The vast majority of Connecticut employers support the idea of hiring individuals who have previously been incarcerated, but few are actively doing it, according to a new survey.
Almost all, or 97 percent, of business leaders think formerly incarcerated people should have a second chance and 95 percent believe hiring them could potentially help make them productive members of society, according to Malta Justice Initiative, a Southport-based nonprofit that advocates for the incarcerated community and their families.
“When individuals coming out of prison get and keep jobs, our whole community benefits,” John Santa, retired executive of Santa Energy and chairman and founder of Malta Justice Initiative said in a statement. “Businesses fill jobs, taxpayers are not paying the costs of incarceration, and new employees are paying taxes and contributing to the local economy as productive members of society. There is no downside.”
But while most survey respondents support the notion, few have put it into practice. Just nine percent said they have significant experience in hiring previously incarcerated workers, 51 percent had little experience and 40 percent said they have never done so, the survey found. Only three percent said they actively aim to hire people with criminal records.
“There’s a very simple solution to recidivism and its impact on individual lives, on our state budget and our economy, and that’s jobs,” Santa said. “We need to do everything we can to encourage Connecticut employers to hire these individuals, and to support them when they do so and support the individuals they hire.”
The survey polled 311 employers between June and October 2016. More than half of respondents, 55 percent, said they have a hard time finding qualified job candidates and 76 percent of those people said they would consider hiring someone with a criminal record of he or she was qualified.
Additionally, 74 percent of respondents said incentives like tax credits or subsidies for health care coverage would make them more likely to hire previously incarcerated people, the survey found.
In Connecticut, roughly 10,000 people are released annually from state prisons and more than half of them return to prison within three years – at a cost of $51,000 per year, per inmate – according to Malta Justice Initiative. Connecticut’s incarceration cost is the third-highest in the nation, according to the group.
When formerly incarcerated people get jobs, the recidivism rate falls by 40 percent, to 10 percent, studies have shown, which can save the state money, according to the advocacy group.
The survey results show attitudes about the criminal justice system are changing, said Michael P. Lawlor, the state’s under secretary for criminal justice policy and planning.
“In Connecticut and across the country we are seeing a shift in attitudes and policies about incarceration,” he said in a statement. “The real surprise in this survey is that the numbers of employers who are willing to support a second change are so high. The take-away is clear: we need to create opportunities and remove obstacles that keep individuals from getting and keeping jobs.”