies for improving employment outcomes.
Each year, 8,000 individuals leave prison or jail and return to their communities in Washington, DC. Within three years, however, about half of them will be reincarcerated. Studies show that having a stable job after release from incarceration can reduce recidivism. Yet a 2011 survey of 550 formerly incarcerated people in DC found that 46 percent of them reported being unemployed.
A team of researchers from Arizona State University recently conducted a three-year study on the impact of having a criminal record on employment-related outcomes, varying by race and gender.
This video from the National Institute of Justice features the findings of Dr. Scott Decker, Director of the Arizona State University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, who studied the impact of having criminal record on finding employment.
Business executives and policymakers found common ground during a meeting at the White House on Monday designed to review ways in which government can help—or hinder—efforts to improve employment outcomes for people with criminal records.
The National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP) recently hosted its 2014 Annual Conference, “Navigating the Rocky Road Together.”
Nebraska recently became the 11th state to pass “Ban the Box,” a law that removes questions about criminal records on state job applications.
The two technical assistance documents from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) explain how the agencies’ respective laws apply to background checks for employment purposes.
The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law have launched the Fair Employment Opportunities Project.
Beginning January 1, 2014, the General Education Development (GED) test is getting a facelift: it will be academically more challenging, more costly, and offered only in a computer-based format.
The What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse (the Clearinghouse) now includes new and updated research findings on the role of employment and education programs in improving reentry outcomes.
A chief focus of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council is to remove federal barriers to successful reentry so that individuals who have served their time and paid their debts are able to compete for a job, attain stable housing, support their children and their families, and contribute to their communities.
The question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” will no longer appear on applications for state and local government positions in California beginning July 1, 2014. Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) into law on October 10, 2013, prohibiting questions that request criminal background information on employment applications for local and state government positions.
By Mai P. Tran, Program Associate On September 26, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Employment and Training Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), along with the Council of State Governments Justice Center […]
By Stephanie Joson, Policy Analyst Last month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought formal charges against two employers for policies that resulted in individuals with certain criminal convictions being fired or automatically screened out as potential employees. On […]