30-2-2 programs encourage companies to hire ex-offenders

30-2-230-2-2. It’s a simple concept. Just get 30 companies to hire two workers leaving jail or prison and track their progress for two years. The idea is so simple, in fact, that it’s surprising that more communities haven’t adopted it. But maybe more would, if only they were aware of how this program works and the benefits it can offer.

It all started in Western Michigan. Specialty butter producer Butterball Farms, Cascade Engineering and Grand Rapids Community College launched the first 30-2-2 program in 2012.  That initial effort has grown to include 23 employers.

A consultant helped recruit the companies to get the program going, but in more recent years, local businesses have become involved by word of mouth, according to Carrie Link, personal assistant to Butterball Farms CEO and its 30-2-2 coordinator.

First program started with a couple of employers

“We started with one or two companies that hired these people, they told other companies that the people are good workers, and it spread,” she says.

During the first two years – 2014 to 2016 – 1,709 people were placed through the program, which is now in the midst of its second cycle that ends in July. Although there’s no 30-2-2 training course, some agencies that supply the candidates have their own training programs.

What are the main challenges for a program like 30-2-2?

“It’s dealing with the stigma surrounding people coming out of the prison system,” Link says. “Companies will say, ‘we don’t hire those kinds of people. He’s had a violent crime, so he’s going to be violent.’ But that’s not true, and the facts back that up. The challenge is how to educate the community of people who can hire these people.”

New Orleans 30-2+2 Reentry Collaborative launched by U.S. Attorney’s Office

While the original 30-2-2 was a private sector program created by local business leaders, the 30-2+2 Reentry Collaborative in New Orleans was launched by Kenneth Polite, the former district attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Louisiana, to help improve public safety, reduce recidivism and provide talent to local employers.

In the beginning the program drew participants from a unique program at Angola – also known as the Louisiana State Penitentiary – and continues to do so. Low level drug offenders can be sentenced to serve their time at Angola and participate in a reentry program that offers 19 areas of hard skills training in which they can get certificates in things like welding or refrigeration. The program also includes 100 hours of soft skills training,

When the 30-2+2 Reentry Collaborative began, the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court identified the potential reentry candidates. It has expanded dramatically, however. “Now every parish criminal court in the state of Louisiana is authorized to send inmates to the program,” says Poiite.

Many Angola inmates are lifers who have gone through various trainings, and some of those lifers become mentors for the reentry program participants.

“The only way you could graduate from the reentry program was if the mentor determined that you were prepared to return back to society,’ says Polite. “And because we saw that mentor component being so important behind bars, we thought it would be equally important to have mentors while individuals were back on the street and engaging in employment.”

Although current 30-2+2 mentors are recruited from the local business community, many of the original mentors were formerly incarcerated employees of Goodwill Industries. The Angola program served as the pipeline for employee candidates, and the original employers were first solicited at a New Orleans Chamber of Commerce symposium. It took a few months for the first employer, Harrah’s Casino, to come onboard, and a bit of “arm twisting” for others to follow.

“We said the that these (people released from Angola) are fairly safe bets for you and that they would turn out to be successful employees given the effort that they made behind bars,” Polite says.

Polite says that other communities considering starting one of these programs need to know “that a lot of these individuals really want to be successful. They’re often walking out of prison with some training, soft skills and rehabilitation behind them. They are finding doors closed in their faces over and over again. If employers are willing to take the chance, these are very loyal and very hard-working individuals.”

They make good employees, but they also offer special challenges. “Employers have to be patient. They’re going to have challenges in terms of such obligations as court proceedings and probation hearings. An employer has to allow people to get their lives back together,” Polite says.

Latest program created in southern Illinois

The 30-2-2 program in Michigan and 30-2+2 Reentry Collaborative in Louisiana inspired Chris Hoell, assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, to create a similar program. He was actually brought on to his current job at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Fairview Heights Ill., as one of 90 reentry and prevention coordinators hired across the country. These were all a part of the Obama administration’s Attorney General’s Smart on Crime Initiative.

Hoell’s office began placing employees in positions in August, after a year of a consultant running around the area knocking on about 250 employers’ doors. Hoell sat in on meetings with those who were having reservations and with the bigger companies. His territory covers the lower 36 counties of the state of Illinois, a region that ranges from rural farm communities to East St. Louis, one of nation’s most poverty stricken and highest crime areas.

At press time, 33 employers had signed up, and Hoell was in talks with several more, including Amazon.

“Some companies were immediately on board. I was surprised by that. Others had reservations. How would it look to their employees and customers? Would there be an increase in crime or theft? The normal things people are worried about but statistics don’t back them up,” he says.

To find employees, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with the probation department and asking the probation officers to recommend candidates.

“One of our selling points (to hiring managers) is the people we want to send you have a probation officer. They have a requirement to work. They’re being drug tested. If you have a problem you can call the probation department,” Hoell says.

In addition, the Illinois Bureau of Prisons has well established training programs, and people are coming out with certificates in various trades. “Most people who want to work have availed themselves of everything they could either while in prison or after they got out,” Hoell adds.

What it takes to start a 30-2-2 program

“The biggest thing you need is sweat equity – to get out and knock on doors and educate people,” he says. “There are plenty of people getting out of prison who have no desire to go back. It’s finding those employers who are willing to take a chance and make the connection happen.”

Once the connection is made, employers have been satisfied with the hires. “We’ve had nothing but positive feedback, but they’re always taking a chance. What I stress is that everyone is not just a felon, but a person with a story and a background. These people have so much to lose. And beyond that, most workplace violence is committed by people without any criminal background.”

Hoell hopes that more people will do what he did. “I would encourage anyone who has an interest to do it. It took a lot of work and help from other people, but there’s nothing special about me or my background to make this happen. And there’s a need for it everywhere,” he says.

Those interested in starting their own

Communities interested in starting their own 30-2-2 program may wish to contact one of the already existing programs highlighted in this article.

Finding a few key initial potential employers will take a bit of effort but will form the foundation for a program. It will take a lot of networking and knocking on doors, and it might be easier to hire a consultant to help with this endeavor.

To source employee candidates, contact local area probation and parole offices and reentry organizations. The Lionheart Foundation maintains a state-by-state database of reentry programs that could be helpful.

How to hire health care workers from a unique population – those with criminal records

hire health care workersHospitals and health care agencies and facilities are scrambling to fill a rapidly growing need for workers at every level. And there’s a population that’s eager and ready to fill those positions.

That population is people with criminal records, and if Johns Hopkins Medicine is any indication, they make pretty good workers. Johns Hopkins Medicine operates six hospitals and other medical facilities and has pioneered hiring formerly incarcerated individuals to work in them. In fact, about 20 percent of entry level hires have come from this population each year over the past decade.

A five-year study of nearly 500 people it hired with records showed a lower turnover during the first 40 months of these employees than non-offenders. A further study found that 73 out of 79 employees with serious records were still employed after three to six years. The organization published The Johns Hopkins Hospital Success in Hiring Ex-Offenders to explain why and how they do it.

Now other health care facilities that would like to hire people with records have a step-by-step guide that will lead them through the process. Chicago’s Safer Foundation and the National Employment Law Project have published A Healthcare Employer Guide to Hiring People with Arrest and Conviction Records: Seizing the Opportunity to Tap a Large, Diverse Workforce.

The comprehensive 61-page toolkit covers the why and how to of hiring people with records and offers success stories of those who have been hired and facilities that have hired people from this population.

Urgent need for workers in an employment sector that will become the nation’s largest

The need is urgent as the toolkit points out. During the next decade health care will become the nation’s largest employment sector, with an estimated addition of 3.8 million jobs. At the same time, an estimated nearly 700,000 people are being released from jails and prisons each year and need employment.

The toolkit urges institutions and organizations to seriously consider hiring some of those people.

“Given the burgeoning market for healthcare services and the forecasted competition for skilled workers, we encourage you to fully consider qualified people with records when filling healthcare job openings,” it says. “The singular demand for workers combined with the nation’s recognition of the need for criminal justice reform presents an opportunity for you to invest in previously untapped talent pools, including people with arrest or conviction records.”

This toolkit, among other things:

  • Dispels the many myths about hiring ex-offenders.
  • Explains why hiring people with records is good for a business because, it can
    • help enlarge its talent pool
    • reduce recruiting costs
    • increase diversity and corporate social responsibility
    • help an institution or service comply with federal employment laws
    • reduce turnover by hiring loyal employees
    • increase quality of health care by hiring people who understand vulnerable populations
    • take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Federal Bonding Program, both government incentive programs

The major goal of the toolkit is to offer a step-by-step guide to hiring people with arrest or conviction records.

Things to consider when hiring people with records

Here is a brief outline of the steps to follow:

Step 1: Be careful of the language you use. Not all people with records spent time in prison, so avoid terms like ex-offender or formerly incarcerated.

Step 2: Do not automatically exclude applicants with a record, and create fair screening standards.

Step 3: Ban the box on application forms in order to give people with a record a fair chance.

Step 4: Don’t make decisions on the applicant’s suitability based on what they self-disclose, because they could be confused or have misinformation about their conviction.

Step 5: If you must do a background check, use a reliable company and allow the applicant a chance to verify the accuracy of the information it provides.

Step 6: If employment is denied as the result of a background check, the employer should give the applicant a pre-adverse action notice with a copy of the background check. The employer should also indicate the offense that disqualified them from being hired and offer an opportunity to present evidence of rehabilitation before a final hiring decision is made.

Step 7: After all of the evidence is considered, either hire the candidate or formally rescind the offer in writing.

The toolkit recommends working with community-based intermediary groups. Doing so ensures a pipeline of suitable employees, and the toolkit gives seven tips on how to create effective relationships with those sourcing partners.

A section on workforce development best practices and a chart that serves as an example of a career pathway for a person interested in advancing in the health care field round out the resources of this useful toolkit.

 

Root & Rebound publishes toolkit to enlighten employers on the value of hiring ex-offenders

Root & ReboundOakland, Calif.-based nonprofit Root & Rebound has published the California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit. This 28-page toolkit is not just an exceptional resource for companies and organizations that are committed to – or considering – hiring those with criminal records. It can also be used by jobseekers from that population as a persuasive tool to enlighten potential employers on the considerations and benefits they would gain from hiring them.

Although it may be hard to believe, nearly one out of three Americans has a criminal record. As the economy continues to grow and demand for additional workers steadily rises, it will become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to ignore that segment of the population.

In fact, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in 2014 between 1.7 and 1.9 million U.S. workers weren’t hired because they had criminal records. This resulted in an estimated loss of $78 to $87 billion in annual gross domestic product.

Hiring fair chance employees makes economic sense

Hiring those with criminal records makes economic sense both in the big picture and for companies themselves, but most employers still need to be convinced.

More than 40 large corporations and nearly 250 small- and medium-sized businesses, however, have already taken the Fair Chance Business Pledge created by the Obama White House in late 2015. These businesses have promised to give people with criminal records, including those who have been incarcerated, a fair chance at employment. We suggest you review these businesses that have taken the pledge to see if there are any you might want to consider adding to your list of 100 employers to pursue.

While this is a beginning and brings attention to the issue, it’s crucial that more companies become committed to hiring second-chance employees. And that’s where Root & Rebound’s toolkit comes in.

Toolkit provides extensive info for all employers

Although it’s geared toward California employers, much of the advice and most of the action steps it recommends can be useful to employers no matter which state they operate within.

The California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit covers:

  • The rewards of hiring fair chance workers.
  • The best practices for onboarding and training fair chance workers.
  • How to choose a reliable background check company.
  • Legal compliance and minimizing risks involved.
Giving copy of Toolkit to the hiring manager shows initiative and having their best interests in mind.

As you interview for jobs, along with your turnaround packet you may want to print out and provide the hiring manager with a copy of the toolkit to offer them information on the additional benefits that they might receive by hiring you and what steps they need to take to do so. If you live in California, this toolkit covers all the basics that an employer needs to know. If you live in another state, check with your local American Job Center to ask for help in adding relevant state-related information.

Benefits of hiring fair chance workers

The toolkit includes evidence that fair chance employees can benefit a company or organization by highlighting:

  • Case studies of companies that have hired second-chance employees with great success. For example, Johns Hopkins Health System & Hospital, Dave’s Killer Bread and Butterball Farms all have hired a substantial number of employees with criminal records and found that their turnover rate is lower than that of those without records.
  • Testimonials from executives of companies that have been actively hiring fair chance employees for many years.

Root & Rebound’s California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit is very well put together and an excellent resource for both employers and job seekers alike.

 

Uber CEO offers second chance to those with criminal records

Uber CEOIt’s not often that executives of well-known companies come out publicly in favor of giving those with criminal records a chance in the hiring process. But that’s what Travis Kalanick, co-founder and CEO of Uber, did earlier this month in an Op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to him, the impetus was California’s Proposition 47, which was passed in November 2014 and reclassified some nonviolent crimes that had previously been felonies as misdemeanors. Uber aligned its hiring practices accordingly.

“As a result, 3,300 people have signed up to drive with Uber to earn a living and stand on their own two feet — in one state (California) alone,” he wrote. “Imagine how many more life-changing opportunities we could create if other states followed suit.”

Kalanick’s attitude toward criminal justice evolves

Running Uber has changed Kalanick’s ideas about criminal justice reform.

“I’d never really thought deeply about criminal justice reform before starting Uber. Now I realize reform is desperately needed. For example, the FBI records many companies use to do background checks don’t include up-to-date data on whether an arrest resulted in a charge or conviction. So if someone is arrested and subsequently acquitted, their “record” may not show that they’re innocent,” he went on to state in the S.F. Chronicle piece.

No matter how you may feel about Uber or working in the so-called “sharing economy,” signing up as an Uber driver may give people in reentry or those having trouble finding work a chance to earn a little extra money or even gain self employment. Those who can’t find full-time work may choose to drive for Uber part time as a second gig – especially during the busy hours when they’re likely to make more money by picking up more riders or the late hours when rates are increased.

Uber driver pay scales

According to press reports – and drivers themselves – the pay for being an Uber driver is far less than Uber claims. In a May 27, 2014 blog posting in the Uber online newsroom, the company claims that the potential income for its UberX drivers is as much as $90,766 per year in New York City and $74,191 in San Francisco.

One Uber driver and blogger at the site I Drive With Uber says he makes between $20 and $25 per hour (in Los Angeles), and the average Uber Driver makes $19 per hour natioinwide. He also says that the average Uber driver in the U.S. can make about $40,000 after expenses and taxes but doesn’t mention whether car wear and tear is included in expenses.

Gary Campbell, a former aerospace engineer who used to drive for Uber and Lyft part time while working at Boeing, left his full-time job to be a blogger known as The Rideshare Guy.

He publishes a free Uber Driver Training Guide on his site for those who might be considering driving for Uber but want to know more about what that experience might be like. The guide covers all the basics, from pay scales and sign-up bonuses to driver and car requirements.

Those with criminal records who decide they might like to be Uber drivers may be happy to know that the company has banned the box on its application form.

And CEO Kalanick has created an opportunity for those with ambitions and willing to work hard to get back on their feet.

“Crime is wrong,” he says. “But once a person has served their time, we need to give them a second chance. Consigning millions of Americans to a life of unemployment — with all the costs that entails — may be the easier option. It’s certainly not the best one for our country.”

 

No. 1 way employers find new employees to hire

new employeesWhat’s the No. 1 way employers find new employees? It’s not what you might think.

Forget the online job boards. Forget employment agencies or headhunters. The No. 1 way employers find new employees is through a referral from a colleague.

At least that’s according to recruiting think tank CareerXroads’ Source of Hire 2015, an annual report that tracks how major companies hire employees and one that career coach and author Marty Nemko mentioned in a recent Psychology Today blog article.

Companies find about 20% of new employees through referrals

The organization found that referrals were the top source for hiring, with companies filling about 20% of their openings through employee referrals.

This is in contrast to the 13% of hires that came from social media and job boards.

In addition, the report stated that “a job seeker who is referred is conservatively three to four times more likely to be hired – some studies have found that a job seeker who is referred is 14 times more likely to be hired – than someone who applies for a position without a referral.”

Keep in mind that CareerXroads sends its survey out to 250 of the nation’s largest companies, so what applies to their hiring managers may not always be applicable to smaller companies. But it still will give you an idea of how many companies are finding their employees.

The survey also found a 3% increase in temp-to-hire, which follows a trend among companies to transition part-time and contingent workers into full-timers. This is also something to keep in mind, because temporary employment can provide a good foot in the door for those looking for a job.

So knowing the situation, what can you, as a job seeker, do?

The most important thing is to get on the radar of hiring managers, whether in big companies or small.

And one of the best ways to do this comes from workforce development expert Larry Robbin. He calls what is usually referred to as a network a circle of contacts and suggests looking at this circle of contacts like a target.

Here’s how it works

Take out a big piece of paper and put your name in the center. That’s the bull’s eye. Put the names of the people who you are closest to – these would be your family and best friends – in the first ring. Then put other friends and relatives outside your immediate family in the next ring. Keep filling in the outer rings with more and more people you know but may not know very well. When you run out of people, your circle of contacts will be complete.

What’s interesting about this whole circle of contacts idea is research has found that people tend to find jobs more through acquaintances than from close friends. The chances are pretty good that you’ll get your next job through someone you don’t know very well or see very often.

The reason is that the people you know well will have many of the same contacts that you do, but those you don’t know will have an entirely different set of contacts – and one of those may be the key to your next job.

What we’ve found is that people are usually happy to help others in their job search. We’ve all been there before and know what a tough road it is. So don’t be shy. Put together a circle of contacts and get in touch with as many of them as you can.

Who knows. Your next job might come from another customer of the stores you go to, who just happened to mention when they were in shopping that they were looking for someone who does the type of work you do. Or maybe the spiritual leader at your place of worship heard that a member was going out on maternity leave and needed someone to take her place for six months. Or a friend of a friend’s company is expanding and looking for more employees.

The only thing you have to do is get the word out. Although what happens from there involves a bit of luck, by reaching out you can be assured that luck is more likely to come your way.

 

Dave’s Killer Bread helps create second chance employers

Dave's Killer BreadHow does one become a second chance employer, and why aren’t more companies doing it? Maybe they don’t know how.

But there’s a new way to learn the ropes. One company that knows very well, Dave’s Killer Bread, has increased its efforts to encourage more employers to embrace second chance employment.

And the company is doing that through its Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation, the nonprofit arm that the Milwaukee, Ore.,-based organic bread maker launched early last year. The foundation is creating a variety of programs, including more Second Chance Summits and a Second Chance Playbook, as well as a Second Chance Network to be launched in the future.

The reason for the foundation?

“It’s the formalization of the work we’ve been doing as a company over the past decade in hiring people with criminal backgrounds,” says Genevieve Martin, the foundation’s director.

“What we learned in talking to our partners and nonprofits and government agencies is that there aren’t enough employers who will look at this part of the workforce, and we decided to be leaders in expanding employment opportunities for people with criminal backgrounds.” And the foundation is in the process of putting together more programs to do this.

First Second Chance Summit on East Coast

Although it has held two Second Chance Summits in Portland, the DKB Foundation will host its first 2016 Second Chance Summit East at The New School in New York City on May 24.

The day’s events will include a keynote address by Glenn Martin, founder and president of Just Leadership USA, and a panel of second chance employers who will address the topic of debunking myths. Food will be prepared by the Snow Day Food Truck operated by Drive Change.

The goal is to bring together like-minded employers who can work together to bring about change. “We didn’t want to confine ourselves to speaking only our story the Dave’s Killer bread way. Our way won’t work for everyone. The foundation is collaborative,” Martin says.

Playbook teaches companies how to be second chance employers

The Second Chance Playbook, which launched this month, is a collection of videos on a variety of topics educating companies on issues related to second chance employment. They’re each three to five minutes long, something that employers can watch during their lunch or coffee breaks, according to Martin.

The videos include interviews with subject matter experts, including h.r. professionals in organizations that hire people with criminal backgrounds, an insurance broker speaking about risk mitigation, and people talking about federal incentives that companies can take advantage of, EEOC compliance and background checks, among other subjects.

The Playbook has launched with 10 videos on the foundation’s website and is available to anyone free of charge. All one has to do is register.

Second Chance Network will bring employers together

Another initiative, the Second Chance Network, is coming soon and will have three layers.

“One will be second chance employers who are interested in mentoring other organizations and are fine in being a mouthpiece. They’re the true champions,” said Martin.

“Another layer is going to highlight re-entry hubs (around the nation) that can supply resources, and the third layer that we’re paying the most attention to is speaking with employers to encourage them to look at programs and staffing networks through which they can recruit from directly.”

The foundation, which gets funding from Dave’s Killer Bread company as well as private donors, is dedicated to being an agent of change.

“What’s most important for people to understand is that business has the power to affect true change right now. We don’t have to wait for legislation or nonprofits to get more funding,” says Martin. “A business can decide tomorrow that they will hire one person, and that will make a huge impact and ripple across the country.”

 

Council of State Governments helps lower employment barriers

The Council of State Governments inspired the Greenville, S.C., Chamber of Commerce to hold the Corporate Leader Engagement Breakfast to discuss the barriers to hiring people with criminal records.

The Council of State Governments inspired Greenville, S.C., Chamber of Commerce’s Corporate Leader Engagement Breakfast in which business leaders and others came together to discuss the barriers to hiring people with criminal records.

To get returning citizens back to work and help reduce recidivism is a monumental task, an effort that takes an entire community to tackle.

Representatives from the public and private sectors ranging from corrections to corporations need to work together to change policies, procedures and, most importantly, attitudes.

And that is beginning to happen in cities across the nation, thanks to the nonprofit The Council of State Governments’ Pathways to Prosperity initiative.

The initiative, part of the National Reentry Resource Center of the CSG Justice Center, seeks to provide a policy and practice framework for states to better address workforce needs and to equip citizens with the skills, knowledge and qualifications needed for the 21st century global economy.

It does this by inspiring other organizations to hold events that bring people together to make change in the hiring arena and eradicate the employment barriers that exist for formerly incarcerated individuals.

CSG’s effort was launched last summer at the White House and has continued across the nation with a series of events including, most recently, in Greenville, S.C.; Detroit; and Atlanta.

In May, the Greenville, S.C., Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Corporate Leader Engagement Breakfast attended by 30 employers, as well as community leaders, policymakers and corrections officials. They met to discuss the barriers to hiring people with criminal records and determine the best way to overcome them.

“Employers are looking to hire folks who are loyal, drug free and produce quality work,” said Robyn Knox, planning director at Southern Weaving Company, a Greenville business that hires people with criminal records, and one of the speakers at the event.

“We would not be in business today if these folks were not good workers,” said Knox, who went on to note that criminal records don’t affect staff retention. There is “no statistical difference in turnover,” she said, between her company’s employees who have records and its employees who don’t.

In Detroit, another event with a similar purpose was held during the same month, hosted in that city by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with support from the Detroit Public Safety Foundation.

Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, gave the keynote address, urging businesses to adopt “ban the box” policies.

The author and activist cited Tim Hortons, Home Depot, and Target as examples of companies that have adopted fair hiring policies. By providing job opportunities for people with criminal records, she said, “these companies are not just banning the box, they are making a serious effort to reshape the reentry landscape moving forward.”

Meanwhile, the Southern Regional Summit on Fair Hiring, which took place on May 18 in Atlanta, brought together more than 100 policymakers, business representatives and community service providers from seven southern states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee – to discuss creating employment opportunities for adults with criminal records.

The event was hosted by the National H.I.R.E. Network of the Legal Action Center, with support from the National Reentry Resource Center.

These events are part of the growing conversation across the country between business leaders and policymakers who are working to improve employment outcomes for individuals with criminal records.

It can be a win-win situation, with returning citizens eager to enter the job market and employers gaining access to a frequently overlooked talent pool in a tightening job market.

To learn how you can hold a similar event in your area contact the Justice Center of The Council of State Governments.

 

Council of State Governments creates Pathways to Prosperity

The Pathways to Prosperity event in Atlanta last year attracted a large crowd of corporate executives, judges, workforce development officials and correctional officials, among others.

The Atlanta Pathways to Prosperity event held late last year attracted a large crowd of corporate executives, workforce development officials and correctional officials, among others.

The attitude of employers is often the biggest obstacle to employment for those with criminal records. It’s almost like hitting the proverbial brick wall.

But the Council of State Governments is out to change those entrenched attitudes. This nonprofit organization works with local, state and federal policymakers to strengthen communities and increase public safety and has created the Pathways to Prosperity initiative.

The initiative, part of the National Reentry Resource Center of the organization’s Justice Center, seeks to provide a policy and practice framework for states to better address workforce needs and to equip citizens with the skills, knowledge and qualifications needed for the 21st century global economy.

And part of this initiative is inspiring cities around the nation to find ways that the public and private sectors can work together to provide employment opportunities to people with criminal records.

Launched last summer at the White House, the initial event, moderated by U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, included state-level policymakers, leaders from the corrections and workforce development field, nonprofit leaders, government officials and business executives from companies such as Home Depot, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, and Tim Hortons, Inc. It was virtually attended by more than 1,650 corrections, reentry and labor professionals from 41 states.

That original event has sparked others. So far they’ve taken place in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Indianapolis, Memphis and Los Angeles. Organized by various entities, usually a chamber of commerce or a nonprofit organization, these events have included a variety of attendees.

“There’s a mix of different stakeholders,” says Phoebe Potter, director of the Justice Center’s behavioral health program. “Businesses are our primary stakeholders, but we’re also encouraging local and state officials, core policymakers at the state and local level, corrections officials, workforce development professionals and other providers to become involved.”

Each event is different, depending on the place and the goals of the sponsoring organization. Here are the details of the past gatherings:

  • Los Angeles: This February event, sponsored by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, was held at the Men’s Central Jail, the first of these gatherings to take place in a correctional institution. It brought business leaders together with correction officials.
  • Memphis: Organized by the CSG’s National Reentry Resource Center and Memphis Tomorrow, this closed-door event held in January served as a preliminary dialogue among a group that included business executives, Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton, Jr., among other state and local leaders.
  • Indianapolis: Sponsored by the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and the Marion County Reentry Coalition, the December event drew attendees to the city’s Ironworker’s Union Hall. A city-county council member, the deputy director of the city’s Department of Public Safety and executives from local businesses addressed the group.
  • Atlanta: Business leaders from companies like Home Depot, judges, workforce development officials, correctional officials and others attended this large-scale gathering in November.
  • Washington, D.C.: DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, corporate executives and officials from the EEOC and DC Office on Returning Citizens Affairs were among the speakers at the September event, which was sponsored by the Council for Court Justice,

What does The Council on State Governments hope these events will achieve?

“Our initial ask was just to talk, to start a dialogue. We felt that what was missing was a chance to help break down some of the stigma, the concerns about this population,” said Potter. “We really want to think about solutions that are collaborative – that businesses can get behind.”

To learn how you can hold a similar event in your area contact the Justice Center of The Council of State Governments.

 

Root and Rebound guides employers in hiring the formerly incarcerated

Sonja Tonnesen, Alton (Coach) McSween, and Katherine Katcher

Root and Rebound’s Deputy Director Sonja Tonnesen, community partner Alton “Coach” McSween, and Founder & Executive Director Katherine Katcher.

Root and Rebound, a Berkeley, Calif., based legal advocacy nonprofit organization, has published the Guide for California Employers: Hiring People With Criminal Records.

Using a question-and-answer format, this 13-page guide lays out all the basics that California employers interested in hiring those with criminal records need to know. It covers everything from what they can and can’t ask applicants based on federal and California state law to the ins and outs of background checks.

It includes advice on how to weigh the risk of hiring someone with a criminal record, while at the same time protecting their rights. There’s a special section on benefits and incentives for employers that includes such things as the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Federal Bonding Program. It’s available for free on the Root & Rebound website.

Root & Rebound is a legal advocacy organization completely focused on reentry. “As far as we know, we’re the only legal advocacy organization devoted solely on improving the lives of newly released people across many areas of law,” says Sonja Tonnesen, deputy director.

“We’re reentry generalists—we advocate for laws to be fairer, and to support people with criminal records in achieving stability. Like a general practitioner is in the medical field, we ask holistically what a reentering person’s needs are to be healthy and stable, and we work alongside our clients to create realistic reentry and advocacy plans that will support their success and achieve their goals.”

The idea for the Guide for Employers came about from dealing with an employer who wanted to hire one of Root & Rebound’s clients but had a lot of questions about the legal implications. So the staff members decided to create a manual to help others who would need the same type of information.

The nonprofit was started in October 2013 by Founder & Executive Director Katherine Katcher and Tonnesen, two recent graduates of the University of California Berkeley School of Law. Their goal is to reduce barriers and maximize opportunities for those in reentry. They also work with a senior advisor who is ar reentry attorney based in Los Angeles and a growing legal and support team.

Katcher and Tonnesen spent last fall meeting with professionals – other attorneys social service providers, formerly incarcerated advocates, academics and other reentry-focused individuals – to better understand the needs and gaps in reentry and to create a strategic plan. They began taking on clients at the beginning of 2014.

Expecting to take on only five clients in its first year, by mid-summer they had represented nearly 15 individuals on their legal issues in reentry, as well as provided legal advice and information to many others.

The organization’s next big project is a “Legal Rights in Reentry” manual intended for those in reentry and their advocates—the first of its kind in California, and one of the first in the country. The manual covers eight areas of law—employment, housing, obtaining identification and other key documents, credit and debt (related to a conviction), family law, probation and parole, public benefits and continuing education.

Some of the information in the manual is a direct result of what the attorneys learned in their dealings with clients as they helped them face the multitude of roadblocks they encounter.

The manual will be available on Root & Rebound’s website in November or December. The organization plans to do a training program connected to the manual with workshops at government agencies and other nonprofits that interface with people who were formerly incarcerated.

To learn more about what Root and Rebound is all about, visit the organization’s website at. http://www.rootandrebound.org

 

LinkedIn group debates effectiveness of using employer hiring lists

A recent lively discussion on LinkedIn’s Ex-Felon’s Employment Resource group brings up the issue of the validity of lists, in this case Ranker.com’s List of Employers Who Hire Felons.

The discussion was launched when a member who works for Goodwill Industries in Texas posted a link to the Ranker site, which includes an extensive list of companies – ranging from Abbott Labs and Ace Hardware to U.S. Cellular and United Airlines, 134 in all – who hire ex-offenders. Or do they?

Reponses from members varied, but about twice as many respondents didn’t think using the list is a good idea as those who did. Here are a few examples of what people wrote:

  • This list is a good idea, and I plan to use it for my clients.
  • These lists are often outdated, and most employers do not want to be included in them anyway.
  • Just because a company said yes – or even no – once, they might have a different response another time. Many companies on the list are large corporations with branches nationwide, and policies and hiring managers change..
  • There were concerns about whether employers gave permission to be on the list in the first place or even know they’re on it.

Larry Robbin, a San Francisco, Bay Area-based nationally known expert in the area of workforce development, advises in his workshops for job developers: “If you have a list burn it.” Any contacts where you’ve made placements will not want to be on such a list and may stop taking your referrals, he has warned. All referrals should be case-by-case and never distributed in a list form.

Create your own list

In the end, using a list that someone else put together can be very limiting or even ineffective. First of all you have no idea when the list was created or how. It can also give you or your clients false hope, and there may be other employers in your local community who might be more suitable for a job seeker’s talents than those on the list.

In fact, according to a survey of 2,298 U.S. hiring managers and human resource professionals conducted for CareerBuilder earlier this year, 51 percent of employers surveyed worked for organizations that had hired ex-offenders.

Instead of using a list prepared by someone else, it would be better to put together your own list, doing research on the local companies and small businesses in your area that you may want to work for. A list of 100 companies should be adequate to launch a thorough job search.

Here’s how to do it

Choose an industry. Decide what type of industry you want to work in

Decide company size. Don’t just go after large companies. In fact, in many cases smaller companies – those with 250 employees or less – might be a better choice. It is these smaller companies that hire 75 percent of all workers in the U.S.

Create boundaries. Create the physical boundaries of the area in which you would like to work. For example, you may only want to consider companies within 30 miles, or whatever you consider a a reasonable commute, of where you live.

Search for companies. You can do this in a variety of ways:

  • LinkedIn – Go to LinkedIn.com and click on “companies” on the bar across the top of the home page. Then click on the blue “search” button on the left column of the next page. You can choose “industries.” This function brings up companies all over the world in those industries, but if you put in a specific city, it will only call up companies in that area. You can further refine the search by selecting the size of a company in terms of number of employees.
  • One-Stop Career Center’s employer locater – Go to www.careerinfonet.org/employerlocator. You can search this database by industry, location or occupation. It will pull up all the companies in a certain area that match your criteria and give you the name of each company and its address, telephone number and approximate number of employees.
  • Yellow Pages – If you don’t have a computer, you can search the Yellow Pages for companies.
  • Rating sites – If you’re looking for service-related work with a small business, use rating websites like Yelp (www.yelp.com), Home Advisor (www.homeadvisor.com) or Diamond Certified (www.diamondcertified.org) in the San Francisco Bay Area. They offer reviews of various businesses, so you can get a better idea of the products and services they offer, as well as contact information.

To join in the conversation, join LinkedIn and the Ex-Felons Employment Resource Group, which has more than 1250 members and includes thoughtful discussions and insightful information.

Although we recommend coming up with your own list, if you’d like to take a look at what Ranker put together, check out the List of Companies That Hire Ex-offenders

We’d also like to know if you’ve had any experience working with any lists like that at Ranker.com and what you think about them.