New AL Job Portal Helps Reduce Recidivism and Worker Shortage

Alabama releases about 13,000 people from jail or prison every year, and they’re expected to reintegrate into communities by sustaining employment, housing and other essentials.

Many people face major challenges in finding stable work and income with a criminal record.

Donny Jones, executive vice president and chief workforce officer of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama and executive director of West Alabama Works, and his team have developed “Building Hope West Alabama,” an online portal connecting wraparound services to people who were charged or convicted of a crime, to help them establish a sustainable life outside the criminal justice system.

“When you look at the recidivism rate for the State of Alabama, a lot of times it’s because people really don’t understand how to get into the workforce,” Jones observed. “This is about helping individuals, but it’s also about the recidivism rate in Alabama, and helping the holistic approach of the individual in our state and the community.”

He added the “holistic approach” may include education, mental health services, food assistance, and resources to obtain a government ID.

According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, about 28% of those released from Alabama prisons are rearrested or reincarcerated within three years.

A report by the Prison Policy Institute reveals formerly incarcerated individuals face an unemployment rate of 27%, surpassing even the rate during the Great Depression.

Jones pointed out with Alabama’s skilled worker shortage, the portal also offers a two-way benefit: filling workforce gaps by helping people to reintegrate.

“In the past companies have been hesitant to hire justice involved individuals,” Jones acknowledged. “But with workforce shortages and the federal funding programs helping those individuals and deferring the cost of their salaries and the benefits for these individuals, employers are now more willing to partner with us to offer these employment opportunities.”

Jones added for some employers, a Federal Bonding Program can cover a worker’s salary for 390 hours if they meet eligibility criteria. Since its launch, Building Hope Alabama has worked with 38 companies, successfully assisting more than 100 people with employment and resources.

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