We often glamorize stories like The Wolf of Wall Street. Leonardo DiCaprio who plays the notorious ring leader of the Stratton Oakmont, Jordan Belfort. Stratton was expelled by the NASD in 1996. Belfort was indicted for securities fraud and money laundering in 1999. During it’s heyday, the company employed over 1,000 stockbrokers. One of these stockbrokers was Richard Bronson who shares his story in the video below. Bronson was charged with financial crimes and served two years in prison. As noted by the creators of the video, Freethink,
“While incarcerated, his eyes were opened to the inequities prisoners faced – and how daunting re-entry to society was. He decided to do something about it. He started the website 70 million jobs, with the aim of getting everyone leaving prison not only employment, but a career.”
The difficulty for felons to find a job
Finding a job can be difficult enough. Finding a job with a criminal record can seem almost impossible for most ex-felons working to reintegrate back into society. Bronson’s organization 70 Million Jobs works to be a reliable resource for those looking to improve their employment opportunities. Felons can find help with resumes and finding local job listings from companies ready to hire applicants with a criminal background. In and interview with Forbes Magazine, Bronson is asked why he believes that felon’s should be given a second chance. Richard responds,
Having lived with hundreds of men in prison, I observed that as people they were no better or worse than those I knew on the outside. Mostly, they were folks who had very few options in life, and followed the path that others around them were following.
Advantages of giving jobs to felons
In the article and on his organization’s website, Bronson notes that there are some advantages when employers take a chance on an applicant with a criminal background:
- Structure: Ex-felons have been in a system where they are used to taking and following orders
- Appreciation: They are in a position where they are appreciative for opportunities to improve themselves
- Attention: They know the value of the opportunity and are careful not to mess things up
- Retention: Recent research has found that employees with records are retained at higher rates than those without criminal histories
- Recidivism: Nearly 80% of those released from jail or prison will be re-arrested within five years. Un-employment is a primary factor. People with jobs, on the other hand, almost never recidivate.
- Bonding: The U.S. Department of Labor provides a Federal Bonding Program which provides insurance for at-risk employees for the first six months of employment at no cost to the employee or employer
- Tax Incentives: Employers who hire workers with criminal records can reduce their federal income tax by as much as $9,600 per employee.
- Community: Hiring returning citizens tells your employees and the cities and towns in which you do business that you care about providing second chances.
Providing jobs for felons reduces recidivism
Recidivism refers to the likelihood that someone who has been incarcerated for a crime will return to those circumstances. The rates of recidivism are very high. Working together at the federal, state and community level to create opportunities for ex-felons is a benefit to all in society. Groups like 70 Millon Jobs and United Purpose Network are hard at work to promote resources for recycling lives. Richard speaks to the value of investing in opportunities for those with a criminal past:
Recidivism costs cities like Los Angeles tens of billions of dollars annually, destroys lives and families, erodes society, to say nothing of the impact on the new victims. We think that progressive cities and states are recognizing the economics of recidivism and are looking for business solutions. That’s our big opportunity over time. Employment is the silver bullet.