Employment Opportunities Lead to Success for Employers, Individuals, and Communities

The barriers facing a person exiting the criminal justice system are known as “collateral consequences”. They are the sometimes unforeseen, unexpected, and unimaginable hurdles one must face after having served their sentence. These consequences range from, but are not limited to, lack of access to personal documentation such as birth certificates and social security cards, restricted voting rights, difficulty finding housing, and, of course, trouble finding employment opportunities. With employment being a leading indicator of offender success post-incarceration, it is important that returning citizens have opportunities to participate in the labor market. Additionally, second chance employment is not only good for the community and the individuals it assists, but for employers as well. The tight labor market, enlarged talent pool, more engaged employees, and reduced turnover help convince many employers to look at a new talent pool. Here’s a few reasons why:


people come home

Over 95% of incarcerated people come home. These individuals return to their communities and are expected to become tax payers rather than tax burdens.*

In 2016, 13,853 people were released from prison in Michigan. Of those, 1,711 had been sentenced in and are likely to be returned to Kent County.**

An average of 84 people ages 25 and older return to Kent County from prison each month.**



According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Michigan is a staggeringly low 4.5%. Because of this employers across the area are having a hard time filling open positions. By increasing the talent pool to include returning citizens, employers are able to fill positions with people they may have dismissed previously. This enlarged talent pool increases the chances of employers filling positions more quickly with qualified candidates. With nearly 700,000 Americans released from prisons each year, many of whom are eager to reenter the workforce, this untapped talent pool can benefit employer’s hiring practices. Additionally, with the increase in training and education within correctional facilities, returning citizens are often coming home with additional skills that may benefit many employers.



Our data suggests that compared to their counterparts, people with a conviction on their record actually stay with an employer longer than those without a conviction. This reduced turnover has a positive financial impact on employers. Because not all employers are open to hiring those with a criminal background, returning citizens are often more loyal employees. Returning citizens are often incredibly hardworking individuals who are extra appreciative of a second chance, thus increasing productivity.



A study by the National Institute of Justice found that “any arrest during one’s life diminishes job prospects more than any other employment-related stigma.”

Incarceration leads to a 40% decrease in annual earnings, reduced job tenure, and higher unemployment.***

Incarceration also has an inter-generational impact.

Economists estimate that because people with felony records have poor prospects in the labor market, the nation’s gross domestic product in 2014 was reduced by $78-$87 billion.****

Allowing people to work also increases their tax contributions, boosts sales tax, improves community ties, and saves money by keeping people out of the criminal justice system.



Opening hiring practices up to include the tens of millions of people in the United States with a criminal record greatly increases a company’s talent pool thus reducing recruiting costs. By banning the box, a national movement to remove the question on applications asking an applicant to indicate whether or not they have a previous criminal record, hiring managers are able better able to consider a candidate for their skills and experience.


indicator of success

A quality, steady job following release from incarceration is one of the strongest predictors of resistance from crime.

In one study, researchers found that two years after release, nearly twice as many employed people with records had avoided another brush with the law compared to their unemployed counterparts.*****

Another study found that formerly incarcerated individuals with one year of employment had a 16% recidivism rate over three years as compared to a 52.3% recidivism rate of all individuals released.******


Hiring returning citizens can be part of a company’s diversity and inclusion practices. These nondiscriminatory hiring practices often lend themselves to not excluding some protected classes which may be over-represented in the criminal justice system.



It is important to note that the United States Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) advises employers not to place a blanket ban on all candidates with a criminal record. In doing so, employers are at risk for violating employment opportunities for some protected groups. Of note, are the impacts to the Hispanic and African American populations who are “statistically over-represented” in convicted felonies. The EEOC advises employers to analyze each individual and their record on a case-by-case basis. More information on the EEOC’s best practices in hiring those with a criminal record can be found on our Resources page.


*Bureau of Justice Statistics

**Michigan Department of Corrections

***The Pew Charitable Trust-Economic Mobility Project and Public Safety Performance Project

****Wharton University of Pennsylvania

*****National Employment Law Project

******Prison to Employment Connection