Darcey McAllister, Principal Consultant, HRT Northwest, admits that she was one of those HR people reluctant to hire justice-involved individuals under the assumption that once trouble – always trouble. However, her husband, who worked in the court system for twenty years, helped her realize the error of this stereotyping. She recognized from hearing his stories that our society often sets up those released from prison for failure through a myriad of barriers to re-entry.
McAllister says human resources professionals can help break this cycle and tap into a talent pool that tends to have high loyalty to those willing to hire them (Helping Ex-Offenders Re-Enter the Workforce). There are a number of steps employers can take to support those re-entering the workforce, including:
Flexibility in work and training schedules. Employers who offer flexibility in work and training schedules can help justice-involved individuals comply with drug testing, reporting and other requirements. For this to be effective, managers, front-line supervisors and HR representatives need to understand the importance of providing these workers enough flexibility to make appointments with parole officers and comply with drug test requirements while still putting in a full day’s work.
Debt management. The key to being able to afford housing and other basic necessities is to help with debt management. Employers can assist ex-offenders by managing payroll deduction programs. Courts are often willing to negotiate lower payments when employers facilitate their payments directly.
Verification of employment. Working closely with people with criminal records makes the employer more likely to give a favorable verification of employment when they complete housing or car loan applications.
The National Transitional Jobs Network has published Tips for Working with Jobseekers Newly Released from Prison, which offers guidance on how to help justice-involved employees with a number of issues, including compliance with conditions of parole, child support obligations, access to documents and records and job readiness.
The California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit is a critical resource for employers, H.R. departments, corporate counsel and workforce development professionals on “Fair Chance” hiring. The toolkit and trainings are part of the larger national effort to increase employment and economic opportunities for the 1 in 3 Americans living with a criminal record, who are disproportionately low-income and people of color.
Many people with criminal backgrounds want the opportunity to start over, and getting support from employers to find and keep a job is an important key to realizing that dream.