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Employment is a crucial step after release from incarceration

It should come as no surprise that obtaining a job after incarceration is extremely important to the overall success of an individual returning home after prison.  Getting a job is a universal goal for most people and is usually accomplished with few obstacles.  Yet for individuals that are marked with the proverbial red “CB” (criminal background) getting a job, regardless of their skills and past experience can, be extremely daunting.

Governors from Louisiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Kentucky recently penned an  opinion column in USA Today, in which they collectively stated that, “We can protect our citizens, reduce recidivism, reduce crime, and help those who have paid their debt to society to gain a renewed sense of purpose and a better life. These goals are much more achievable when those being released from prison have a path to marketable skills and gainful employment.”  This statement is backed by data that clearly shows individuals who obtain employment within the first 90 days of release are less likely to return to criminal behavior.

A joint study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Anne E. Casey Foundation and Justice Center, found that employment strongly contributes to recidivism-reduction efforts because “it refocuses individuals’ time and efforts on prosocial activities, making them less likely to engage in riskier behaviors and to associate with people who do.”  Another critical aspect of obtaining employment that the study cites is employment allows individuals to financially support their families which generates stronger support networks, more positive relationships, enhances self-esteem, and improves mental health.

It is important in any efforts to reform our criminal justice system, that the families, especially the children of the incarcerated, be given much consideration.  In Louisiana, 65 percent of individuals released from prison are parents. According to Secretary James Le Blanc of the Louisiana Department of Corrections, 94,000 children in the state have an incarcerated parent, and a Rutgers study revealed half of the children with incarcerat­ed parents in the U.S. are under the age of 10.  Louisiana’s overall poverty rate is 20.2 percent.  However, for Louisiana households with children ages five to 17 years, the percentage jumps to 27.2 percent.  Given Louisiana’s historically high incarceration rate (now second highest in the country), it is no surprise that children of the incarcerated are most likely to be living in households that have incomes below the poverty threshold of $24,000 for a fam­ily of four.   Having their parent return home after prison is a wonderful happening for these families as it presents a life-changing opportunity to provide financial stability to said families.

Now more than ever, Louisiana employers have a critical role in the furtherance of the historic criminal justice reforms by giving a returned citizen a second chance through employment.  At upcoming Employer Summits to be held on October 25 in East Baton Rouge and Jefferson Parishes, Right on Crime and our partners, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry along with the Baton Rouge Chamber and Jefferson Chamber, we can provide information and answer questions about hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds.  To attend one of these important and informative Employer Summits, please contact me at 225-963-2074 or email me at eellerbe@rightoncrime.com.

 

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