Employers, government officials, and some ex-offenders gathered for an Employment Opportunity Summit in Trenton on Wednesday to discuss how to help former convicts rejoin society.
From a business perspective, hiring past offenders makes sense, said Stefan Oberman, chief of staff at AeroFarms in Newark.
“We have higher retention rates with past offenders than with conventional employees. We find that, rather than a sense of entitlement to a job, we find that there’s a sense of gratefulness, that they need this job,” he said. “They need it more than anything else in the world because if they don’t have it, it’s a slippery slope back to where they don’t want to go.”
Rich Liebler of Sansone Auto Group in Woodbridge said the company recruits and trains about 25 ex-offenders a year.
“We have found that they’re some of our best employees,” he said. “If I had to look at turnover of conventional employees and ex-offenders, the ex-offenders are way further ahead, because once they get that job they know that they have a shot.”
Mark Holden, the general counsel for Koch Industries, one of the largest privately owned companies in the nation, said helping former offenders succeed keeps them from returning to a life of crime — and that reduces prison costs.
Former Gov. Jim McGreevey, who now chairs the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, participated in the summit.
He said ex-offenders need more opportunities to get a job.
“We’ve been very successful in the warehousing industry, construction industry, hospitality, some logistics, small-time computer operations, but we need a sea change,” he said. “We need the large retail corporations in the state of New Jersey to say I’m willing to give somebody a break.”