U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Praises Toolkit as an Inspirational Model in Teaching Reentry Agencies the Importance of Hiring Individuals with Criminal Backgrounds
NEW YORK (June 23, 2011) —-The Fortune Society, one of the most respected and effective alternative to incarceration and reentry agencies in the country, in partnership with the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice today released a practical toolkit outlining how organizations can successfully employ men and women with criminal histories. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder praised the report -- titled Employing Your Mission: Building Cultural Competence in Reentry Service Agencies Through the Hiring of Individuals who are Formerly Incarcerated and/or in Recovery -- as a national model for reentry agencies at a roundtable discussion in Washington D.C. to discuss employment strategies for hiring formerly incarcerated individuals.
Each year approximately 735,000 individuals are released from prisons around the country. Approximately two out of every three who are released are re-arrested within three years. Slightly more than half are re-incarcerated. Research has shown that stable employment is critical to the successful reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into society which ultimately prevents them from committing future crimes.
Speaking at the roundtable discussion titled Back on the Job Market: Workforce Development and Employment Strategies for the Formerly Incarcerated in Washington D.C., U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder referred to the toolkit as a valuable information resource (http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/ag/speeches/2011/ag-speech-110621.html).
Seventy percent of The Fortune Society's employees have histories of incarceration and/or substance abuse. The toolkit details Fortune's experience as a racially and ethnically diverse agency whose management and staff often share the life experiences and histories of their clients. The report details Fortune's hiring philosophy and key lessons and steps to help other organizations successfully employ their own clients, many of whom served time in prisons or jails.
Throughout Fortune's long history of hiring people with criminal histories, many of its employees have moved onto successful careers. According to Fortune's President and CEO JoAnne Page, there are numerous advantages to hiring the people an organization serves. Among them:
- A strong bond forms between clients and staff with shared life experiences which leads to a positive change in the clients
- For formerly incarcerated individuals being meaningfully employed decreases recidivism and makes the surrounding community safer
- Hiring peer employees may be less costly and more effective since the demand for reentry, mental health and substance abuse treatment exceeds the supply of workers
- Peer employees tend to be very committed and passionate because they feel deeply grateful for their own life changes
Ann L. Jacobs, Director of the John Jay Prisoner Reentry Institute said, "The toolkit provides concrete, feasible hiring and staff development practices that organizations can utilize to tap the rich reserves of talent and energy available when hiring formerly incarcerated people."
The toolkit is part of the Knowledge Building in Reentry project, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance, with support by Congressman Charles Rangel, Representative of New York's 15th District.
Congressman Rangel said, "I am pleased to support the creation of this important Employment Toolkit, which will serve as a national model for public and private employers around the country. My congressional district, New York's 15th District, is a community that welcomes home a disproportionate share of the nation's 700,000 men and women returning from incarceration each year. I believe key to such success is employment. Helping employers to recognize and benefit from the talent and value in these jobseekers will ultimately benefit us all, since evidence proves that employment helps to reduce recidivism. As a proud sponsor of the Second Chance Act, I remain fully committed to helping formerly incarcerated men and women return to their communities and families as positive contributing members."
This collaboration between complementary sets of expertise in reentry – that of a direct service provider and a college of criminal justice – was further enriched by contributions from the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Teachers College, Columbia University.
"We hope this toolkit will inspire other reentry agencies to hire formerly incarcerated individuals and reap the same benefits as we have as a reentry organization for more than 40 years. Thank you Attorney General Holder for putting our toolkit in the national spotlight, thank you to the Bureau of Justice Assistance for helping us fund the project and thank you John Jay College and Columbia for partnering with us in this life-changing project," said Page.
The Fortune Society noted that the guidelines provided in the toolkit are easily transferrable to for-profit companies as well.
ABOUT THE FORTUNE SOCIETY: For more than forty years, The Fortune Society has been developing model programs that help former prisoners successfully re-enter their communities. The Fortune Society offers a holistic and integrated "one-stop-shopping" model of service provision. Among the services offered are outpatient substance abuse treatment, alternatives to incarceration, HIV/AIDS services, career development and job retention, education, family services, drop in services and supportive housing as well as ongoing access to aftercare. For more information, visit www.fortunesociety.org.
ABOUT JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Established in 1964, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York is an international leader in educating for justice. It offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. The mission of the John Jay PRISONER REENTRY INSTITUTE (PRI) is to spur innovation and improve practice in the field of reentry. For more information, visit www.jjay.cuny.edu/pri