One of the most critical requirements for ex-offenders returning to their communities is gainful employment. They cannot very well be expected to survive and stay out of prison without an income. While employers may empathize with returning citizens, they are often hesitant to hire someone with a record. Here are four reasons to reconsider that stance.
According to the Arizona Townhall Report for 2018, approximately 14,000 people were released from Arizona prisons in 2015 [p 156, https://aztownhall.org/Town-Hall-Reports]. While the vast majority of those returning citizens were in Maricopa and Pima counties, there are hundreds of ex-offenders returning to Cochise County every year. It can be difficult to recruit new hires, especially for low-wage jobs; but returning citizens provide a large pool of potential employees who are eager to work.
Returning citizens have unique skill sets unlike those of people who have never been incarcerated. They have learned to cope with adversity and thrive in a hostile environment. Many have taken college classes or other vocational training courses while imprisoned. Correspondence courses and other non-college distance education opportunities are available to inmates. A returning citizen has demonstrated the resilience and strength of character valued in the workplace.
One typical employer goal is fostering a diverse workforce with multiple ethnic and demographic backgrounds and hiring returning citizens facilitates that effort. Hiring managers often focus on finding employees with a diverse background, but that often leads to racial profiling. By simply increasing the hiring pool to include returning citizens, achieving diversity becomes easier since those potential employees come from diverse backgrounds. Adding the perspective of an ex-felon to the workforce improves the workplace for all employees.
The federal government administers two programs to fiscally incentivize employers to hire returning citizens. The Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit
ranges from $1,200 to $9,600 to partially reimburse employers who hire returning citizens. The Department of Labor also provides employers $5,000 Fidelity Bond insurance at no cost for the first six months of employment [https://des.az.gov/services/employment/employers/federal-bonding-program]. While these programs will not solve all the fiscal problems associated with a new hire, they are important resources when hiring a returning citizen.
If you are an employer and have positions to fill, contact Arizona@Work at https://arizonaatwork.com/ or any local Arizona@Work office. Professionals there will be glad to answer your questions about hiring ex-offenders and help you post jobs for that population.