You’re Hired

Students at Edwins laughing in kitchen
Credit: Lara Talevski

If you’ve looked for a job in the last decade, there is a great chance that Indeed was your go-to search engine. With just a few clicks, thousands of vacant job opportunities were at your fingertips. Granted, many other job-seeking candidates applied for those same employment opportunities. According to Interview Success Formula, on average, companies receive 118 applications for each new position. I think it’s safe to say that the job market is competitive.  It’s even harder for treatment court participants who may have a lack of education, limited skills, and/or a substance use disorder.

As a member of the National Drug Court Resource Center (NDCRC), I attended the National Association of Drug Court Professional’s 2018 Annual Conference in Houston, Texas.  During one of the breakout sessions, I heard a presentation tilted African American Participants’ Suggestions for Eliminating Racial Disparities in Graduate Rates:  Enhancing Program Evaluation by professor John Gallagher from Indiana University’s School of Social Work.  Gallagher conducted a qualitative meta-synthesis (a research approach to analyze and summarize findings from several qualitative studies) to find out what factors contributed to African Americans graduating from treatment courts at a lower rate than their White counterparts. One of the findings included the need to create sustainable employment for African Americans. At the end of his presentation, Gallagher recommended that staff members at treatment courts include employers as part of treatment court teams.  Employers can teach participants new skills, provide job assistance, or offer jobs.

Student at Edwin's Cooking
Credit: TFL Films LLC

In 2016, CNN highlighted the work of a Cleveland-based restaurant called Edwins.  Owner and chef, Brandon Chrostowski, uses his restaurant as a training ground to teach individuals who have previously encountered run-ins with the legal system. At Edwins, students are trained on culinary education and are positioned to enter the hospitality management business. Chrostowski himself knows how it feels to need a second chance after experiencing a stint on probation. Just like Chrostowski, treatment court participants also need another shot, including gainful employment.

It is especially relevant to address the topic of employment for those who are currently or formerly involved in the criminal justice system. As individuals take the next step to re-emerge themselves into society, a job can provide the structure and stability that they need to succeed in the community. In a study by the Urban Institute, researchers investigated the impact of employment after prison, and results showed that former prisoners who found employment and had higher wages after release were less likely to return to prison.   Employment really does matter.

Employers, need an idea to engage in corporate social responsibility (efforts of companies to improve society)? I encourage your corporations to become involved in treatment courts by offering jobs and teaching new skills and services, which consequently improves the lives of participants and the community. My hope in writing this blog is that many businesses across the country will join treatment court teams and that will lead to treatment courts participants hearing these words often:  you’re hired.

Zephi Francis is a research specialist at the Justice Programs Office.