In August of 2018, my predecessor, Elain Ellerbe, introduced Right on Crime’s A Handbook for Employers: From Tax Burdens to Tax payers: Why Hiring the Previously Incarcerated is Right on Crime to Louisiana employers. As a former probation and parole officer, I saw first-hand the struggles and barriers faced by persons seeking employment who had criminal backgrounds. The handbook is a great tool for employers. It provides data, testimonials, and important contact information regarding programs like the Worker Opportunity Tax Credit and the Federal Bonding program. Over the past year, Right on Crime has brought the handbook to life in the form of the Right on Crime Employer Engagement forums.
Right on Crime, in collaboration with probation and parole, the Department of Corrections, local universities, technical colleges, sheriff’s departments, the Louisiana Workforce Commission, reentry organizations, countless nonprofits, employers, along with returning citizens, worked to organize the employer forums. These employer forums took place in Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Orleans, and Houma/Thibodaux. Experts explained the services and assistance available to both employers and prospective employees. The Secretary of the Department of Corrections, James LeBlanc, spoke at several of the events, and probation and parole regional managers from across the state worked tirelessly to make these forums a success.
In addition to providing important networking opportunities, Right on Crime received certification from the Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM) to provide re-certification credits for SHRM members who attended the forums. SHRM has been at the forefront of advocating for second chances and has created a toolkit for employers to help them make informed decisions when considering hiring the formerly incarcerated. Right on Crime plans to host additional employer forums in Lake Charles and Covington. However, COVID19 has temporarily put those plans on hold.
Now more than ever, it is important for employers to consider the potential of including the formerly incarcerated in their workforce. In 2014 it was estimated that there was a nationwide loss of 78-87 billion dollars in the GDP due to the exclusion of persons with criminal backgrounds from the workforce.
During Louisiana’s special session, resolutions were introduced in both chambers of the Legislature – HCR 17 and SCR 11 – that made the case for hiring the formerly incarcerated as detailed in Right on Crime’s employer handbook. These resolutions “urges and requests certain state agencies and private businesses in Louisiana to recognize the value that justice-involved persons can bring to the workforce and society and to act with intention to empower, train, and employ such individuals.” On behalf of Right on Crime, I provided testimony before both house and senate committees on labor in support of these resolutions, where I reiterated the importance of second chance hiring to both economic recovery and public safety. I was pleased that copies of the Right on Crime employer handbook made its way to each of the committee members.
On June 18, 2020, HCR 17 passed the house unanimously and 44 legislators signed on as co-authors. The chair of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, Representative Barbara Carpenter, handed out copies of the handbook to every house member. Several members of the House rose in support of the resolution, stressing the importance of successful reentry and second chances through gainful employment.
These resolutions are important, since unemployment is a major predictor of recidivism. In addition to reducing recidivism and contributing to public safety, second chance hiring is positioned to play a key role in Louisiana’s economic recovery post COVID19. These resolutions, in addition to all the positive reforms passed during the regular session, signal our Legislature’s commitment to both second chances, and being right on crime. Louisiana continues to move toward a reentry-ready Louisiana.