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Birmingham Business Alliance discusses importance of employment opportunity in reducing crime and recidivism.
BIRMINGHAM – U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance met today with a group of Birmingham Business Alliance investors to discuss the importance of employment on the successful return to society of people leaving prison. Ex-offenders who find employment are half as likely to reoffend as those who struggle to find employment.
Many employers require job applicants to disclose conviction and arrest history on the initial job application. Often, the applications of those who disclose an offense history are immediately removed from further consideration for employment. The campaign known as, “Ban the Box,” encourages employers to delay consideration of offense history within the hiring process. More than 100 cities and counties and 19 states have joined companies like Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Koch Industries to ban the box. Earlier this month, President Obama called upon the Office of Personnel Management to ban the box within federal employment applications.
“People who are returning to our communities after paying their debt to society in prison must have an opportunity to become law-abiding, self-supporting, tax-paying citizens,” Vance said. "No one’s fate should be decided by the worst moment of their life. Returning citizens must have an opportunity for redemption,” she said. “Employment is the key to transforming ex-offenders into contributing members of the community”.
Policy-makers and hiring officials from the State of Georgia, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and the Council of State Governments joined local policy-makers and employers to provide information on how best to use conviction history within the hiring process. The State of Georgia and the Washington, D.C.-based Johns Hopkins Medicine have both banned the box within the hiring process. The Council of State Governments provides technical assistance to the State of Alabama with its reforms of prison and community supervision agencies.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to host this discussion,” said Mark Crosswhite, Alabama Power CEO. “It’s important that members of Alabama’s business community consider issues of employment and qualification. There may not be one right answer for everyone, but it just makes good business sense for us to explore the options and the impacts together.”
Johnny Johns, chairman, president and CEO at Protective Life Corporation said, “We as a society pay a terrible price for the unbroken cycles of crime and recidivism. It just makes good sense to do what we can to help those coming out of prison change their lives, get a second chance and become productive, law-abiding citizens.”
“Workforce is an important economic development issue and finding ways to connect a skilled workforce to companies is critical,” said Brian Hilson, president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance. “This is the beginning of an important discussion and an opportunity for the business community to learn about this issue. We are glad to be a part of this event today.”
Representative Mike Jones, chairman of the Alabama House Judiciary Committee said, “Data clearly states that employment is key in breaking the cycle of criminal recidivism. Not only does employment reduce crime, it builds stronger communities and strengthens families. Rural and urban communities, alike, benefit from a strong labor market where no one is lacking the opportunity to improve their life or support their family”.
State Senator Cam Ward, chairman of Alabama’s Prison Reform Taskforce stated, "The ability to find a job and live an independent, productive life greatly reduces the chances that someone will return to our over-crowded corrections system. I'm glad to see the business community taking such a prominent role in this discussion."