April 20, 2022
CEO, Dream Corps
SVP, Kentucky Chamber Foundation
Campaign Director, Dream Corps JUSTICE
Dr. Alyssa Lovegrove
Academic Director, Georgetown University
Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Senior Director of Strategic Advocacy and Advisor to the Chief Policy Officer
Former Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
About 70 million people in the U.S. have an arrest or conviction record, and over 600,000 people are released from jail every year. With so many living in the U.S. with criminal records, it’s essential to offer these individuals a second chance at life. Second and fair chance hiring is crucial to providing employment and better living opportunities to a talented and underutilized labor pool.
To help bolster second-chance hiring efforts, the U.S. Chamber recently hosted Equality of Opportunity in Action: Advancing Second Chance Hiring. During the event, policy and business leaders, as well as other community stakeholders, shared how the public and private sectors can work together to create and implement second-chance hiring initiatives.
We Must Focus on Bringing People Home and Providing Opportunities
Dream Corps, a non-profit that creates a future with freedom and dignity for all, has a mission of “closing prison doors and opening doors of opportunity.”
"We want to change the way people come together to solve tough problems, and we believe that everybody in America can play a role in that,” said Nisha Anand, CEO of Dream Corps.
Dream Corps focuses on criminal justice reform, tech equity, and climate change, seeking “win-win-win solutions” to bring the country together.
“I think closing prison doors and opening doors of opportunity … go together, hand in hand,” said Anand. “We have far too many people incarcerated that should not be in there.”
She added that many of Dream Corps’s legislative efforts focus on “de-incarceration,” or bringing people home.
“The truth is most sentences that are given here in the United States … [are] not life sentences,” said Anand. “We want to focus on when people come home, they come home better — not bitter. They come home ready to make a difference and contribute, and actually do some amazing things.”
Businesses Must Go Beyond Just ‘Opening Doors’ To Returning Citizens
Beth Davisson, SVP of the Kentucky Chamber Foundation, stressed the importance of going beyond advocacy for justice-impacted individuals by focusing on educating and up-skilling.
“The rate of change that we see technology disrupting workforce is coming at us so quickly,” said Davisson. “What that means is we're going to need higher levels of skill [and] higher levels of education within our workforce.”
“This population that's returning to us needs to be upskilled,” she continued. “We have to get them trained, not just for the jobs we have today, but also for tomorrow.”
She noted that Kentucky is working closely with its Department of Corrections and taking advantage of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative.
As a leading TPM state, Kentucky is using the program “to start an initiative, a pipeline out of prison program, where we're working with employer groups by sector, really honing in on those key, critical jobs that their businesses cannot operate without,” explained Davisson.
She added that they’re also working within the prison system to “train up, skill up, and educate up” while individuals are serving their time.
Georgetown’s Pivot Program Seeks To Break Down Barriers Justice-Impacted Individuals Face
According to LaTasha Moore, program associate at Georgetown University’s Pivot Program, justice-impacted individuals face multiple barriers when trying to enter or reenter the workforce. These barriers include not having IDs or stable housing, battling mental health issues, experiencing a lack of resources, lack of family and lack of community support, transportation issues, and the inability to meet educational requirements for jobs that can provide financial stability.
“We're not just talking about finding jobs; we're talking about finding sustainable living-wage employment,” added Dr. Alyssa Lovegrove, academic director at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.
With this goal in mind, they created the Pivot Program, a “cross between an academic program and a transitional employment program” that provides individuals access to career opportunities while also providing employers a way to enter the second-chance hiring space.
“I think the way we are helping to break down the barriers … is by helping employers start to look beyond the labels and see candidates as individuals — as people with their own strengths and talents,” said Dr. Lovegrove.
From the Series