Every year, over 600,000 people are released from federal and state prisons, while about 9 million are released from community jails. Although the aim of all correctional facilities is to reduce crime, time served in them comes with highly problematic side effects: mass incarceration is a major cause of poverty and other problems in the US. To make matters worse, prison sentences often don’t even succeed in their purpose; over two-thirds of individuals impacted by the justice system are rearrested within a few years of being released from prison.

For many of these people, however, career training and a second chance at employment can go a long way toward reducing recidivism, rebuilding lives, and lifting people out of poverty as formerly incarcerated individuals re-enter society.

What Is Recidivism?

Simply put, the recidivism rate is the rate at which people who have served time in correctional facilities are caught reoffending. More specifically, it measures the number of ex-inmates who commit crimes resulting in rearrest, reconviction, or reincarceration within 3 years of release from their first or most recent prison sentence.

Reducing recidivism is important for many reasons. One is that maintaining prison facilities and programs costs states and taxpayers billions of dollars per year, and reincarceration accounts for up to 10% of those costs. Overcrowding in prisons also leads to serious health and safety risks for both inmates and staff.

Importantly, decreasing recidivism gives individuals previously convicted of less serious crimes a chance to lead stable, productive lives in society. This is beneficial both to these individuals and to the communities in which they work, pay taxes, and make other contributions. These may include civic or economic activities like volunteering, mentoring, or starting a business.

How Career Training and Employment Help

It can be extremely difficult for people with a criminal history to get hired for any job, much less one that provides a living wage, benefits, and meaningful work. Unemployment becomes an acute challenge for individuals who are forced to choose between criminal activity, unhoused life on the streets, and the guarantee of food and shelter in prison for their survival.

Career training programs and second-chance employment offer a way for people who have been incarcerated for non-serious crimes to support themselves, regain their dignity, fill in-demand job openings, support the economy, and participate in society. Here’s how career training programs and employers willing to give a second chance to individuals with criminal records can accomplish this:

  • Provide access to positive influences. Particularly for people who have had a significantly disadvantaged start or period in their lives, training and workplace exposure to positive influences like law-abiding peers and mentors can help them envision their own path to success. As so many people both outside and inside the justice system learn, it’s never too late to be inspired by good role models.
  • Create structured days and weeks. For some individuals, simply having a set schedule and a rhythm to their days and weeks can help to provide psychological stability and improve their sense of focus. It also allows trainees and workers to plan ahead, set goals, and find things to look forward to, all of which can better motivate ex-offenders to succeed.
  • Offer high-quality roles. Although studies show that releasing correctional populations in a strong low-skills labor market does help to reduce recidivism, research indicates that higher-paying jobs have greater success in doing so. Making a living wage not only makes it feasible to stay away from crime and out of prison, but gives workers a greater sense of accomplishment and self-worth.
  • Pave the way for a strong employment history. The longer an individual has been out of prison and actively employed, the greater their chances are of being hired for new and successively higher-quality positions. This in turn lessens the likelihood that they will return to criminal activity or prison in the future. However, each person needs a place to start. That’s why employers who give formerly incarcerated applicants a chance to begin a new employment history are giving them so much more than just a job.
  • Impart marketable skills. A career training program can offer any student much more than the means to become employable. It allows them to pursue their interests, find a good career match for their personality, lay the groundwork for a better future, and improve their sense of self-worth. Students can also choose to build their skills later for upward professional mobility.

Get Back On Track With JobTrain

JobTrain is an accredited educational and training institution that transforms lives and communities in Silicon Valley. We help the Valley’s most in need reclaim their lives from poverty, incarceration, and unemployment by preparing them for successful, sustainable careers in high-demand and emerging fields. JobTrain’s work furlough graduates recidivism rate is only 25%, half the average rate compared to the state (which is 50%).

Check out our career training pathways to get started on the path to a high-quality job in a field that excites you.

Each of JobTrain’s programs combines vocational training, academics, and essential skills development, preparing students to turn their lives around—from unemployment and poverty to success and self-sufficiency. You can do your part to reduce recidivism by making a donation today!