The Bureau of Justice Statistics claims that approximately 60% of formerly incarcerated individuals struggle with unemployment, compared to the low unemployment rate of 3.7% for the general population (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022). A study released from the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2021 followed more than 50,000 individuals who were released from federal prison in 2010 and found that at any time during a four-year period, only 40% of formerly incarcerated individuals were employed, and those who were able to secure employment struggled with job retention.
Staying out of prison is extremely challenging for former inmates. Yearly, more than 600,000 people are released from state and federal prisons, and nine million individuals are released from municipal or county jails. Within three years of their release, two-thirds of former inmates are rearrested, with more than 50% re-incarcerated. In order to decrease the high rate of recidivism for people leaving the prison system, it is important that these individuals be able to obtain employment that is considered high-quality, stable, and long-term. This has proven difficult as research has found that unemployment rates for this group is five times that of the general population.
Securing employment leads to many benefits for the justice-involved individual including an increase in self-esteem, a positive sense of identity, and ultimately a more stable lifestyle out of crime. Employing former inmates also has benefits for employers. It provides employers evidence of nondiscriminatory hiring practices, potentially qualifies employers for tax credits and free bonding services, expands small applicant pools, and reduces training costs especially when hiring candidates who have completed specialized job training while incarcerated. Communities also benefit when people with a criminal record find good jobs. Poverty rates decrease, taxes are collected on earned income, and families are strengthened as the collateral effects of incarceration are minimized.