Life After Prison: Your New Untapped Talent Pool

July 08, 2020
Checkr Editor

Over 600,000 Americans are released from prison every year into a society that isn’t made for them to find success. They encounter unforgiving barriers to finding work, housing, and personal support.

At Checkr, we see this reality validated firsthand through our own employees—in fact, 6% of our employee base is made up of people with records. American civic systems don’t make the transition back into the world easy, so even something as simple as getting an ID card becomes a challenge. We needed an innovative solution that would bridge knowledge gaps between people who have never had to find a job after leaving prison and our own employees and candidates who have.

In 2018, we partnered with Reinventing Reentry and the Dave Killer’s Bread Foundation to bring an empathy building exercise to our employees. The exercise immerses participants into the struggles and challenges faced by individuals who are transitioning from incarceration back into society. Participants are given a reentry profile, which includes a criminal record and available funds. They’re then tasked with using this profile to navigate parts of the reentry process, from securing housing to finding employment. Through varying degrees of success with getting through the exercise, participants quickly learned how overwhelming— and defeating— it is to reclaim a normal life after leaving the prison system.

The Reentry Simulation as we call it has since become an integral component of our employee experience. Prior to the pandemic, we took the simulation to some of our biggest customers who are responsible for hiring millions of Americans every year. The Simulation reveals that millions of qualified candidates are overlooked for jobs, and employers often get inspired to start conversations around their culture and policies. Access to employment is the most fundamental way to combat recidivism, and employment creates safer communities for everyone.

Through social distancing, we’re proud to launch an online version of the Reentry Simulation called the Reentry Challenge. During this 20 minute role-play, you’ll walk in the shoes of “Alex”—a persona who is reentering his community after being released for nonviolent drug charges. You will experience the challenges that come along with sustaining a manageable livelihood after incarceration, including the challenges of finding work and adjusting to life outside of prison. In this challenge, the decisions you make for Alex illustrate how much we take our privilege and access for granted.

We hope organizations initiate conversations around their treatment of people with criminal records and understand their role in creating more inclusive communities, especially in a historically challenging labor market. The benefits of leveraging an untapped talent pool permeate society, and we encourage organizations to strengthen their diversity and inclusion efforts for the good of their workforce productivity, culture, and local communities.

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