Second Chance

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The employability of ex-offenders returning to society “is a moral imperative and should be a central focal point of the criminal justice reform agenda,” according to a report titled “A better path forward for criminal justice: Training and employment for correctional populations” by the Brookings-AEI Working Group on Criminal Justice Reform.

The report by Grant Duwe, Research Director – Minnesota Department of Corrections, Adjunct Scholar – American Enterprise Institute, and Makada Henry-Nickie, Fellow – Governance Studies, found “access to legal employment is key to reducing recidivism and the post-prison social disabilities that returning citizens endure.”

The report – the sixth chapter from “A Better Path Forward for Criminal Justice” – found that “increasing access to quality academic education and occupational skills-based training that builds a skill base to meet the needs of the current labor market will significantly increase access to sustainable post-prison employment opportunities.”

The report stated: “Increasing access to gainful employment for returning citizens relies on seamlessly articulating multi-jurisdictional policies into a coordinated strategy across three (3) critical pillars: workforce training, educational upgrading, and regulatory employment barriers.” The recommendations include:

  • Short-Term Reform: Deepen Pell Grant Investments for Incarcerated Individuals
  • Medium-Term Reform: Expand Pre-Release Workforce Development Services
  • Long-Term Reform: Reform Employment-based Criminal Background Checks

“Without a doubt, education and employment are linked. The approved COVID-19 Economic Relief legislation reinstated the Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students. This legislation reversed approximately three decades of government-sanctioned educational segregation,” the report stated.

“The federal government should center the public workforce development system in policy responses aimed at improving quality employment outcomes for returning citizens,” the report stated, specifically mentioning the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) now-dormant Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP) program.

“Employers’ growing and widespread use of algorithmic criminal background checks raise serious concerns about background check data… Policymakers should target other consequential screening barriers, such as the accuracy of criminal records that have been shown to adversely affect employment prospects,” the report stated.

Second chance programs and reentry laws that help allow ex-offenders with a prior criminal record to have an opportunity to find work will continue to evolve, according to the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2021 compiled by leading global background check firm Employment Screening Resources® (ESR).

Attorney Lester Rosen, ESR founder and chief executive officer (CEO), wrote the article “Starting a First Chance Movement is Critical to the Success of the Second Chance Movement” about how a First Chance movement should impact factors that lead a person to the criminal justice system and incarceration in the first place.

“Rather than ask employers to bear the brunt of the burden to provide employment opportunities for former offenders, the entire country should focus on providing a means to deflect people away from the criminal justice system in the first place,” wrote Rosen, the author of “The Safe Hiring Manual” (3rd Edition).

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – which was named the #1 screening firm in 2020 by HRO Today – offers a white paper on “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce,” an “ESR Ban the Box Resource Guide,” and a Ban the Box Resource Page. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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