Excerpted from an SHRM blog by Darcey McAllister

I admit it. I have been one of those HR people reluctant to hire ex-offenders under the assumption that once trouble – always trouble.

But my husband helped me realize the error of this stereotyping. He worked in the court system for 20 years, dealing with felons and their legal financial obligations. Having heard his stories, I’ve realized that our society often sets up those released from prison for failure through a myriad of barriers to re-entry.

These barriers include employers that are unwilling to take risks on those with criminal records and landlords who are reluctant to make housing available. On the regulatory side, many professions from hair stylist to massage therapist to tattoo/piercing artist have licensing requirements that prevent those with a criminal record to obtain them.

On top of this, many people with a criminal background have a significant debt load in the form of Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs), which impacts their ability to pay for rent, transportation, child support or other basic necessities. It is no wonder that we have such a high recidivism rate.

As human resources professionals, we can help break this cycle. This is an untapped talent pool that tends to have high loyalty to those willing to hire them.

Here are steps we can take to support those re-entering the workforce:

Human resources professionals can assist people with criminal backgrounds by helping obtain provisional licensing either through sponsorship or facilitation. Recently, Washington State developed a CROP program (Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity) in which ex-offenders can apply for licensing by meeting certain minimal criteria. Ex-offenders may be reluctant to or feel overwhelmed by dealing with the court system to obtain a CROP. But a little help from a seasoned HR professional might generate loyalty from a future employee. Other states have similar programs.

Read the full post here.