Panelists pictured left to right: Dr. Lauren N. King (W.K.Kellogg Foundation), Tina Gagliano Mandell (Discover Financial Services), Dr. Lucretia Murphy (Jobs for the Future), Steph Dolan (Corporate Coalition), Alyssa Berman Cutler (University of Chicago), Matthew Bruce (Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance)

In April 2008, Congress passed the Second Chance Act[1], the first-of-its-kind legislation that authorized federal investment in strategies to reduce recidivism and increase public safety while reducing corrections costs for state and local governments. Each year, more than 650,000 people are released from state and federal prisons, and over 70 million Americans[2]have a criminal history record, which can make it hard to secure a steady job, safe housing, affordable health care, or a good education.  Each year during the month of April, advocates, activists, nonprofit leaders, employers and returning citizens remind the public of the need to right-size our criminal justice system and encourage us to reimagine a justice system that is fair and just, one focused on repair and reintegration and not criminalization.

During Further Together, we hosted a breakout session entitled Engaging Employers in Equitable, Impact and Fair Chance Hiring, which was crafted with an eye towards understanding the ways that workforce organizations are partnering with employers to advance and implement Fair and Second Chance hiring practices within their institutions.   The panel, comprised of workforce practitioners, national intermediary partners, employers, and philanthropy discussed the importance and role of philanthropy investing in learning opportunities that support employer adoption of fair and second chance hiring practices.

Steph Dolan representing Corporate Coalition and Lucretia Murphy representing JFF’s Center for Justice & Economic Advancement (CJEA), shared their respective approaches to engaging and working with employers to advance and advocate for Fair and Second Chance hiring efforts.

Corporate Coalition implements a cohort model that fosters a trusting environment in which participating companies share experiences and challenges, learn from experts about potential solutions, and take action to identify and pursue specific practice changes to advance their fair chance hiring goals, and receive coaching and support along the way. Steph emphasized the importance of the cohort model for employers who are trying new strategies to hire more justice-impacted individuals. As she stated in the conference, “We can’t do it alone. We truly go Further Together”.

The Center for Justice & Economic Advancement (CJEA) supports advocates and policymakers around the country through their Policy Action Labs, leveraging the role that employers can play as change agents and equipping them through their Fair Chance Corporate Cohort to hire people with records and speak directly to policy makers in their respective communities about the value of fair chance hiring. Lucretia highlighted in her comments that “employers are often resistant to fair chance hiring because of the perception that a person with a conviction in their past is a permanent risk. This is simply not true. We have the experiences and evidence to change that narrative”.

When asked to reflect on the important role that philanthropy can play in supporting Fair and Second Chance hiring, our panelists said:

  • Philanthropy can signal to employers that this work is a priority, and they ought to prioritize and invest in it;
  • Philanthropy can help push the thinking of employers and partners in an ecosystem; and
  • Philanthropy can serve as a catalyst, igniting a fair & second chance movement among practitioners, employers and other local stakeholders, not just participating in a moment.

The employer partners on the panel discussed the benefits of participating in a cohort where they could learn from their peers and influence each other to make practical shifts and changes to their hiring process and organizational culture such as starting a task force comprised of a combination of the right people in the company.  They shared that the investments from their local philanthropic partners made it possible for them to participate and expressed how important that signaling is from philanthropy, especially in instances where there is not full buy-in and/or where funding from the company is limited.

As a network of workforce grantmakers, Workforce Matters supports Fair and Second Chance hiring efforts and this Second Chance month, we encourage you to think about the ways that you can support, advocate for or invest in fair, equitable and impact hiring strategies in your cities, states and regions.


If you are interested in learning more about best practices for Fair and Second Chance Hiring, review the list of resources below:

  1. Fair Chance Hiring in Philanthropy
  2. Normalizing Opportunity Policy Framework
  3. Fair Chance Corporate Cohort – JFF
  4. Fair Chance Hiring Cohort  – Corporate Coalition, Chicago
  5. Case Study on JBM Packaging Fair Chance Efforts
  6. Second Chance Business Coalition
  7. Normalizing Opportunity: Barriers and Supports for Successful Reentry From Incarceration
  8. Crain’s Chicago Business Op-Ed about Fair Chance Hiring: Here’s a big opportunity to tackle the labor shortage