Author: Greg Thomas
April is Second Chance Month in North Carolina, a time to focus attention on the challenges facing the more than 20,000 people returning to their communities each year after completing their sentences in prison.
Did you know that around 25 percent of North Carolinians have a criminal record? That usually creates consequences that most people are not aware of. People leaving prison are starting over. They frequently need a place to live, a job and support to re-start their lives. In fact, about 95 percent of people in prison will eventually return to their communities.
Reentry Programs & Services helps individuals 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 assist formerly incarcerated people is challenging.
“COVID-19 put incredible strains on reentry efforts. But thankfully, as the pandemic appears to be easing, the services available to justice-involved individuals can return to normal,” said Lateisha Thrash, Director of Reentry, Programs & Services for the Division of Adult Correction. “Our reentry partners have done an incredible job in very difficult circumstances,” she said.
As the pandemic eases, more and more jobs have opened up – particularly in the service and hospitality industries. Employers are clamoring for employees.
“We need employers to step-up and give the formerly incarcerated a second chance,” Thrash 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, the State Reentry Council Collaborative and 17 local reentry councils serving 19 counties across the state, work every day to help increase the success of people who are returning to their communities. Everyone deserves a second chance. Find out more here and learn about this year’s Second Chance Month events here. Finally, after many COVID-related delays, we are also excited to invite agencies, local service providers, and formerly incarcerated people to register for the 2022 North Carolina Reentry Conference.
Governor Roy Cooper Proclaims April as Second Chance Month. Read the proclamation here.