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Catalogue Blog

New Chances

Good morning, Washington, and welcome to December. I just tuned into Morning Edition on WAMU and caught this story:

JUNE KRESS: As the previously incarcerated in our city know all too well, finding a job is essential to getting their lives back on track. But they face many obstacles. My organization, the Council for Court Excellence, recently conducted a survey of 550 District residents who had served time in prison or jail and found that 46 percent were unemployed.

[...] This problem has ramifications for our city as a whole. Joblessness among the previously incarcerated threatens public safety and hurts our economy. Without a job, the path toward rehabilitation is far more challenging, increasing the likelihood of repeat offenses. About 8,000 people return to the city after serving prison or jail terms each year; half will be back behind bars within three years.

[...] As part of our survey, we spoke with employers large and small. A third of them said they had hired a previously incarcerated person or would do so if the opportunity arose. But more than 50 percent said they would be more likely to hire them if a variety of factors were in place. [...] We also need to ensure that former prisoners obtain the training they need to fill available jobs. Only 50 percent of those previously incarcerated surveyed recently said the training they received while behind bars helped them find a job.

If you are a DC employer, do you agree with the findings? And would you be more likely to train and hire previously incarcerated residents with particular programs in place? Kress suggested “legal liability protection for employers” and “certificates of good standing” for applicants, which indicate that he or she has fulfilled his or her sentence and its conditions.

Moreover, job searches are complicated and trying for anyone; and those difficulties are only compounded for low-income residents newly-released from prison, who do not have access to job training, interview clothes, or a computer from which to send an application. Catalogue nonprofit Our Place, DC, focuses on this precise issue, having established in-prison support groups to help women prepare for release, a legal services clinic, and a drop-in support center where women get help with jobs, housing, and medical care. Learn more about Our Place here.

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