Colorado announces $1.1 million effort to help people leaving prison find jobs

By: - November 10, 2021 11:48 am

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announces a public-private partnership to support employers who hire people leaving prison on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Colorado Attorney General’s Facebook Page)

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced a $1.1 million initiative on Tuesday aimed at growing the number of employers who will hire formerly incarcerated people looking for work, an effort to increase public safety and reduce recidivism. 

The grants to the Colorado Department of Corrections and community advocacy groups are meant to build a network of employers willing to hire people leaving prison, and give them the support and training necessary to do so successfully. 

“It’s not just a win for the individuals and public safety. It’s a win for employers,” Weiser said during a press conference announcing the initiative. 

“For a lot of employers, there’s too much friction to hire people who might have been incarcerated,” he said. “What (DOC Executive Director) Dean Williams and his team have done at DOC is extraordinary, to reduce that friction and enable hiring. Today, we’ve got a roadmap for how we build on this work.”

Nearly half of the 8,500 people released from Colorado prisons annually return within three years, according to a release from the attorney general’s office. The state hopes that making it easier for formerly incarcerated people to find work will lower that recidivism rate.

“I was talking to someone whose brother was released from prison here in Colorado with a bus ticket and nothing more,” Weiser said. “That is not a way to help somebody rebuild their life. It’s not a way to protect public safety. It’s, in fact, giving somebody what’s often talked about as a stumbling block before the blind. It’s not the right way.”

The money will flow from the Department of Law through the DOC: $900,000 over three years to the Latino Coalition for Community Leadership and other organizations to build that fair chance employer network and $200,000 to organizations that help people leaving prison with job skills, housing resources and other support. Weiser said he wants to create a “fair chance ecosystem” that can be a national model.

“Here’s the simple truth: Men and women who leave prison with a job, with money in pocket they’ve made in prison working a job, who have better social connections already established before they leave prison, who have a future ahead of them, that have a hope ahead of them are better neighbors to all of us, and they’re also less likely to return to prison,” Williams said.

Gov. Jared Polis noted that any effort to expand the workforce is necessary as the state tries to recover from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

“The number one concern we hear from the business community is that it’s hard to find people to fill our open positions right now. So employers who think out of the box and can tap into a talented, dedicated pool of potential employees who need jobs, are ready for jobs, will benefit immensely,” he said. “Now is the right time. There is a real need right now for people to power our economic recovery.”

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.