Formerly incarcerated individuals need stable jobs as the same as everyone else does so that they can live life comfortably and enjoy life. People that are formerly incarcerated run into the problem of job applications once they are asked about their status and also employers are not too quick to hire. As a society, employers should be willing to hire and give them a second chance at a profession and career. There are approximately 2,200,000 people who are incarcerated and 95% of them will eventually be released. A 2011 study of the formerly incarcerated found that employment was the single most important factor in decreasing recidivism.
According to prisionpolicy.org, “Our estimate of the unemployment rate establishes that formerly incarcerated people want to work, but face structural barriers to securing employment, particularly within the period immediately following release”. The problem isn’t that formerly incarcerated individuals don’t want to work but the process of getting a job and the labor market. However, there are policy solutions that can help them secure a job.
Recommendations given are available at each level of government and help employ the formerly incarcerated. They can start by issuing a temporary basic income upon release. This can help by starting to picture what they can make and provide short-term financial stability. Next, would be implementing automatic record expungement procedures. A prison sentence should not mean punishment. They should take into account how long the sentence is and what the offense type was to promote public safety. Following that, hesitant employers can make bond insurance and widely tax benefits are available. It gives more financial security and the risk of having losses on the job.
Also, banning blanketed employment discrimination. Just because someone has a criminal record does not subject them to a fair chance. Employers who don’t hire the formerly incarcerated under these pretenses violate the Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964. Finally, enacting an occupational license reform can help the formerly incarcerated by reforming their license laws to get a job based on a criminal background. This would help those who have a felony conviction avoid automatic rejection.
On a state level, formerly incarcerated Mississippians face obstacles by having to show if they have had a felony conviction on their application. Currently, they are trying to see if occupational licenses can be given and eliminate the period of waiting to expunge records. Mississippi’s overall unemployment rate is low, unemployment rates for formerly incarcerated Mississippians are about five times higher, at 27%. Approximately 100,000 Mississippians currently have criminal records, he added. The state also has the lowest employment rate in the country for people between the ages of 25 to 54, which are considered prime ages for employment.
In 2019, a bill called the “Fresh Start Act” allowed people with convictions to obtain licenses for a small number of occupations. Licenses are required for more than 60 occupations in Mississippi, so advocates are urging to expand the bill. Mississippi is restrictive than most states because even while trying to work there is a mandatory five-year waiting period that is mandatory but advocates are fighting to appeal that bill.
Formerly incarcerated individuals deserve another chance at a job or career. They want to be able to thrive and be working-class citizens as well. Individuals need to ban together to come up with more solutions and see that these laws happen and discrimination and old laws will be no more.