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Government & Politics

Employers Who Hire Ex-Felons Learn About the Risks and Rewards

Picture of the Northeast Ohio Re-Entry Business Summit
KEVIN NIEDERMIER
/
WKSU

Government, businesses and social service agencies gathered in Cleveland today to discuss ways to help people leaving prison find work. The Northeast Ohio Re-entry Business Summit is aimed at trying to reduce Cuyahoga County’s recidivism rate.            

Each year about 4,000 people return to Cuyahoga County from prison. Finding a job is a big part of keeping them from going back behind bars.

Nancy Russo is Cuyahoga County’s Re-entry Court judge. She says instead of just asking businesses to hire people with a record, the summit’s goal is to help employers understand the realities of hiring them. Russo says many employers wrongly believe there are complex legal implications tied to hiring felons, and many don’t know about the benefits.   

“They also don’t realize there are tax benefits that are available to them and tax credits. We’re hoping to let them know that as well, there’s an economic incentive.”

Cuyahoga County has the state’s highest rate of people returning from prison. Just over a quarter of them go back three years after being released. That’s slightly below the state average, and well below the national average -- estimated at more than 40 percent. Russo credits the county’s extensive array of programs.