In April, people across the country celebrated Second Chance Month, an initiative dedicated to breaking down barriers to post-incarceration reintegration and compassion for those returning to our communities.
April may be over, but in a state like Kentucky we should be working every day to support our neighbors and ensure that all Kentuckians have a bright future. Fortunately, there are ways in which businesses and other organizations can get involved to help drive this important work.
Currently, Kentucky has some of the worst incarceration statistics in the country, including the 7th highest incarceration rate and 3rd highest for parental incarceration. An important step in addressing the harms of incarceration – which are particularly acute given that many people who end up in incarceration were deprived of their financial rights or had other issues such as mental health issues prior to their arrival – is to provide return support to those who leave.
When people return to their communities after release from prison and prison, it is essential that they receive the support they need to get back on their feet. For people leaving prison, access to employment is a crucial step for the success of their return. Needs such as housing, health insurance, mental health services, and drug addiction treatment if needed are also essential. Otherwise, these people will be among the more than a third of Kentuckians who will reoffend (return to incarceration within 24 months of their release).
Through the work of advocates raising awareness of the importance and benefits of providing support to those formerly incarcerated, employers in various sectors have become more open to hiring the second chance. However, it remains a challenge for these people to find a job; it is estimated that 60 to 75% of former incarcerates have difficulty finding stable employment within one year of release.
There are opportunities and initiatives available for employers who wish to engage in second chance hiring. In 2020, the Kentucky Chamber Foundation launched the Kentucky Return Campaign to help Kentuckians struggling with substance use disorders, help businesses develop supportive work environments, and engage Kentuckians interested in smart criminal justice reforms.
This campaign has seen nearly 13,000 second chance jobs for those with a legal background, as Kentucky employers engage this untapped talent pool. You can find more information about this campaign on Fair Chance Employment – Kentucky Comeback.
In addition to the initiatives of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the work of other Second Chance Employers, employers in Kentucky have the opportunity to apply to the Federal Bond Program (FBP). Established in 1966 by the US Department of Labor, the PBF provides loyalty bonds to protect employers. These bonds are available at the Kentucky Career Center at no cost to Kentucky employers or job seekers. The bond covers the first six months of employment and has no deductible, so there are no out-of-pocket expenses for participating companies. Employers can also extend coverage for an additional 6 months at no cost. In the past 55 years, less than 1% of bonds have been deposited. This is because a good job is one of the main factors in reducing recidivism. PBF gives companies who are considering fair employment peace of mind and thus improves life.
With employers looking for a quality workforce and many Kentuckians looking for a new life, there’s no better time for employers to expand their fair hires. . If you want to know more about the FBP visit http://www.bonds4jobs.com/.
Additionally, if you would like to apply for a Kentucky bond, please email [email protected] Treat every month and every day as an opportunity to give a second chance.
Beth Davission is the Kentucky Chamber’s Vice President of Workforce Development.
Amanda Hall is a political strategist for the Kentucky ACLU.
Carmen Mitchell is a policy analyst at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
Julie Warren is Director of State Initiatives for Right on Crime.