Let’s talk about second chances

We talk a lot about crime as a society: the recent statistics, how it impacts our communities, what causes it and how to address it. It’s a challenge as old as time, and throughout history, a singular solution has not emerged. But curbing crime is worth the effort, and Hope 2 Hire takes a unique approach: investing in the lives of people who have already committed crimes.

When we looked at crime data, one thing stood out to us. The most recent data in the state of Tennessee shows that 46% of people who are released from prison will return to prison within three years of release. There is an enormous need for investment in curbing crime among people who have committed crime. That’s why we got in the business of providing second chances. 

Why should we provide second chances?

If we’re serious about combating crime, we need to address the fact that crime often begets crime. And while some people will say the problem with that is an inherent flaw within the person committing the crime, we believe that crime is more complicated than that. Most people don’t commit crimes out of pleasure – there is usually an underlying challenge that drives them to commit crime. Addiction, mental illness, housing instability and financial hardship can all drive people to commit crimes. Through Hope 2 Hire and partnerships with organizations like HopeWorks, we work to help people overcome those challenges so they can make better choices and build a better life moving forward. Creating a better life for themselves and for their families is ultimately why we should provide people a second chance – because we’ve all made mistakes and need grace. 

What gives someone a meaningful shot at a second chance?

As we mentioned before, there are challenges that drive people to crime. After leaving prison, some of those challenges are exacerbated. It’s harder to get a job, finding housing is challenging, and it’s easy to slip back into bad habits. Hope 2 Hire believes that if we can help eliminate or lessen some of those barriers, it will improve the likelihood that a person will choose to be a contributing member of society. That starts by going into Shelby County Division of Corrections. We encourage inmates to enroll in HopeWorks’ Personal and Career Development course to learn soft skills, gain a mentor, develop a faith journey, address addiction and strengthen their mental health. From there, they can enroll in one of our technical education programs. We offer a variety of courses for free, and all of them will allow participants to leave prison with a technical certificate. With meaningful training and a headstart on personal wellness, we’ve found that participants have a better life post-release. We don’t just believe it because we feel it, we have the data to back it up. Our program’s recidivism rate is 12%. That’s 34 percentage points lower than the state average. 

Do people deserve second chances?

We can’t change your beliefs on whether or not people deserve second chances. But we are an organization rooted in faith, and we believe that we are called to care for people in prison and to support them as our neighbors. That means extending forgiveness to people, even people who have done things that hurt our community. But even if you aren’t a person of faith, we encourage you to consider that all of us have done things wrong and need forgiveness. Do you want your life to be defined by your worst choice? If a person serves their time and puts in the effort to make better life choices moving forward, we believe that second chances are not only worth extending, but essential to strengthening our society.

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