Reducing Recidivism: The Importance of Employment

If you were in charge of reducing the recidivism rate in your community, what factors would you point to as decreasing the odds of a former inmate returning to prison?

Since drug addiction is a major contributing factor to felony convictions, some might urge that enrollment in drug and addiction programs would reduce the rates of return to prison. Others might suggest that adult education classes or family services programs would decrease recidivism. Some might recommend the provision of mental health services.

In fact, a 1994 study of successful community corrections outcomes and 2 year recidivism rates for offenders leaving the Colorado penal system showed that all of these factors contributed to a decrease in return trips to prison. Individuals who successfully completed community corrections were older, educated, employed and participating in community programs. 75% of individuals who successfully completed community corrections remained crime free after two years. But one factor stood at the front of the pack. Employed offenders completed the program three times as often as those who were unemployed leading to the lower recidivism rate. In addition, employment after release from community corrections reduced recidivism rates further. Even so, few businesses will hire individuals with felony convictions.

This data shows that faith ventures are an important ingredient to reducing return trips to prison. By creating a business that employs individuals rebuilding lives from felony convictions, the faith venture creates opportunity for individuals that few businesses want to employ. And faith ventures are uniquely qualified to reduce the recidivism rate even further because they not only provide a job but also include programmatic and spiritual resources to their employees.

This is a call to action for followers of Christ interested in business and non-profit entrepreneurship. Faith ventures that offer employment and a full-spectrum of services make a positive difference in the lives of offenders and help them to achieve the life that God intends. Is God calling you to use your talents to build a better community in Christ’s name?


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