Why It Matters

Large employers are increasingly adopting second chance employment programs. Learn why CEOs are tapping this source of talent and delivering for their companies and the communities where they operate.

Second Chances Deliver for Business and People

More than 80 million Americans have a criminal record. That's a quarter of the entire U.S. population.

In a hypercompetitive economy, where companies struggle to identify strong candidates at all levels of their operations, too many employers are missing out on qualified talent in this huge segment of the U.S. population.


National Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, for individuals who have been caught up in the criminal justice system, employment and economic progress remain elusive at best.

Research shows that nearly nine in 10 employers require applicants to undergo a background check, and a criminal record can reduce the chances of a second interview by 50 percent. As a result of this and other challenges, the 27 percent unemployment rate among formerly incarcerated people in the United States, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, was higher than at any other point in U.S. history, including during the Great Depression.

Encouragingly, companies in a wide range of industries, including complex and highly-regulated sectors, have bucked this trend and established successful programs that give these job seekers a chance at meaningful employment. For companies that have a track record of second chance employment, opening up this talent pipeline is delivering great benefits. Here are some key reasons why companies are taking this step:

Second chance employees perform well and workplaces benefit.

Employers who have made second chances part of their talent strategy have been rewarded.

According to research from the SHRM Foundation, 85 percent of human resource and 81 percent of business leaders report that individuals with criminal records perform the same as or better than employees without criminal records.

"Second-chance hiring is not preferential treatment; it is simply equal treatment through the elimination of unnecessary systemic barriers. Many hiring managers are fearful of the very idea of a criminal record. But returning citizens are not a uniform category; they are individual applicants with individual profiles."

From article published by Inc., co-authored by Damien Dwin, Alyssa Lovegrove and Pietra Rivoli


And 82 percent of managers and 67 percent of HR professionals

report that the value second chance employees bring to their organization is as high as, or higher than, that of workers without records.

On balance, second chance hires are highly loyal and productive employees. The SHRM Foundation research reveals that second chance hires have lower turnover rates, which saves companies money. What’s more, many companies that have changed their culture to ensure second chance employees can succeed are finding that their entire workforce is now more loyal and engaged. Improved employee loyalty means lower turnover and higher-quality outputs, both of which lead to stronger company performance. Failing to consider second chance candidates means companies are missing out on opportunities to grow a healthy workforce.

Advancing second chances is an effective way for employers to make good on their diversity and inclusion goals.

Qualified prospective employees are being excluded from economic opportunities due to their criminal record, which disproportionately affects people of color.

For example, Black adults are nearly six times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts, and Latino adults are more than three times more likely.

To make progress on their inclusive workforce strategies, companies are increasingly taking a more sophisticated and nuanced approach to risk assessment as they determine which candidates are, or are not, suitable for the job.

"Done right, second chance hiring that offers the needed training and support repays the required investment with loyal, productive and profitable employees (the upfront costs can even effectively be offset by tax credits). Without such an approach, our labor force cannot hope to reflect the diversity of our population."

From article published by CNN, authored by Jeff Korzenik

Second chance employment is one key tool employers can use to advance this work. In the end, a criminal charge is just one of many factors that can assess the fitness and potential of a job candidate. It is also important to note that federal equal employment guidelines dictate that applicants should only be excluded if and when their charge is directly relevant to the position they seek.

Second chance employment not only benefits individuals and companies, it strengthens our communities and society.

More inclusive hiring is a powerful way to break the cycle of economic hardship, poverty and incarceration that characterizes many American communities. By giving second chance candidates an opportunity, individuals and families strengthen their financial health and communities stabilize. That means a better local economy, which boosts the business climate for all companies. Companies thrive when the communities around them also thrive. Second chance employment is one way that companies can make sure the communities where they operate are flourishing.

"At Kroger, with 460,000 employees, only hiring managers know workers’ backgrounds. Kroger partners with nonprofits and local business groups for services its human-resources department doesn’t offer. Of the initial hires, 37 still work for Kroger; about half have been promoted from entry-level jobs to lead manufacturing roles paying $20 or more an hour. “We have many examples of people buying their first car, buying a house,” Mr. McMullen said."

From article published by The Wall Street Journal, authored by Ruth Simon

In the end, second chance hiring starts with an open mind on the part of CEOs and their HR and talent management leaders. It then takes a commitment to a more objective approach to risk and a recognition of the potential benefits. For companies that have taken this step, most find that their inclusive hiring creates a positive dynamic, makes all of their employees feel more valued and gives them a critical competitive edge.

The Second Chance Business Coalition is taking these efforts to a new level, giving companies the connections, resources and tools they need to build and strengthen their second-chance employment programs.

This collaboration is a powerful way for companies to work together to improve inclusion, diversity, and equity in our workforces. It's the right thing to do and I'm proud to be a part of it.”

Craig Arnold, Chairman and CEO, Eaton

In this hyper-competitive global economy, we simply cannot afford to leave more than 80 million Americans on the sidelines. JPMorgan Chase is committed to giving people with criminal backgrounds a second chance.”

Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Learn how to take action