Returning Citizens

Employers trainings
Job Seekers trainings


John Jackson

Director Of Correctional Partnerships at Hustle 2.0, TEDx Speaker, Author

Megan Goddard

Corporate Social Responsibility Program Manager at Checkr

Who is considered a returning citizen?

77 million people have a criminal record in the U.S. 

That’s 1 out of every 3 adults.

650,000 people are released from U.S. prisons each year. These are our returning citizens.

A returning citizen is someone who has done their time and is striving to be a part of the community again. 


What are the benefits of hiring Returning Citizens?

Diversity & Inclusion

“When you value diversity, you encourage diverse idea exchange.” – Harvard Business Review

70% of job seekers look at workforce diversity when evaluating a job offer. (Glassdoor)


Unemployment rates by race & gender:
Source: Prison Policy Initiative
Black Women


Black Men


Hispanic Women


Hispanic Men


White Women


White Men



Compliance: Practicing fair hiring allows you to align your practices with applicable law & EEOC guidance

Ban the box & Fair Chance Ordinances: Adopted by over 35 states and 150 counties

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidance:

  1. NATURE and gravity of the offense
  2. TIME passed since the offense
  3. NATURE of the role sought


Societal Impact: Help build safer communities and break generational cycles of poverty and incarceration

  • Nearly half of U.S. children have at least one parent with a criminal record. 
  • Children of incarcerated parents are six times more likely to become incarcerated themselves.

By providing meaningful employment to Returning Citizens, you are helping to break these harmful cycles and allowing parents to leave better legacies for their children. 


What are the challenges Returning Citizens face when seeking employment?

The Employer Stigma

Employment has been proven to be the single most important influence in reducing recidivism – or someone’s likelihood to reoffend. Despite this, most employers prefer not to hire people with records, even if their record has no relation to the job

60% lower chance of getting a callback if you have a record

27% of people with records are unemployed


Barriers of Traditional Hiring Practices

Traditionally, employers evaluate applicants based on their past experiences rather than their present skills and qualifications. 

They tend to rely on the factors of a “Golden Resume”, including formal education, years of professional experience, and previous titles held.

These traditional practices create barriers for people with records, who often have the skills to qualify but may have gaps in their resume, lack formal education, or have less professional experience than other applicants.


Regulatory Barriers

  • More than one-quarter of U.S. workers require a state license to do their jobs. In half of U.S. States, applicants can be denied a license due to any kind of conviction, regardless of whether it is relevant or how long ago it occurred.  (White House, 2015)
  • There are ~32k occupational licensing laws around the U.S. that include the consideration of criminal records; more than 10,000 of those laws contain automatic exclusions, such as lifetime bans, on people convicted of felony crimes. The licenses covered include EMT, barber, cosmetologist, hair braider, nail technician, roofer, and truck driver, to name a few. (NYU Law, 2018)

Racial Discrimination in Hiring

Ensure your company has fair hiring practices to avoid perpetuating racial inequalities

Currently, 17% of white people with a record get called back after a job interview, compared to 5% of African Americans with a record.

Shockingly, even white people WITH a record get called back more than African Americans WITHOUT a record.


Recidivism Rates in the U.S.

These challenges make it extremely difficult for Returning Citizens to succeed. As a result, state and national recidivism rates soar at staggering heights. 

A Department of Justice study found that amongst 401,288 Returning Citizens, about 68% were rearrested within three years of release from state prison.


How can employers address these challenges?

Lower the barrier, not the bar

Fair chance hiring means increasing fairness for qualified applicants, NOT lowering your hiring standards.


Use Inclusive language

Job descriptions & interview questions can unintentionally create barriers for Returning Citizens 


Language that may have unconscious bias Example replacement language 
Bachelor or Master’s degree required 4-6+ years of relevant experience preferred
Years of professional management experience required Can demonstrate examples of effective team leadership
Excellent executive presence An engaging and persuasive communicator
“Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?” “[Checkr] considers qualified applicants with prior arrest or conviction records. Having a record does not automatically disqualify you and should not discourage you from completing your application.”
“Your resume says your last job was six years ago. What have you been doing since? ” “Tell me about the relevant skills you’ve developed that would help you succeed in this role.”


Conduct skills-based interviews

Traditional interview questions don’t effectively evaluate someone’s ability to perform the job

Work with hiring managers to understand the skills needed to succeed in the job and then help them develop interview practices that evaluate people for those skills. 


Develop sourcing pipelines

Hundreds of reentry organizations are preparing Returning Citizens for work. We will help you build pipelines to them


Evaluating risk with proven practices

  1. Nature, Time, Nature Test Severity, recency, and relevancy of the record are the best measures of risk.
  2. Individualized Assessments: Before rejecting someone with a record, provide the candidate an opportunity to demonstrate that the record does not pose a relevant risk.
  3. Documented Policy: Having a documented hiring policy and audit trail for the steps taken with each hire builds a strong defense against claims of negligent hiring.


Going above and beyond

If you end up not hiring someone, there are still opportunities to help them succeed!

  • Provide detailed feedback on why they didn’t get the job so they can skill-up
  • Offer your time to go over the feedback and answer any questions
  • Consider mentoring them or connecting them with a mentor 
  • Refer them to your network to see if you can help them find a better fit


Dispel myths and stereotypes

Creating an inclusive culture can help Returning Citizens feel a sense of belonging once hired

 The Reentry Challenge allows you to virtually walk in the shoes of a Returning Citizen and discover the challenges they face when reintegrating back into society.

Inviting Returning Citizens to come and share their stories of challenge and triumph can help to build empathy and understanding amongst your teams. 


Did you know?

There are tax credits and federal bonding programs available to you

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit: Up to $9,000 available per qualifying new hire

The Federal Bonding Program: First 6 months of employment costs covered

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