Report: CT’s Former Prison Population Needs Workforce Re-Entry Help

Back • Publication Date: August 23, 2023 • Rights & Justice

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new report found the state of Connecticut needs to do more for its recently released prison population.

The Connecticut Voices for Children report showed most jobs available for this population do not provide a sustainable income, and the state’s labor shortage following the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. Currently, only 1.3 jobs are available for every unemployed person in the state.

Lauren Ruth, research and policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children and the report’s author, noted one policy recommendation to help people reenter the workforce after incarceration is raising the minimum wage.

“Connecticut is on the front lines to make the minimum wage a livable wage,” Ruth acknowledged. “We need to keep moving this minimum wage up towards a living wage for full-time workers. This broad policy recommendation would impact people beyond returning residents, but we raise it within this report on reentry employment needs because of how critical hope is for reentering individuals.”

Earlier this year, Connecticut’s minimum wage reached $15 an hour based on legislation signed by Gov. Ned Lamont several years ago. Starting in 2024, the state’s minimum wage will be indexed to match the federal employment cost index.

Other policy recommendations include increasing incarcerated people’s wages, making it easier for them to get driver’s licenses, and creating an annual justice reinvestment fund from money saved by closing prisons.

In interviews for the report with members of the Connecticut Justice Alliance’s Justice Advisors, Ruth noted some workforce reentry challenges were not being able to cover living expenses or support children despite working multiple jobs. Another significant challenge was transportation.

“Commuting to work by public transportation was unreliable and took a lot of time,” Ruth explained. “Using ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft cost at least an hour out of paycheck each way.”

Ruth added career training was unavailable for formerly incarcerated people. Along with early-in facility career planning, the Justice Advisors said they’d want to see “Ban-the-Box” legislation to remove questions about past convictions on job applications expanded to postsecondary education and vocational programs.

While the state’s General Assembly considered this legislation in 2022 and again in 2023, it has yet to be passed.

Disclosure: Connecticut Voices for Children contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Children’s Issues, Education, and Juvenile Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Authors: Edwin J. Viera •  Source: Public News Service • View