Author: Greg Thomas

April is Second Chance Month in North Carolina, a time to consider the challenges facing the more than 20,000 people returning to their communities after leaving prison.

At least 1 in 4 North Carolinians have criminal records that often trigger collateral consequences, limiting their housing and employment opportunities. In fact, about 95 percent of people in prison will eventually return to their communities.

Reentry programs help individuals to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into communities by connecting them with resources from government, nonprofit and business groups. The goal is to begin connecting them before they leave incarceration so that support is already in place and established in their home community.

Reentry is difficult. Even on a good day, before COVID-19, trying to place people is challenging

"Obviously the pandemic is affecting everyone and impacting all aspects of life,” said Nicole Sullivan, deputy secretary for analysis, programming and policy for the Division of Adult Correction & Juvenile Justice.  “The normal things that people try to do when they are released are tough. Finding shelter, even if it’s at a homeless shelter is more difficult, getting placements into support programs – that’s difficult,” she said.

As more and more individuals are vaccinated against COVID-19 and more restrictions are lifted, the hope is that many of the jobs that people reentering frequently get will reemerge – particularly in the service and hospitality industries. 

“We need employers to step-up and give the formerly incarcerated a second chance,” Sullivan said. “This is a large, under-utilized talent pool of very motivated people.”

Other efforts to reduce employment barriers for the formerly incarcerated have been implemented at the state level. In August 2020, Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 158 to implement fair chance policies at state agencies to increase employment opportunities for people with criminal records. Among other things, Executive Order 158 removes criminal history questions from the state employment application, prohibits inquiries into an individual’s criminal history during the initial stages of the hiring process, and requires state agencies to provide a reasonable opportunity for applicants to explain the circumstances of their conviction.

DPS’s Reentry Programs & Services, along with the State Reentry Council Collaborative and local reentry councils across the state, work every day to help people who are returning to their communities be successful. Everyone deserves a second chance.

Find out more about Reentry Programs here.
What does Reentry Mean to NC Employers?
Read the proclamation
Learn more about Executive Order 158.


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