Texas Leaders Talk About Second-Chance Hiring

(Left to right) B.J. Wagner, David Emerick, Christina Crain, Rhetta Bowers | Image by The Dallas Express

The Dallas Regional Chamber held a recent forum during which a panel discussed societal and workforce reentry for those who have been criminally incarcerated.

The panel, comprising Texas House Rep. Rhetta Bowers (D-Rowlett), Unlocking Doors nonprofit leader Christina Crain, and JPMorgan Chase executive director of state and local government relations David Emerick, engaged in a comprehensive discussion on reentry policy and its intersection with the workforce.

Bowers highlighted the work of Unlocking Doors, an organization that provides tools and training for those re-entering society after incarceration.

“Texas needs to be a second-chance state,” Bowers said.

Crain mentioned that not everyone who is re-entering wants help, but the majority do. Her nonprofit aims to tackle barriers for people re-entering society, whether it is home or medical assistance. Additionally, Unlocking Doors aims to assist these individuals in securing a job and connecting them with employers who can provide a potential career path.

“By pulling together resources, organizations, and programs into one coordinated effort, Unlocking Doors is helping reduce crime by guiding those with criminal backgrounds to a future of self-sufficiency while addressing the ever-escalating fiscal impact to the State of Texas,” the Unlocking Doors website states.

Emerick said that Chase wants to give those who have been criminally impacted a second chance.

“We are going to create opportunities for businesses to get involved … to open doors to those that have been criminally impacted,” Emerick said.

Previously, JPMorgan Chase’s Head of Regional Philanthropy for North America, Whitney Smith, said, “As a firm, we have been working to drive inclusive economic growth in the places where we live and work. We know not everyone is benefiting from the economy equally and not sharing in the prosperity where economies are growing, and we think that’s a problem,” reported CBS News.

Additionally, Emerick supports the “Ban the Box” movement. Most job applications have a section where the applicant has to put one’s past criminal history. The executive suggested that this requirement hinders past offenders’ chances of getting a second chance in the work environment. An estimated 35 states have the “Ban-the-Box” laws, which do not allow questions asking if a candidate has had a criminal history, per CBS News.

Ban-the-Box laws have reportedly helped an estimated 30% of adults with a criminal past get a fair shot at finding work, according to NOLO, because they require employers to review their skills and work history before denying employment.

Some institutions have argued that “Ban-the-Box” causes more harm than good. Brookings Institute noted in a 2016 commentary that employers will still be reluctant to hire ex-offenders, even if it’s not as easy to tell which applicants fall into that category. As such, the op-ed argues, if an employer is forced not to inquire about a potential criminal record until late in the hiring process, they may “statistically discriminate” — a term for using observable information to guess at unobservable information — and pre-emptively disqualify demographic groups they believe are more likely to be ex-cons.

Still, Emerick added that 10% of JPMorgan Chase’s staff are second-chance hires and are great employees, adding that they also help second-chance hires obtain expunction in Texas.

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