Guest blog post: The benefits of employing the formerly incarcerated
Keri Salerno focuses on prisoner reintegration with the Public Safety Office, City of Philadelphia.
When assessing criminal justice costs, it is important to consider not only the costs of incarceration, but the financial benefits to the public sector of successfully reintegrating formerly incarcerated people. For this reason—and with the help of local philanthropists—the City of Philadelphia’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety partnered with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. The result was the report Economic Benefits of Employing Formerly Incarcerated Individuals in Philadelphia,released in September 2011.The report provides data on the estimated wages, annual and lifetime earnings, and wage-tax and sales-tax contributions, based on education level, for the city’s formerly incarcerated population. For example, if a formerly incarcerated man without a high school diploma becomes employed, he can expect to earn $8,366 annually, contributing $329 in wage tax and $129 in sales tax to the city and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“When people talk about the economics of incarceration, they tend to focus on the costs side—the costs of imprisonment, the costs to victims of crime, the costs of rehabilitation,” said Josh Sevin, deputy director of the Economy League. “There’s far less understanding and attention paid to the potential economic benefits associated with connecting the formerly incarcerated to employment. The City of Philadelphia recognized the value of getting such benefits estimates in both making the case for increased investment in ex-offender employment programs and in engaging the business community around expanding job opportunities for ex-offenders.”
By using the data from the Economic Benefits report, policymakers and program developers in Philadelphia can better understand how investing limited resources can help to achieve two important benefits: more revenue to the City and greater public safety by reintegrating formerly incarcerated men and women.