Published January 18, 2011
In 2010, Chicago Metropolis 2020, under the auspices of the Illinois Collaborative on Reentry and in conjunction with Project Safe Neighborhoods, undertook a project to deliver a comprehensive program of technical assistance forums to locally owned and operated businesses on the legal and fiscal aspects of considering formerly incarcerated men and women for employment. The program addressed liability issues from an insurance perspective, legal aspects of using criminal background checks in hiring decisions, and financial incentives and tax credits available to employers who hire persons with criminal records.
These forum events also served as an opportunity to inform the local business leaders about the initiatives of the US Attorney's Office to address criminal violence in the community and the scope of the prisoner reentry challenge in many Chicago neighborhoods. Framed as a risk management and public safety initiative, the working group responsible for the project recruited community chambers of commerce, business membership organizations, and other local organizations having strong ties to local businesses to serve as co-hosts. The communities selected were those where PSN is actively engaged with Chicago Police Department Districts in violence prevention programming.
Over the course of the year, six such technical assistance programs were presented to audiences in Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, South Chicago, Woodlawn, and Englewood.
Feedback from business forum participants, at the events themselves and in later follow-up contacts, strongly suggests that the technical information contained in the programs is much needed and highly appreciated by business owners and operators. Their appreciation for the challenges posed to communities that receive large numbers of returning prisoners each year was likewise heightened.
The US Attorney's Office, Chicago Metropolis 2020, the Collaborative on Reentry and the program team that implemented the project (Illinois Department of Employment Security, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, North Lawndale Employment Network, and Chicago Jobs Council) are eager to continue the Business Forum Project and expand its reach to larger businesses throughout Chicago's communities.
PSN Chicago is a partnership with these organizations: