A new initiative in Iowa is encouraging employers to consider hiring men and women with criminal records, highlighting the positive impact such hires can have for businesses and for their communities.
The United States Attorney’s Office will be presenting a series of three workshops across northern Iowa to help assist former prisoners to find and keep employment. Entitled “Iowa’s Untapped Workforce: A Roadmap for Second Chance Hiring,” the workshops plan to bring together employers, human resource professionals, community members, and others interested in providing ex-prisoners a chance to succeed and to reduce recidivism .
“Literally thousands of justice-involved individuals are released from America’s state and federal prisons every week and arrive on the doorsteps of our nation’s communities,” says a Department of Justice press release. “… What can be done to help people who are released from prison keep from being rearrested? 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.”
The workshops will offer information about government programs and tax credits for employers willing to offer a second chance to men and women who have served time behind bars, as well as advice on how to create a policy that benefits potential employees while mitigating risk for their employers.
Among the activities at the three workshops will be a “reentry simulation” where participants will be given the role of someone who is being released from prison. They will have to navigate the challenges of probation and parole, finding employment and housing, while trying to avoid returning to prison.
“Employment is one of the largest indicators of whether an individual who has been released from prison will re-offend,” says Kevin Techau, the United States attorney for the northern district of Iowa. “It is undisputed that employment decreases the risk of an individual committing a new crime. Increasing public safety is a goal we all should share.”
For many of the men and women leaving prison, employment is but one of several barriers to full reintegration to society. Legal barriers and public perception can also prevent these citizens from obtaining housing, voting, or becoming a positive influence in their communities through volunteering. This “second prison” continues to punish those who have paid their debt to society, and prevents the rest of us from benefiting from the gifts and talents they have to offer. Prison Fellowship’s Second Prison Project seeks to change perceptions and to remove barriers that unnecessarily keep these men and women from reaching their full potential. To learn more about the Second Prison Project and how you can be a part of opening second chances for former prisoners, visit http://secondprison.org.