Employment and Second Chances in Louisiana
Nationally, over 625,000 people are released each year from prison. In Louisiana, over 18,000 people are released from the Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities. According to DOC, 43% of those released return to prison within five years. This cycle of incarceration and return to prison, known as recidivism, costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the population of former prisoners and people with felony convictions led to a loss of $78-$87 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014. In addition to the financial costs associated with recidivism, families—most importantly the children of those incarcerated—suffer as a result. What can we do to help stop this vicious cycle of recidivism, protect the public, reform offenders, restore families and move persons from tax burdens to taxpayers?
The wheels are already in motion here in Louisiana to change the way we approach corrections and reentry. In 2017, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support. This legislation consisted of 10 bills aimed at focusing prison beds on those who pose a serious threat to public safety, strengthening community supervision (probation and parole), reducing barriers to reentry and re-investing the savings from the reforms into the community and in victim services. The JRI reforms assist in creating an environment where employment options are expanding for those returning from prison. According to a joint studyby the Koch Institute and the Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM), employment is a key component to reentry and is critical to reducing recidivism rates.
Right on Crime hosted its fourth employer forum in March in conjunction with Beacon Community Connections, Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, and South Louisiana Community College. This forum was a huge success and well attended by business leaders from the community. The forum held three panels: Benefits to Economic and Community Development, Reentry Overview and Employee Preparation and Employer/Employee Perspective. A representative from the Department of Corrections spoke about the certification programs offered in state prisons and an expert labor law attorney discussed legal considerations and benefits.
This was our fourth forum, and the first since the passage of the national First Step Act. The forum was eagerly covered by local media outlets who showed a great interest in interviewing returning citizens and covering the event. Right on Crime has been certified by SHRM to provide professional development credits to SHRM members who attend the employment forums. This certification will allow greater outreach to human resource professionals while providing credits for their professional certifications. Right on Crime plans to sponsor additional employer forums in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport in 2019.
People returning from incarceration should be allowed a second chance at being successful members of society. Obtaining employment is an important step in making this second chance a reality. Providing employers with the tools necessary to make an important decision about how they can help in allowing a second chance for returning citizens is Right on Crime.