Fair chances | The US government's Re-Entry Tsar on why you should hire ex-convicts

The US government's Re-Entry Tsar on why you should hire ex-convicts

Deep Dive

Everyone deserves a second chance in life. And that includes people who have been in prison. Particularly when accessible talent is at an all-time low, it behoves HR leaders to consider ‘fair chance hiring’ as a smart business move.

When Tony Lowden was approached by former US President Donald Trump for a position in the government, he wasn’t sure it was the right step for him. But then he spoke with a long-time parishioner at the church where he’s a pastor: former US President Jimmy Carter. And Carter told him, “When you’re called to serve your nation, you go.”

“And so,” Lowden said, speaking to HR Grapevine in an exclusive interview, “I went.”

As the US government’s Re-Entry Tsar, Lowden was in charge of revolutionising the prison service, with a particular focus on lowering recidivism rates and helping the vulnerable people who have left prison to re-enter the world of work.

Carter issues a statement when Lowden was appointed, saying: "I cannot think of anyone better than Tony Lowden to lead a national effort to help those who have served time in prison get a true second chance once they are released. With support and resources, recidivism can decrease and former inmates can become productive members of their communities.”

But what about closer to home in Great Britain?

The state of prisons in the UK

In the UK, the recidivism rate has fluctuated somewhere between 24 to 30% over the past 10 years. And at any given time, there are around 83,000 people incarcerated in the UK, with 24-30% of those going on to reoffend within a few years of their first release from prison. During the pandemic, prisons were literally overflowing, going over their maximum capacity in England and Wales by 2% (102% occupancy).

According to the Royal Society of Psychiatrist’s 2021 report on the subject, thousands of people with a mental disorder are sent to prison every year when what they need is treatment.

The report introduction reads: “10% of the current prison population in England and Wales — could have missed out on a community sentence or a suspended prison sentence with a Mental Health Treatment Requirement (MHTR) because specialist mental health services do not have the resources they need to deliver them. Community alternatives could not only be better for offenders but also for wider society, disrupting the ‘illness > offending’ cycle.

We must be able to fill those jobs and the only way we're going to fill them, is looking at those folks who are willing to work.

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