By Mitch Coppes, Government Relations Senior Specialist, Goodwill Industries International
President Joe Biden recently issued a proclamation marking April as Second Chance Month, a time to raise awareness of the challenges facing people with criminal backgrounds and to spotlight the important work being done by community-based organizations like Goodwill® to empower second chance individuals to achieve career and life success. As noted in the proclamation, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons every year. Indeed the overwhelming majority of people who are incarcerated will return to their communities at some point, and many will confront barriers to employment, housing and public benefits. Without access to jobs, education, training, and holistic reintegration services second chance individuals are at a greater risk to reoffend.
“Every person leaving incarceration should have housing, the opportunity at a decent job, and health care,” said President Biden. “A person’s conviction history should not unfairly exclude them from employment, occupational licenses, access to credit, public benefits, or the right to vote.” He pledged his Administration’s commitment to rethinking the criminal justice system, including providing quality job training and educational opportunities during incarceration and investing in reentry programs and support services to prevent recidivism. “By focusing on prevention, reentry, and social support, rather than incarceration, we can ensure that America is a land of second chances and opportunity for all people.”
Goodwill’s evidence-based reentry services offer second chance individuals opportunities to engage in learning, skills development, work experience and holistic reintegration services. Goodwill Industries International (GII) recently announced a collaboration with Accenture to help people impacted by the criminal justice system build essential career-readiness skills through an innovative virtual experience. “People impacted by the justice system often experience inequities over the course of their lives coupled with limited work experience and little to no financial resources, stable housing or support systems,” said Steven C. Preston, GII president and CEO. “This program offers the possibility for the trajectory of their lives to change and allows them to reestablish themselves as contributing members to their communities.”
Public policies and systemic practices can contribute to barriers to opportunity, so Goodwill also seeks to advance policy solutions that help people impacted by the justice system have a second chance for success and a fair chance for employment. By investing in community-based reentry programs, providing greater access to pre- and post-release education and training, promoting fair-chance hiring practices, removing barriers to employment and occupational licensing, and addressing the collateral consequences of conviction, second chance individuals can change their lives through learning and the power of work!