News from Fedcap

Cross-Sector Project Takes New Approach to Employment of Ex-Offenders

Fedcap, The Conference Board and Cornell University ILR School announced the launch of a cross-sector project to lower employment barriers for people with conviction histories.

The vast majority of employers conduct criminal background checks for job candidates, despite issues of legal compliance and data reliability, to protect their employees and their assets, and their businesses against accusations of negligent hiring. Many employers say that even a background check that discovers an arrest without a conviction would strongly influence them against offering that candidate a job.

At the same time, many corporate social responsibility agendas seek to improve economic opportunities for those facing employment barriers. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners are released from state and federal prison each year (millions when including those released from municipal or county jails). Recidivism costs the country billions of dollars and extensive damage to families and communities. And there is widespread agreement that a stable job is one key to reducing an individual’s likelihood of re-offending.

In the collaboration, which was announced during Fedcap’s Solution Series panel event, “What every business should know about employing people with conviction histories”:

• The Conference Board ( will offer member companies the opportunity to join an employer group whose participants will contract with Fedcap for services in one of the nonprofit's business areas such as facilities management, document/mail handling and/or manufacturing.

• Fedcap ( will recruit, employ and manage individuals with, and individuals without, criminal records to fulfill the contracted services.

• Cornell ILR ( will lead the research effort, which will yield data to assess outcomes for individuals with conviction histories as well as insights for employers about recruiting, training, accommodating, leveraging, managing and advancing employees with conviction histories.

“Fedcap jobs already help many formerly incarcerated individuals move toward economic independence while providing essential services to businesses,” said Christine McMahon, Fedcap President and CEO. “This project will test the scalability of Fedcap’s ‘middleman’ model and its long-term impact on the economic independence of people with conviction histories.

“We are proud to partner with Cornell ILR and The Conference Board in this effort,” McMahon said. “Employment among the formerly incarcerated can only improve when business’ needs are represented and risks are mitigated in reentry strategies that address demand as much as supply.”

“Companies are so focused on concerns about negligent hiring, discrimination lawsuits and bad publicity, it has been difficult to get them to even discuss this issue openly,” said Esta R. Bigler, Director of Cornell ILR’s Labor & Employment Law Program and a panelist at Thursday’s Solution Series event. “A third-party employer model like Fedcap’s offers a way to increase employers’ comfort level with onsite workers who have criminal histories. And, directly engaging business executives in this conversation from the start will make sure the lessons for advancing workplace practices are more effective in solving this intractable problem.”

“We are proud of the leadership our member companies take in addressing economic and social challenges,” said Mary Wright, Associate Director of The Conference Board. “This project will be another opportunity for our member companies to help create new knowledge of relevance to their HR/diversity, legal, and CSR functions. It is reported that almost one in three Americans is arrested for a crime by the time they’re 23 years old. At a time when finding top talent is of paramount importance to business leaders, none of us can afford to miss out on leveraging the country’s full talent pool.”