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Breaking the Cycle: Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Need More Job Opportunities

As a society, we have to do better at giving people the tools they need to successfully re-enter their communities.

Next week, Barclays Center will be full of recruiters from local businesses and national corporations, all eager to meet their next great employees. What’s the occasion? It’s the Brooklyn Job and Opportunity Fair, and it’s part of the next frontier in our country’s ongoing efforts to achieve racial and economic justice. 

Our organizations – REFORM Alliance and BSE Global, parent company of Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty – are hosting this event to help address some of the most urgent problems of the day, including lack of employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals and the labor shortage plaguing New York State. The event will be held from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. at Barclays Center on Monday, March 20.  

Let’s consider the first problem. 

Formerly incarcerated people have an unemployment rate of 27%, higher than the national unemployment rate during the Great Depression. That’s despite the fact that the majority of formerly incarcerated people want to work. It’s clear that something has gone very wrong.

As a society, we have to do better at giving people the tools they need to successfully re-enter their communities. We know and data shows us that sustainable employment and access to opportunity are instrumental in the success of returning citizens and contributes to stronger families and stable communities, which translates into greater public safety for all.

Then, of course, there’s the problem of New York’s labor shortage. The most recent data show that there are thousands more open jobs than there are people seeking work. With so many formerly incarcerated people looking for stable employment, why should employers deny themselves the chance to hire capable and determined people? 

The Brooklyn Job and Opportunity Fair is here to be part of the solution. While open to the public, it’s specifically tailored to the needs of people who have records or have been impacted by the criminal justice system. Community-based organizations and workforce development programs will be on-site and ready to help people overcome common barriers to employment, whether by clearing your record of a conviction or by providing resume and interview tips. 

So many people with records are talented and driven. Give them the chance, and they tend to do great things. A 2021 study found that 85% of HR professionals felt that employees with records performed the same or better than employees without records. Employees with records also have lower turnover rates, saving companies money in the long run. These statistics send a clear message: Second-chance hiring is a win-win, for employers and for their incoming talent.  

The foundation for safe communities and a good economy is inclusion. When opportunity is widespread and people have the tools they need to thrive, we all benefit. Employers succeed. Communities thrive. Families are strengthened. At the Brooklyn Job and Opportunity Fair, folks will be doing their part to make this vision a reality. If you’re system-impacted and looking for a fresh start, come join us. You can register here. If you are an employer looking for more information about second-chance hiring, reach out to us at

Robert Rooks, CEO, Reform Alliance

Jackie Wilson, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, BSE Global