CHEYENNE, WY. – Leading U.S. companies and trade groups representing more than 60 percent of the U.S. workforce have committed to change their recruiting practices to be more welcoming to people with criminal backgrounds – a group that includes nearly one in three American adults.

Johnny Taylor Jr., president and chief executive of the Society for Human Resource Management, said employers now will be able to access a talent pool of some 650,000 people re-entering society each year.

“And the person who is recently returning to society – who wants to stay out of jail, out of prison – has an opportunity to become a productive, tax-paying citizen,” he said. “So it is a win, win, win.”

Because people with jobs are far less likely to return to prison, Taylor said, Wyoming taxpayers also won’t have to pay incarceration costs, which top $45,000 per year, for each incarcerated person. Some employers have shied away from hiring people with criminal backgrounds because of concerns about increased liability costs and work-related crimes.

Taylor said he’s hopeful that the pledge taken by IBM, Walmart, the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will convince more employers to give workers a second chance. He added that people who have served time are more likely to do whatever it takes to stay on the outside.

“All of the research tells us that the formerly incarcerated do not commit violent crimes, or more workplace-related crimes, than people who have no criminal background,” he said.

According to a recent poll, more than 80 percent of managers say the value that workers with criminal records add is as high or higher than that of workers without records.

The overall incarceration rate in the United States is 700 per 100,000 people, but in Wyoming it’s 840. In France, by comparison, just 100 people per 100,000 are incarcerated.

Related research is online at


Eric Galatas, Public News Service