Many justice-involved individuals face collateral consequences because of their criminal conviction. In a recent report titled “Employment Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals,” Right on Crime partnered with Recidiviz to provide a fresh perspective highlighting the effect of this unemployment on Louisiana families, the Louisiana economy, and the state’s budget.
The report highlights how women are particularly affected, since they are frequently the primary caretakers of their children and especially vulnerable to unemployment. Nearly 59,000 Louisiana families could be helped if employers hired individuals with criminal backgrounds. Right on Crime also published a handbook that serves as a great resource for employers considering hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds.
Louisiana taxpayers are footing the bill for much more than the cost of incarceration and community supervision for individuals who commit criminal acts. The collateral consequences of a criminal conviction burden our state’s economy. The report estimates that Louisiana experiences a loss of nearly $4.5 billion in its GDP due to the unemployment of justice-involved individuals. Louisiana’s business community has an opportunity to help grow our state’s economy by considering justice-involved individuals for employment. This is critical because GDP affects personal finance, investments, and job growth. Low GDP numbers lead to layoffs and unemployment for all Louisiana citizens. A strong economy benefits all Louisiana citizens.
Employment opportunities also help curb recidivism—the costly and vicious cycle of release, re-offense, and reincarceration. Breaking this cycle is the goal of most reentry efforts. The Recidiviz report cites a study conducted in Ohio, Illinois, and Texas that showed the more wages earned after two months of release, the lower the individual’s likelihood of reincarceration. Reducing recidivism through the expansion of employment opportunities could amount to an $11 million savings to the state. This is welcome news since Louisiana’s Department of Correction’s annual budget is nearing $700 million dollars.
This past year, Right on Crime hosted a virtual employer forum highlighting the success of two formerly incarcerated women, but also the difficulties they faced attempting to secure employment. Patricia Williams served ten years for theft and she recounts the stigma of a criminal conviction and how it closed doors to many employment opportunities. Too often she was considered the perfect candidate for a job until the employer learned of her criminal background. Ms. Williams challenges employers to look past the mistakes of the past and focus on the individual’s qualifications and skills. Eventually, Goodwill Industries hired Ms. Williams and today she oversees reentry programs in North Louisiana.
Tiffaney Noguera also shared her story. She described the process of securing employment as the biggest hurdle she faced after serving nearly four years in prison. Ms. Noguera took advantage of every skills program available inside of prison, and yet she met with rejection in her job searches. It was Ms. Noguera’s persistence and her refusal to fail that helped her overcome this barrier. Despite the challenges, she balanced raising her children and found a job that provided a livable wage. Now Ms. Noguera is a licensed real-estate agent in Louisiana.
Just as the Recidiviz report presents the data and shows the financial toll to our state and economy, the personal testimonies of these two women put a face to the data and research, which supports removing unnecessary barriers to reentry.
Becoming aware of the potential of justice-involved individuals in the workforce can keep families together, expand our economy, and save the state and taxpayer’s dollars by reducing recidivism. These are just a few of the many benefits realized when business leaders offer second chances to those who want to succeed.