Steps are being taken by a number of government entities to assist ex-offenders find employment once they are released from prison.
“One of the first requirements for an offender who is released from prison is to obtain a job,” according to a 2011 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
“The ability of returned offenders to find meaningful employment is directly related to their normal functioning in the community,” a Connecticut law states.
The National Employment Law Project estimates one in four U.S. adults have a criminal record.
The NCSL report included information on support programs such as the Federal Second Chance Act of 2007 (SCA), which provides grants to states, local governments and community-based organizations to establish innovative and evidence-based reentry programs. The programs include vocational training and employment assistance.
Reentry programs address education, family skills and healthy living, and offer substance abuse treatment, employment resources, mentorship and housing assistance.
California is one of several states that offer tax credits to private employers that hire ex-offenders. Additionally, the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit is available nationwide to private businesses that hire ex-offenders and other target groups of people who consistently face employment barriers.
States also regulate how a criminal record is used during the application process. In 1998, Hawaii adopted the first “Ban the Box” law in the country. Since then, similar laws in four other states and the District of Columbia limit the use of certain criminal records during the hiring process.
“One of the first requirements for an offender who is released from prison is to obtain a job”
To support ex-offender re-integration into society, some states have adopted policies that encourage employment opportunities for eligible applicants.
A 2010 study by the Pew Center on the States reports those who have served time in prison can expect to earn about 40 percent less in annual wages, compared to people in similar circumstances who have not spent time in prison.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel however, as the NCLS concluded in its report, “To improve employment prospects for ex-offenders, states have adopted policies to encourage their employment, address employer liability, and hiring incentives, expanded eligibility for record-clearing policies, and supported employment training and reentry programs.”