Insights and Perspectives

Insights and Perspectives


Read the latest from Geographic Solutions.


A record of involvement with the criminal justice system in the United States can pose significant barriers to employment, housing, education, and other things necessary for a productive, stable life. It also carries a widespread social stigma. All of this contributes to a ‘second prison,’ essentially sentencing affected individuals and their families to a life of poverty, and creating favorable conditions for the individual to return to criminal activity. And in some cases, these instances of recidivism trickle into the next generation.

Justice-involved individuals who establish employment and self-sufficiency are less likely to recidivate. According to research published by the National Association of Counties, employment has a positive effect on individuals released from incarceration by providing a source of income, transferable skills and experience, a defined routine, and a stable environment. It also creates a stronger bond for individuals within their communities.

More Common Than You Think

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans has some sort of criminal record – obviously to varying degrees of severity – all of which carry a certain level of stigma. Approximately 600,000 inmates are released from state and federal prisons each year, with millions more from county jails. It is in the best interest of the United States to provide these people with a fair chance at obtaining the employment for which they are best qualified — both for public safety and for the fiscal health of the nation.

Collectively, state governments spend billions annually to house and provide for inmate populations, averaging an annual cost of $25,000 to $30,000 per individual. The average cost of incarceration for a federal inmate is $39,158. Combined with the loss of revenue due to these individuals not earning income on which they pay taxes, the financial strain becomes apparent, and the need for a fair chance to reenter the labor market is clear.

What’s Being Done

The Second Chance Act was signed into law in 2008 to provide federal grants in support of government and nonprofit programs geared towards reducing instances of recidivism and improving the reentry experience for justice-involved individuals. And, the more recent addition of Fair Chance laws enacted at the municipal, county, or state level further these efforts by levelling the playing field for applicants.

To date, 37 states, including California, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania, and approx. 150 cities and counties across the United States have adopted Fair Chance or ‘Ban The Box’ policies that stipulate the removal of conviction and arrest history questions from job applications. The policies also delay background checks until later in the hiring process. Policies of this nature oblige employers to consider an applicant’s qualifications without the stigma of a conviction on record.

The National Employment Law Project highlighted a study that shows hiring discrimination is likely to occur during the application review, and the negative effect of carrying a criminal record was reduced by almost 15 percent when the employer experienced personal contact with the justice-involved applicant. In a 2021 Literature Review from the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation at the University of Southern California, the authors found that Fair Chance hiring laws have been successful in increasing the number of justice-involved new hires by reducing criminal stigmatization from the initial recruiting process.

Benefits For Everyone

The individual isn’t the only one to benefit from second chance hiring practices. Data company Evolv calculates that justice-involved individuals are 1 to 1.5 percent more productive than employees without the same kind of history; and a 2018 study from the IZA Journal of Labor Policy found second chance hires have a longer tenure and are less likely to quit their job. The Second Chance Business Coalition reports that 82 percent of managers and 67 percent of HR professionals value what second chance employees bring to their organization -- as high as, or higher than, that of workers without records.

Employers are discovering a previously ignored pool of qualified talent by offering opportunities to those with a record. In 2012, CEO of Red Restaurant Group Brad Friedlander said, “In my experience, people with criminal records are often model employees. They are frequently the most dedicated and conscientious. A lot of doors are shut to them, so when someone gives them an opportunity, they make the most of it.”

Marking April as Second Chance Month

In 2017, Prison Fellowship, the nation's largest nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, and an advocate for justice reform, founded Second Chance Month® in an effort to raise awareness, improve perceptions of people with a criminal record, foster second-chance opportunities, and drive momentum for policy change.

To further support second chance hiring practices and provide a secure way for justice-involved individuals to engage in job search activity, Geographic Solutions developed Virtual OneStop Reentry Employment Opportunities (Virtual OneStop REO® or VOS REO). This system offers a secure environment for pre-parole individuals to line up employment prior to release, as well as make use of resources key to establishing stability in their lives. VOS REO also highlights employers and jobs that are identified as ‘offender-friendly’ and second-chance jobs. The system also seamlessly transitions the individual’s account, resource registration, and job search history to the state's workforce system.

If you would like to learn more regarding the unique features offered by this one-of-a-kind solution, please visit our VOS REO webpage.

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