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Challenges to reentering the workforce after jailtime hurts families, report says

This gas station in Encinitas, Calif., was looking to hire last month.
Mike Blake
Reuters /Landov
This gas station was looking to hire last month.

Connecticut’s justice-impacted population could help solve the state’s labor shortage — but only if they receive better support, according to a report from advocacy group Connecticut Voices for Children.

The report cited low wages, educational barriers, access to transportation and lack of support while incarcerated for a high unemployment rate among justice impacted individuals.

Report author Lauren Ruth outlined a list of recommendations for the state to engage the population in the workforce.

“Removing public policy barriers that unnecessarily restrict the ability of people with criminal records to enter higher wage jobs and to enter higher education will open more opportunities for reentering people and increase their contributions to Connecticut's economy,” Ruth said.

The recommendations include career planning for inmates before their release, expanding the work release program, offering networking events at correctional facilities, offering transportation assistance and raising the minimum wage.

According to the report, more than half of justice-impacted individuals have children that they support.

Ruth said minimum wage, which is what most jobs that formerly incarcerated people qualify for pay, does not cover the cost of living for people who are supporting families.

“The vast majority of entry level occupations that were available for people with the educational and experience backgrounds that we see amongst the reentry population do not pay livable wages,” Ruth said.

The report also recommends the state remove questions about prior convictions from college applications and invest money from recently closed prisons in justice-impacted communities.

Molly is a reporter covering Fairfield County. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.