Re-entry Business Summit at CCAC Encourages Employers to Hire Returning Citizens
PITTSBURGH –A National Institute of Justice survey revealed that between 60 and 75 percent of ex-offenders are jobless up to a year after release yet many employers can’t find qualified employees to fill their jobs. (http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/reentry/pages/employment.aspx)
In light of this information a cluster of community organizations formed the Allegheny County Anchored Re-Entry Consortium (ACAR), which today is hosting an educational program for employers entitled Business Leaders’ Summit: Reentrants Work! at Community College of Allegheny County – Allegheny Campus. The Summit is designed to provide employers with valuable information they need to consider hiring formerly incarcerated individuals, also known as returning citizens or reentrants. Specifically, the Reentrants Work! Summit is designed to share best practices from leading employers along with a “How to Guide”; discuss the business case for hiring reentrants; and detail the cost-benefit analysis and tax credits for hiring reentrants. Nearly 200 business leaders, elected officials and heads of nonprofits were invited to attend.
U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, CCAC President Dr. Quintin B. Bullock and Michael J. Smith, President and CEO Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania welcomed participants. Ron Painter, President of the National Association of Workforce Investment Boards, provided the keynote address. Two 30-minute panels followed: the first - “Making the Business Case for Hiring Re-entrants” featured corrections and public policy officials and a second panel - “Models of Best Practice” – featured employers and reentrants. Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and CCAC President Bullock provided closing remarks.
“We are committed to preparing those who have paid their debt to society for substantive opportunities beyond the prison gates and addressing obstacles to successful reentry that too many returning citizens encounter,” stated U.S. Attorney Hickton. “Supporting successful reentry is an essential part of our mission to promote public safety – because by helping individuals return to productive, law-abiding lives, we can reduce crime and make our neighborhoods better places to live.”
“In the county, we spend a great deal of time, effort and money providing those who are in the criminal justice system with the tools and resources they need to turn their lives around, but that effort is for naught if there are not organizations willing to look past their records to the individual they are and the skills and talents that they bring to the table,” said County Executive Fitzgerald. “We are trying to lead by example, which is why the county enacted a ‘Ban the Box’ policy last year. When permissible, we look at job applicants on a case by case basis with any criminal record just one piece of the overall process. This is an important conversation to have, and we’re proud to be part of it with our corporate partners.”
“CCAC is pleased to support the efforts of the Allegheny County Anchored Re-Entry Consortium and to host the ACAR Business Leaders’ Summit. With our shared commitment to providing innovative programming designed to transform lives, we look forward to our continued collaboration and to the positive outcomes that are sure to result for the individuals who are being reintegrated into their communities, as well as for the employers and for the region as a whole,” said CCAC President Bullock.
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel added, “Every American benefits when an individual who was incarcerated re-enters society and becomes a good citizen. Meaningful employment is a critical component in achieving that objective.”
Mayor Peduto said, “Ex-offenders are our returning Americans that deserve a second chance like anyone else. We are missing out on a huge potential source of our workforce if we aren't considering them in our hiring decisions.”
The ACAR began as an initiative led by CCAC to establish credit and non-credit programs for reentrants. The ACAR has since evolved into a consortium of members from local government, community service agencies, faith-based organizations, corrections, the justice system, training and education institutions partnering to reduce recidivism through training, educational and employment opportunities.