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Ex-Offenders and Employment: An Overview Kelly Pierron

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1 Ex-Offenders and Employment: An Overview Kelly Pierron

2 “Studies show that the unemployment rate of formerly incarcerated people after one year may be as high as 60% because of multiple barriers to employment.” * * Center for Employment Opportunities. CEO Breaks the Cycle of Incarceration. CEO. New York, New York. 2008

3 The Value of Employment High unemployment = High Recidivism – 85.7% (N=1,080) of female receptions to the ODOC in 2009 reported being unemployed at the time of their arrest.* – 89% of individuals who violated the terms of their probation or parole were unemployed at the time of violation.** * Oklahoma Department of Corrections Female Offender Operations. Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Report. **Mukamal, D. Confronting the Employment Barriers if Criminal Records: Effective Legal and Practical Strategies. Journal of Poverty Law and Policy. Jan-Feb, 2000.

4 The Value of Employment Income to meet financial obligations and move to self-sufficiency – Fines, fees, restitution – Child support – Rent – Food – Clothing – Medical care

5 The Value of Employment Social connection Feeling of societal contribution and self- worth

6 Barriers to Employment Education level – 72% (N=919) of female receptions to the ODOC in 2009 had an assessed need for education.* – Nationally, about 70% do not have a high school diploma.** Limited work history and skills – Between 1/3 and 2/3 of inmates report incomes less than $1,000 in the month prior to their arrest.*** Race * Oklahoma Department of Corrections Female Offender Operations. Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Report. **Center for Employment Opportunities. CEO Breaks Down Barriers to Employment. CEO. New York, New York. 2008 ***Solomon, et al. From Prison to Work: The Employment Dimensions of Prisoner Reentry. Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center. Washington, DC. 2004

7 Barriers to Employment Institutionalization – Institutionalization: deficits or disabilities in social and life skills after long periods of independence and responsibility deprivation. – This makes managing demands and making decisions is difficult after release.

8 Barriers to Employment Transportation In Oklahoma, drug offenders have their license revoked – even if the offense does not relate to the operation of a motor vehicle.

9 Barriers to Employment Statutory and regulatory barriers In certain states, ex-offenders are permanently banned from public employment, and most states have restrictions on the work of returning offenders in certain fields.* – Jobs requiring contact with children – Certain health and human services occupations – Employment with firms providing security services – Finance * Holzer et al. What Employers Want: Job Prospects for Less – Educated Workers. New York. Russell. Sage Foundation, 1996.

10 Barriers to Employment One survey found that the industries most willing to hire ex-offenders are those that require little customer contact.* 1) Manufacturing 2) Construction 3) Transportation These are not industries with a high percentage of female employees. *Fahey, et al. Employment of Ex-Offenders: Employer Perspectives. Crime and Justice Institute. 2006

11 Barriers to Employment Employer concerns: Many ex-offenders face employment discrimination based solely on the fact that they have a committed a felony offense, regardless of whether the former offense would impact job performance or the safety of others. “Fewer than 40% of employers claim that they would definitely or probably hire an ex-offender for their most recently filled non-college job.”* *Holzer, et al. Can Employers Play a More Positive Role in Reentry. Urban Institute. Washington, DC. 2002

12 Barriers to Employment Employer concerns (cont’d) More broadly, employers fear liability where ex- offenders have to deal directly with customers or handle property that belongs to others.* Many employers fear that the reputation of their business would be damaged if the public became aware that ex-offenders worked at their company. *Holzer, et al. Can Employers Play a More Positive Role in Reentry. Urban Institute. Washington, DC. 2002

13 Barriers to Employment Employer concerns (cont’d) Court ordered obligations Community service, urine analysis, restricted movement.

14 Barriers to Employment Low paying and less fulfilling jobs The jobs that are often available to ex- offenders come with relatively poor wages and benefits and limited prospects for promotion – limiting their incentive to seek or accept work.

15 Expected Post-Prison Hourly Wage by Gender* * Visher, et al. Returning Home: Understanding the Challenge of Prisoner Reentry. Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center. 2004

16 Opportunities Programs Legislation Public awareness campaigns

17 Programs Education and training programs in correctional facilities – Oklahoma Department of Career Tech – Faith and community-based agencies provide job readiness curriculum. – Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Project Reconnect – GED and advanced education

18 Programs Transitional Jobs “An employment strategy that seeks to overcome employment barriers and transition people with labor market barriers into work using wage-paid, short term employment that combines real work, skill development, and supportive services.” - National Transitional Job Network

19 Programs Reentry Programs – Substance abuse and mental health counseling – Assistance accessing safe and affordable housing – Assistance accessing vocational and educational programming – Assistance accessing medical services – Job placement services – Guidance on repaying debts – Transportation assistance – Family reunification services

20 Programs Reentry Programs An intermediary program helps employers hire individuals with a criminal record by training and preparing clients for a particular industry, screening prospective employees, and sending qualified, work-ready applicants to the field. Employers value intermediary programs that will help them address issues with the client should they arise.

21 Subsidized employment for up to 100% of the minimum wage for up to 12 weeks. Job mentors. An employer can designate an employee to mentor a PRI client on the job and earn an additional $2 per hour for up to 240 hours. $2,500 for job training activities. Pre-screened applicants are matched to meet the needs of employers. Employer Benefits from TCPRI Program

22 Legislation Federal: Federal Bonding Program – Fidelity bonds issued to an employer free of charge for “at-risk” employees or employees whose past experiences present an obstacle to future employment. Work Opportunity Tax Credit – $2,400 per eligible employee, per hire.

23 Legislation Pending Oklahoma legislation: Criminal record expungement – For non-violent offenders who have completed the terms and conditions of their sentence and have not recommitted an offense for 10 years. Professional license – effect of expungement Reentry pilot program – Development of a pilot program to provide services for inmates with children in order to help facilitate successful, long-term reintegration.

24 Public Awareness Campaigns A multi-media campaign to encourage business leaders to give a qualified ex-offender a chance.

25 Public Awareness Campaigns Encourage employers to: – use background checks only for certain jobs when it is necessary based on objective criteria. – use background checks later in the hiring process. – allow applicants an opportunity to correct criminal history information and submit evidence of rehabilitation. – consider mitigating factors when evaluating applicants with criminal histories.

26 Public Awareness Campaigns “Ban the Box”: A number of municipalities have adopted “Ban the Box" policies, intended to allow qualified individuals with criminal histories a fighting chance in the application process.

27 Public Awareness Campaigns

28 Recommendations Employers: Review hiring procedures to consider removing blanket “no-felony” policies. Legislatures: Comprehensive community-based reentry programs that provide supportive and employment services to help clients find and maintain a job.

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