Originally published on ChiefExecutive.Net
Every year, U.S. prisons and jails release nearly 700,000 men and women back into society. Many people impacted by incarceration leave prison without much more than the clothes on their back and enough money for a few meals. While opportunities do exist for people who are incarcerated to continue their education and learn marketable skills while serving their sentence, they are not widely available. And for those who don’t have a solid support system outside of prison, the resources needed to successfully reenter their communities may seem nonexistent. With few resources and often minimal skills, finding gainful employment can be difficult, even without the negative bias that comes with a criminal record. However, employment is a significant factor in reducing recidivism. This is why second chance hiring is so important.
Also called fair-chance hiring, second-chance hiring is the practice of hiring individuals with criminal records. According to SHRM, one-third of U.S. working-age adults, equating to 70 million people, have a criminal record. By opening job opportunities to people impacted by incarceration, businesses are gaining access to a considerable pool of untapped talent. In doing so, they are also giving these individuals the resources they need to be self-sufficient and decreasing the likelihood that they return to prison. For second-chance hiring to work, we need to accept that people cannot be defined solely by their worst decision. Many people impacted by incarceration work every day to prove they are much more than the crime they committed. One such person is Timm Wroe.
Speaking with Timm, you would never guess that he had once made a decision that would lead him to spend 25 years of his life incarcerated. He emanates positivity and has an earnest appreciation for his life outside of prison. One can quickly tell that his time spent incarcerated changed his perspective, not his character. That’s because Timm decided he would do everything he could to set himself on the right path for a better life. He knew he wanted to continue his education, and midway through his sentence decided to pursue a business degree. This was part of his plan to start his own painting business after he was released, knowing even then that employment would be hard to find for someone with a criminal record. He was able to enroll in a program through Central Arizona College, excelling in his classes and earning a spot on the dean’s list with a 4.0 GPA.
Unfortunately, and due to circumstances outside of his control, Timm needed to transfer to another college program, but the grant for that program would not cover a person with a sentence as long as his. “You can pay for it, but you can’t be a student otherwise,” Timm explained. “It can be hard to get into education opportunities, work programs or training. With a longer sentence, they see higher risk of recidivism,” he continued, adding “I don’t blame the system, but the access to job and education opportunities needs to change.”