Wells Fargo commits $60M to help formerly incarcerated re-enter workforce

Firm says it's considering hiring those with previous criminal records in the future

Wells Fargo commits $60M to help formerly incarcerated re-enter workforce

Financial services firm Wells Fargo is donating $60 million to Concordance, a nonprofit advocating for the re-entry of individuals with criminal offences to society.

"Wells Fargo is committed to strengthening underserved communities and building a more inclusive economy," said Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf in a statement. "Concordance's mission of helping people build a new life and learn lasting financial skills aligns well with our desire to have a positive community impact."

The funding will accelerate Concordance's plans to open 40 new "healing first" centres nationwide over the next eight years. The nonprofit has been successful in its mission to reduce repeat criminal offences from individuals returning to society.

Findings from the Prison Policy Initiative revealed that out of one million individuals held in state penitentiaries, 71% are re-arrested within a three-to-five-year period and will be imprisoned on average seven times in their lifetimes.

"Our evidence‑based model breaks the generational cycle of crime, transforms communities, and changes racial equity for the better," said Danny Ludeman, chairman and CEO of Concordance, in a statement. "It's a holistic program that provides a structured pathway for successful re‑entry into society and lowers crime and reincarceration rates in the process."

Hiring formerly incarcerated

In its latest initiative, Wells Fargo joins the list of organisations that are extending assistance to individuals with previous convictions.

JPMorgan Chase also has a Second Chance programme in place, which helps people with former offences "offenses build stable lives, improve their financial health, and participate in the workforce."

According to the financial services firm, 10% of its new hires annually have previous convictions that have no bearing on their roles.

"That's because we're leveling the playing field for new hires by 'banning the box' – an effort that removes the requirement to disclose criminal records on job applications, and supporting legislation that help more people access meaningful careers in financial services," JPMorgan Chase said on its website.

Wells Fargo said it could consider hiring individuals with criminal records in the future.

"We are generally focused on providing support for housing, financial literacy, sustainability, and this is outside our wheelhouse, but it is an important issue and deserves attention," William Daley, Wells Fargo's vice chairman of public affairs, told Reuters.

Managing current or prospective employees with a criminal record can be difficult, but employers can still minimise legal risk, according to Jacob Reddie, solicitor at PCC Lawyers.

Among the steps they can take include implementing up-to-date policies should they require employees to disclose criminal records, including the reason why disclosure is necessary.

Policies relating to the disclosure of criminal records must also be applied to staff fairly and consistently to avoid potentially targeting an employee unfairly, Reddie said.

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