The Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee. Courtesy California Board of State and Community Corrections.

A report released Monday by the San Diego Workforce Partnership found San Diegans who have previously been incarcerated face significant barriers to reentering the workforce, but that hiring people with criminal records can strengthen the economy as a whole.

The report, “The Nexus of Systemic Racism, Criminal Justice and Economic Opportunity,” found barriers to workforce entry for those with criminal records — referred to in the report as “justice-involved” — are often tied to racial bias and discrimination in local, regional and national criminal justice systems.

The report also offers recommendations to help San Diego businesses develop community-focused solutions to embrace diversity, strengthen the economy, and ensure those labeled as “unemployable” have equal access to employment opportunities.

The Workforce Partnership found racial inclusion and income equality are key factors driving regional economic growth. According to the Center for American Progress, racial inclusion is positively associated with growth in employment, output, productivity and per capita income. Regions that became more equitable in the 1990s — with reductions in racial segregation, income disparities or concentrated poverty — experienced greater economic growth as measured by increased per capita income.

Top findings from the report include:

— Change is driven by trusting relationships, which includes fostering mutually beneficial relationships between supporting organizations and justice-involved individuals;

— If organizations seek to support justice-involved individuals, the best time to reach them is before they are released from custody;

— A job alone is often not always the first step toward self-sufficiency. If justice-involved individuals believe that an organization only cares about achieving employment placements, they won’t communicate challenges that are relevant to their path toward self-sufficiency; and

— Organizations that want to support this population need to agree on a model of service that provides justice-involved individuals’ experience over the operational preferences of their organizations.

The report details several resources available for businesses to hire formerly incarcerated individuals, including $2,400 in Work Opportunity Tax Credits and “new employment” state tax credits for wages paid to employees with a felony conviction.

The Workforce Partnership cited the example of Johns Hopkins Medicine, where 20% of entry-level hires have criminal records. A five-year study of 500 justice-involved workers found a below-average turnover rate and zero problematic terminations, according to the SDWP.

A full copy of the report can be found at economic-opportunity/.

–City News Service

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