Getting Talent Back to Work


Last week, I had the privilege of attending the White House Second Chance Hiring event to celebrate the bipartisan efforts following the passing of the First Step Act in December 2018. Our President and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, joined many other champions of criminal justice reform to share their stories of success and their plans for assisting people who were previously incarcerated in transitioning back into the workforce.

Here are just a few of the ways that government agencies will be helping to create more second chance opportunities:

  • The Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons is launching a new “Ready to Work Initiative” to connect employers directly with former prisoners.
  • The Department of Labor will award over 2 million dollars to support the costs associated with companies hiring workers with criminal backgrounds.
  • The Department of Education is expanding an initiative that allows individuals in prison to receive Pell Grants to access education and better prepare themselves for the workforce upon re-entry.
  • The Office of Personnel Management is working to make USAJOBS – the Federal Government’s job listings – available to workers both inside Federal prison and upon release.*

This is a critical issue for businesses and communities. We are experiencing a record low unemployment rates across the country—and yet for people who have been incarcerated, 75 percent will still not have a job one year after their release. And for many employers, those very individuals are the people with the skills they need for their businesses to succeed and flourish.

Earlier this past week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted an event to launch its new magazine, America Working Forward. There were several inspiring speakers, including Coss Marte of ConBody, Brandon E. Chrostowski of EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute, Joe Kenner of Greyston and Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black. Their common thread: we are not defined by our past, but by what we choose to do for our futures.    

This event was a great reminder of the synchronicity between companies, government entities, and nonprofits. Nonprofits are great partners to provide the job training, wraparound services, and rehabilitation programs to get people who were formerly incarcerated prepared to re-enter the workforce.

Wondering how to get started?

  1. Take the first step. Visit and pledge to consider all qualified candidates during your interview process.
  2. Then, read the toolkit and learn about best practices in second chance hiring.
  3. Consider finding a local nonprofit to partner with in your second chance hiring journey.

As HR professionals who affect the lives of employees every day, I want to encourage you to take a close look at your recruiting and hiring practices. Perhaps there is room to build more inclusivity into your process. And if you aren’t actively hiring second chance employees yet, I encourage you to begin.

Join us here at SHRM to build better workplaces for a better world.

If you’d like more information on how to partner as a company with this initiative. Email And if you’re a company that helped to pioneer second chance hiring prior to the First Step Act being signed into law, we’d love to hear your success stories!

*Source: White House briefing statement, June 13, 2019.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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