by Kevin Bliss
Former Brick, New Jersey, attorney John Koufos lost his job as a high-profile prosecutor when he seriously injured someone in a car accident while driving drunk. He was sentenced to six years in jail.
After an early release, Koufos earned his way to executive director of the New Jersey Reentry Corporation (“NJRC”), an organization that joins a number of others helping ex-offenders gain employment and successfully become reintegrated into society.
Koufos said his time in prison made him see just how easy it was to fall into the trap of recidivism. He said people kept coming back for simple things like unpaid traffic tickets.
He also was impressed by the focus of the prisoners he knew. “While I was in prison, no one asked me for money. They asked me for jobs. That never left me,” he said. He now heads the Safe Streets and Second Chance program at NJRC, which uses a research-based approach to assist in the reduction of recidivism and successful reentry of offenders.
“No one should be forced to serve a life sentence after they’ve paid their debt to society,” said Koufos.
The Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), a 300,000-member advocacy organization, stated that 2020 will see 7.8 million job openings needing to be filled, while prison releases number 650,000 annually. SHRM has begun a program, “Getting Talent Back to Work,” aimed at tapping into this resource.
Ashish Prashar represents a part of that resource. He spent four months in custody in the United Kingdom for theft. After his release, he graduated from college and was one of Business Insider’s top public-relations picks in 2017. He heads the global communications department at a 20,000-employee technology firm, Publicis Sapient. And, he was press secretary to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his 2008 and 2012 mayoral campaign bids.
Many of the reentry organizations focus on combating recidivism and assist with education. Getting Out and Staying Out (“GOSO”) of Harlem, New York, funds internships of up to 240 hours to those who qualify. GOSO states that 70 percent of those involved in their internships go on to be hired.
NJRC helps prisoners prior to release, evaluating mental health needs, addiction, PTSD, resume preparation, as well as assistance with bus fare after release not only while job hunting but up to the collection of the person’s first paycheck.
Businesses both large and small have publicly stated that offenders who have served their time deserve a second chance, and they are committed to providing that second chance when possible.
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