Unleashing potential: Shattering stigmas and seizing second chances

I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a friend, and a neighbor. I am an MBA graduate with professional distinctions and awards. I am the CEO of a not-for-profit organization. Oh, and I’m also a former felon. Which label do you think many people still associate first with me? Which label continues to deprive me of opportunity more than 25 years after the fact?

As the CEO of Televerde Foundation, I am driven to challenge societal views that stigmatize those who have been incarcerated—this mission is deeply personal. The woman I am today differs vastly from the girl I was over 25 years ago. Judging me or anyone solely based on past transgressions is unconscionable and morally wrong. For this reason, I’ve made eliminating this stigma and passionately advocating for second-chance hiring my life’s work. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do morally and smart business.

Demystifying Second-Chance Hiring

Over the past decade, it’s not uncommon to hear companies proclaim their commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and equality. But when it comes to genuinely embracing these principles, there’s often a disparity. Communities of talent are still being sidelined, undervalued, or completely overlooked—justice-impacted individuals being a key example.

Second-chance hiring isn’t just about filling job vacancies. It’s about championing inclusivity, dismantling barriers, and recognizing the untapped potential within these individuals. The misconception that justice-impacted individuals lack talent or drive or would rather rely on government handouts is a myth we’ve been programmed to believe. These are falsehoods that perpetuate the stigma. It’s time we evolve beyond these misconceptions and recognize these individuals’ true capabilities and eagerness to contribute meaningfully to society.

This also isn’t about charity. Hiring these talented individuals is good business. They bring immeasurable value to organizations, demonstrating strong work ethics, diverse perspectives, and an unwavering commitment to deliver results. They seize opportunities, often outperforming those who’ve never faced similar obstacles.

Moreover, rejecting this talent pool contradicts the values we espouse in our companies. We must walk our talk, fostering environments that encourage growth and prosperity rather than stagnation for anyone who is qualified and wants to work. True progress hinges on moving beyond mere words and genuinely adopting inclusive practices with transformative potential.

The Power of Empowerment

Televerde Foundation works to empower women burdened by the stigma of incarceration while also educating businesses on the untapped talent they’re missing. Our Career PATHS program provides women with education, life skills, and business training, equipping them to reach their full potential. We aim to change perceptions and inspire action.

We’ve already witnessed the transformative power of second chances in Arizona, where 97% of our program participants secured employment within a month of release. We’ve begun replicating this success in Indiana, targeting a reduction in statewide recidivism and mobilizing the business community to hire more qualified, justice-impacted individuals in meaningful roles.

Take a moment to read how one woman is on her way to building a website development career from inside Indiana’s Rockville Correctional Facility and see firsthand our programs’ impact on women at the Madison Women’s Prison, also in Indiana.

So, let’s change the narrative. Let’s focus on the potential within each individual rather than the labels society assigns. Let’s champion second-chance hiring not just as a corporate responsibility but as a pathway to personal transformation, societal contribution, and economic growth.

A Call to Action

I invite you to join the second-chance movement. Become part of a groundswell changing the narrative around justice-impacted individuals, redefining the workplace, and fostering a more inclusive society. Stand shoulder to shoulder with business leaders like Jamie Dimon and Richard Branson, who recognize the significant value and potential in this often-overlooked talent pool.

Remember my story the next time you hear about a former felon seeking employment. Let it resonate with you and remind you of the transformative power of a second chance. Recall the CEO, the mother, and the leader I am today, shaped by the opportunity I was given 25 years ago.

Inclusivity isn’t just a buzzword to throw around in corporate meetings. It’s a commitment to equitable opportunities and a pledge to recognize the talent behind societal labels. It’s about harnessing the power of second chances and integrating them into our recruitment and employment practices.

Our nation was built on the principles of opportunity and redemption. It’s high time we uphold these values by ensuring everyone has a fair chance to contribute and succeed. We mustn’t stop at conversation but put these ideals into action.

Let us blaze the trail for justice-impacted individuals, enabling them to find meaningful employment, contribute positively to our communities, and redefine their life trajectories. Your involvement in this movement can change lives, enhance your business, and contribute to a more equitable society. Are you ready to be a part of it?

Originally posted on Inside INdiana Business