By Carolyn Cawley, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Two years ago, I met Coss Marte at a business conference. He’s an entrepreneur who is creating jobs and giving back to the community. Like everyone else at the conference, he had an expansion plan, mentors, and investors. What was different was that he’d been released from prison just a few years earlier, and he couldn’t find a job. Not a single one. Hiring managers ghosted away due to his record, so he created his own opportunity and is now giving the same chance to other ex-offenders.
He’s not alone in facing this challenge. Every year, more than 600,000 former inmates return to society and face the same hurdles.
We brought Coss to the Chamber to talk about his experience and what employers should know about hiring ex-offenders. It’s important because right now—for the first time ever—there are more open jobs than people without jobs. Can ex-offenders help fill this gap? Employers are beginning to think so, and they have a lot of questions about how to engage this “hidden workforce.”
This special edition of America Working Forward is devoted to the people who are building those pathways to employment. With original reporting and photography, we share best practices and real stories about the pathway from jail to job. We spent a year getting to know employers, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, corrections officials, and inmates who are creating innovative approaches to reentry in communities across the country.
These are the stories from inside prisons, job sites, and training facilities. We’re honored to share them. You won’t find all the answers in this magazine, but we hope you walk away with the knowledge to start having meaningful conversations about how to become a second-chance employer. Because when businesses do well, people do well, and the communities around us thrive. That’s the credo at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Please let us know what you think by sending a note to: AmericaWorkingForward@uschamber.com.