Candidate Pools & Proactive Recruiting

Hiring Ex-Convicts

More than 650,000 ex-offenders are released from America’s state and federal prisons every year. Studies show that approximately two-thirds will likely be rearrested within three years of release.

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These statistics, from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), point to how difficult it is for people with criminal convictions to rise above their circumstances.

The DOJ notes: “With no job, no money, and no place to live, returnees often find themselves facing the same pressures and temptations that landed them in prison in the first place. Assisting ex-prisoners in finding and keeping employment, identifying transitional housing, and receiving mentoring are three key elements of successful re-entry into our communities.”

Creating Opportunities

From an employment standpoint, efforts have been underway to give ex-offenders an equal chance at landing a job. A recent Recruiting Daily Advisor article explores how ban-the-box laws are on the increase.

At the same time, a shortage of workers has employers hiring ex-convicts, where they may not have in the past.

The Wall Street Journal reports that companies in Arizona, Indiana, and Maryland are hiring ex-offenders, and that the practice appears to be a nationwide trend.

The trend results in opportunities for ex-offenders, while the companies that hire them have an opportunity to add to staff and grow their businesses.

Overcoming Obstacles

Still, matching ex-convicts to job openings isn’t without challenges.

The Wall Street Journal cites an Indiana study that finds more than one-third of former inmates don’t have a high school diploma, a prerequisite for many jobs. Passing a pre-employment drug test can also be a problem.

However, there are programs and resources that help ex-offenders prepare for and find employment. Among these is the federal resource, CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and a partner of the AmericanJobCenter network, which has a portal specifically for ex-offenders. Additionally, there are state and local programs that help these job seekers prepare for and find employment. State and local programs often work with regional departments of corrections as part of larger re-entry efforts.

Nonprofit organizations also provide support and may serve as liaisons between employers and ex-offenders. Among these are organizations like Help For Felons, which includes a job board.

Financial Advantages

Employers that hire ex-convicts may receive benefits beyond new employees.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment. Ex-felons are considered a target group.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the maximum tax credit ranges from $1,200 to $9,600, depending on the employee hired.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.