“Everyone is hiring, but no one can actually find candidates.”
Last week, I was talking to a friend who is struggling to fill openings at his company. He wasn’t complaining about not finding the best candidates for his open role. He was complaining about not finding any candidates to consider.
Whether it’s the “Great Resignation” or fast-food workers who post “We all quit!” on their restaurant’s sign, the news is full of stories about labor shortages across the country.
Amidst this uncertainty, more than 10,000 men and women are released each week from our country’s state and federal prisons. Those reentering society face many challenges, and finding sustainable employment is one of the most urgent.
That’s a challenge our current podcast guest, Tony Kitchens, knows very well. Tony went to jail as a teenager in 1974 and was released in 1985. Imagine if you exited society in 1974 and re-emerged in 1985 how different things would look. Now imagine that you were unemployed, with only a $25 check from the Georgia Department of Corrections to your name, and a conviction on your record.
Reentry vs. reintegration
Would you consider hiring that person?
If you hesitated before answering that, you’re certainly not alone. Today, more than thirty-five years after his release, Tony works to change the way we think about reentry. As he sees it, “reentry” into society can be accomplished simply through release from incarceration. Someone living under a bridge upon release has “reentered” society but living under a bridge with no job and no money doesn’t sound a lot better than prison, and it certainly doesn’t sound like success.
Tony wants us to start talking more about “reintegration” and less about “reentry.” He believes if we can change the conversation and think less about “getting out” and more about well-being, lives will be changed, and all of our communities will be better off.
“I’m better, I’m better than this”
The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. That’s just a fact, not a left or right issue. Every day, some of those people who have been incarcerated will reenter society, many of them into your community. Personally, I’d prefer that these men and women occupy some of those many unfilled roles in the economy, have a home, and a future to look forward rather than live under a bridge or return to prison. If changing the conversation and focusing on “reintegration” and how we think about success helps with that, it seems like a small price for me to pay.
I hope you’ll listen to the podcast and hear more about the work Tony and his colleagues are doing. Please check out our five links for information about unfilled job openings, incarceration by state, and more on Tony’s background, including a trailer for a recent documentary he helped produce. Finally, I hope you’ll watch the story of Kevin, a young man who served his time and was released with very little beyond the conviction that he was “better, better than this” and the people who helped him prove it.
- There are more job openings than unemployed workers.
- 34 states have higher incarceration rates than every other country in the world.
- How a formerly incarcerated person moves from “returning citizen” to “restored citizen.”
- A look into the first week of life after 42 ½ years of incarceration.
- Why second chances in employment are crucial.
Photo by tomertu on Adobe Stock