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Of the 5 million formerly incarcerated people in the U.S., more than one in four are unemployed. And in their first year out of prison, over 60 percent of people are unemployed.        

State legislators should directly incentivize people on probation and parole to find and maintain stable employment. So-called “work for time credits” offer people on probation and parole the opportunity to earn time off of their community supervision sentences based on their ability to hold a job.

Studies consistently find that the most valuable incentive to people on probation and parole is earning time off of their sentences. Thus, work for time credits are an effective public policy tool to encourage people on probation and parole to work. 

The positive results of getting people on probation and parole into stable jobs ripple beyond the economy. Employment is key to effective rehabilitation and successful community re-entry, and thus to upholding public safety. A report by the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services found that unemployed offenders under their supervision were revoked to prison at a rate that was 500 percent higher than the rate for offenders who were employed. The Missouri Department of Corrections found that having a job reduced a person’s risk of returning to prison after release by two-thirds.

When policymakers adopt a work for time credit system, they motivate people to find work and, most importantly, they offer a very attractive reward for people to stay committed to their new jobs and to stay crime free. As a result, employers can have greater confidence in new workers — especially business owners who might be hesitant to hire people with criminal histories.


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