JPMorgan Chase announced Monday that it is committing to open up more job opportunities to those with criminal backgrounds, giving people who have served their time a chance to re-enter the workforce. The firm's new public policy agenda includes an enhanced hiring strategy and investment in the community.
"We're starting with reducing barriers to employment for people with criminal backgrounds," Heather Higginbottom, president of the JPMorgan Chase PolicyCenter, told Cheddar.
"One in three Americans has a criminal record, which is a pretty astonishing number. Just the existence of that record is a significant barrier to employment," Higginbottom said. "Through our own hiring strategy, our philanthropic work, and by advancing and advocating for a policy agenda to reduce barriers to employment we hope to build a more inclusive economy and bring more people into it."
The effort began last year when JPMorgan Chase "banned the box," removing questions about criminal backgrounds from job applications. Higginbottom said the decision was about making a "fair-chance hiring practice."
"Last year we saw that 10 percent of our new hires in the U.S. are people with some sort of criminal record. About 2,100 people," Higginbottom said. "We think it's been an effective policy for us. We're encouraging change through policy and encouraging other companies to do the same."
The firm is also helping to support those with criminal backgrounds by making community investments in cities like Chicago and Detroit.
"Through our philanthropic investments, we've been working with local organizations to provide training, entrepreneurship support. We're working now in Chicago with community partners to broaden our hiring pipeline," she added.
"We're funding those partners to source a more diverse workforce for us. We're keeping our high standards, continuing to comply with federal regulations. We want to make sure we have the best person for the job but we don't think a criminal record should automatically disqualify someone from consideration."
Higginbottom also told Cheddar JPMorgan Chase is also working to restore access to Pell Grants for incarcerated people eligible for higher education, noting that "460,000 people who are currently in prison could be eligible. The recidivism rate drops significantly for people who have access to education. The ability to get a job increases, that's good for those communities, for those individuals, it's good for the economy."
She's hopeful that these efforts will encourage other businesses to adopt similar strategies.
"The good news is that there are a lot of companies who want to do the right thing. I think the challenge is figuring out how to do it. One of the things we're doing through our partnership in Chicago is identifying and sharing best practices. We want to work with companies across sectors. Financial services, health, retail, etc. to share what we're learning, to bring in experts and have a collaborative commitment to this goal."