Second Chance Citizens

How can employing Second Chance citizens address workforce challenges?

Unlock a new base of loyal employees.

Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults have had an immediate or extended family member incarcerated. When it comes to employing the formerly incarcerated, having a convicted felony often automatically eliminates applicants. But with approximately nine million people released from jail each year, this potential workforce can help stabilize a workforce and give these citizens a second chance?

Second Chance hiring is a smart business decision for employers struggling with retention and engagement in their workforce. These workers often have lower turnover and are more dedicated because of the opportunity for a chance to work.

For employers to see success with this workforce, there are helpful aspects that need to be in place within a company:

EXECUTIVE BUY-IN

Without the support of the entire executive team, Second Chance hiring will not succeed. With the stigma attached to incarceration, it is easy for leadership that disagrees with the hiring to sabotage the project. It is important that everyone sees the benefits of the program to business and the community. Once they are committed to the workforce, encourage them to not only support it but promote it.

HUMAN RESOURCE BANDWIDTH

Hiring a different type workforce will take more of an HR manager’s time. If the department is already at capacity, this program will not get the attention it needs to work for a business. Consider utilizing social services in the community to help get formerly incarcerated individuals work ready. For example, Cincinnati Works’ Workforce Connections program can provide workforce coaches to support the human resource department and lower-wage employees.

SUPERVISOR SUPPORT

Like the executive team, if supervisors disagree with the decision to hire Second Chance workers, they can have a profound impact on the success of employment. Having support from supervisors will help decrease turnover and keep employees engaged. Consider starting the conversation with a supervisor meeting and let them ask any questions they have about the program.

EXECUTIVE BUY-IN

Without the support of the entire executive team, Second Chance hiring will not succeed. With the stigma attached to incarceration, it is easy for leadership that disagrees with the hiring to sabotage the project. It is important that everyone sees the benefits of the program to business and the community. Once they are committed to the workforce, encourage them to not only support it but promote it.

HUMAN RESOURCE BANDWIDTH

Hiring a different type workforce will take more of an HR manager’s time. If the department is already at capacity, this program will not get the attention it needs to work for a business. Consider utilizing social services in the community to help get formerly incarcerated individuals work ready. For example, Cincinnati Works’ Workforce Connections program can provide workforce coaches to support the human resource department and lower-wage employees.

SUPERVISOR SUPPORT

Like the executive team, if supervisors disagree with the decision to hire Second Chance workers, they can have a profound impact on the success of employment. Having support from supervisors will help decrease turnover and keep employees engaged. Consider starting the conversation with a supervisor meeting and let them ask any questions they have about the program.

Isn't there a risk associated with hiring someone with a criminal record?
There is a stigma with incarceration and reentry. Understandably, employers may be worried about putting their other employees in danger if they hire someone with a violent conviction. We recommend a case by case approach. Employers should review their Second Chance candidate’s resume for overall skillset first, then in their criminal background check, review the timeline and pattern of their criminal record. This information will help understand their background but also their overall skills.

The Ohio Justice and Policy Center has created the CQE which creates relief from this potential risk for an employer.

I am unable to hire certain convictions. Can I still hire Second Chance employees?
While a criminal record is only a part of the hiring process, we recommend reaching out to Ohio Justice and Policy Center or Beacon of Hope to understand any restrictions based on your specific industry.

Should I tell my whole workforce that my new hires are Second-Chance employees?
Consider sharing the initiative with your employees before hiring Second Chance employees, so your current workforce has time to ask questions. Once the employees are hired, we advocate for welcoming an employee’s “authentic self” in your workplace. They’ll feel comfortable, accepted and engaged in their employment.

What do the skills of this workforce look like? While the vast majority of second chance citizens start at entry-level unskilled positions, there are a few highly skilled and experienced prospective employees in this workforce. By working with an advocate, such as Beacon of Hope Business Alliance, they can help you find the right talent for your organization. Beacon of Hope has placed individuals in areas such as manufacturing, customer service, information technology, the skilled trades, supervisory roles, commercialization, maintenance and many more.

There are also a lot of skills learned inside prisons that can assist your position requirement. For example, the Lebanon Correctional Institution makes about 300,000 license plates for the State of Ohio. This is experience in production and manufacturing.

Treat parole meetings like doctors’ appointments
When an employee is on probation, they need to meet with their probation officer for regular check-ins. Often the time of these appointments is not determined by the employee. This may sound like a large obstacle for hiring this workforce, but if you treat these appointments like you treat going to the doctor, you’ll find this need will fit into your existing workplace policies.

Offer a room onsite for parole meetings
As you grow this workforce, you may consider offering probation officers a spot to meet with your employees on site. This will limit off time for the employee and allow the officer to witness stable employment first-hand.

Human Resource open-door policy
With the societal stigma of returning from incarceration, you may have tension between your employees. By adopting an open-door policy, the employees can talk freely with HR to share conflict and help find solutions for problems at work. If you want to keep the request anonymous, consider using an iPad for employees to share positive and negative comment or request a meeting with HR.

Drug policy with grace
Positive drug tests often end in immediate termination, however, consider using grace for a one-time incident. So, you will be able to retain the employee and give someone the support they need during a difficult time. Instead of termination, consider a 60-day probationary period in which the employee must attend rehab services and work with a job coach at a social service agency.

"We started hiring fair-chance citizens almost three years ago, and we’ve learned a lot about this workforce, especially as we recruited and trained them in prison. But, with strong leadership and direction from our CEO, we’ve been able to see success with this initiative. Fair-chance citizens have a much lower turnover rate than our overall workforce.” –Christine Stroup, Vice President of Human Resources, JBM Packaging

“Second chance hiring is not only good for our business but the right thing to do. When we are hiring, we try to be open and honest with our candidates, so they know that we are not judging their past but trying to understand their barriers to success. Because of this approach, we are a source of steady employment for this workforce, and our turnover rate is much lower than average across our industry. Any employer looking to hiring second chance citizens should leverage the expertise of community partners and have complete executive support. To do this initiative, you really need to understand what it means to give an individual a second chance, not just the business case but the people case too.”— Elle Baker and Basette Smith, Social Services and Community Engagement, Nehemiah Manufacturing

“This has been a great initiative for us. We started in our manufacturing setting in Cincinnati and now are looking to expanding the program nation-wide. It has not only helped us retain employees and good for business, but it supports this group to economic mobility. For example, one associate that started working through New Beginnings has recently been able to close on her first home. This program truly is a new beginning for this workforce.” – Tina Baumann, Corporate Human Resources, The Kroger Co. New Beginnings Program

Our partner, Beacon of Hope Business Alliance, can answer any questions and get you started on your Second Chance hiring journey.

Beacon of Hope Business Alliance is an alliance of companies spreading the mission of Second Chance hiring. Feel free to reach out if you are interested in resources, networking with other employers and joining the alliance.

If your company is not located in the Cincinnati area, Beacon of Hope consults nationally on Second Chance employment programs for employers and can help your organization identify local resources for workforce placement opportunities.