Iowa’s Untapped Workforce: A Roadmap for Second Chance Hiring
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – The United States Attorney’s Office is hosting three half day workshops across the Northern District entitled, “Iowa’s Untapped Workforce: A Roadmap for Second Chance Hiring.” The first of these free workshops begins tomorrow in Cedar Rapids, followed by Fort Dodge on July 27th and Sioux City the next day.
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. Studies show that approximately two-thirds of all those released will likely be rearrested within three years of release. For the communities to which most former prisoners return (communities which are often impoverished and disenfranchised neighborhoods with few social supports and persistently high crime rates), the release of ex-offenders represents a variety of challenges.
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 goal of the workshops is to assist ex-prisoners in finding and keeping employment, identifying transitional housing, and receiving mentoring which are three key elements of successful re-entry back into their communities. This goal will be achieved by providing employers, business students, human resource professionals, and community members informative “takeaways” about the benefits of hiring individuals with a criminal history and to dispel many myths.
Earlier this year the Department of Justice designated one week in April as National Reentry Week. United States Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch participated in several events around the country. She noted during one of those visits that, “Too often, justice-involved individuals who have paid their debt to society confront daunting obstacles to good jobs, decent housing, adequate health care, quality education, and even the right to vote. National Reentry is working to tear down the barriers that stand between returning citizens and a meaningful second chance – leading to brighter futures and stronger communities.”
United States Attorney Kevin W. Techau also offered his thoughts on the initiative, “Employment is one of the largest indicators of whether an individual who has been released from prison will re-offend. 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.” He also noted that the workshops will help employers better understand the significant role they can play, which will benefit the communities in which they live.
The Untapped Workforce events will highlight the reasons why employers should consider hiring someone with a felony or criminal record. Participants will learn about the tax credits and federal bonding programs that help protect employers who engage in “second chance” hiring. Information will be presented detailing how employers can work with corrections staff and probation officers to find potential employees who have the relevant vocational training and skills to become an asset to their company. Participants will also hear from the EEOC regarding Best Practices and employment guidance, helping employers understand what they can ask potential employees about their criminal history and how to shape a hiring policy that will protect their company and be legally compliant.
The keynote speaker will be Arte Nathan, the now retired Director of Human Resources and Senior Vice President for Wynn Resorts and Casinos. Mr. Nathan was responsible for opening and staffing numerous Wynn resorts and casinos around the world, including the Bellagio in Las Vegas. He hired over 100,000 employees in his career. Nathan will share his story, including his decision to take a chance on hiring ex-gang members and ex-felons and how that decision positively impacted the lives of those individuals and their families, while also benefiting his company and the communities in which they lived. He will share advice on how local employers can likewise make a positive impact in the community without jeopardizing their business.
All participants will be able to participate in a "reentry simulation" activity during which they will assume the fictional identity of someone being released from prison. They will be required to navigate through probation and parole requirements, obtain a job, and avoid going back to prison. The one hour exercise has been a highlight of similar events around the country, and helps participants understand the barriers that are often encountered by people coming out of prison.
A number of agencies and organizations assisted the United States Attorney’s Office in organizing these events. The primary co-sponsors include Iowa Workforce Development, IowaWORKS, The Siouxland Initiative, the Iowa Department of Corrections, the Employers’ Councils of Iowa, and the nonprofit America’s Job Honor Awards.
To learn more about the Department of Justice’s Reentry initiative, visit: https://www.justice.gov/archive/fbci/progmenu_reentry.html.
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