The latest report in the Alliance for a Just Society’s Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series illustrates just why it’s so difficult for the 630,000 formerly incarcerated people released each year to secure meaningful employment.

“Jobs After Jail: Ending the Prison to Poverty Pipeline” examines the barriers that keep the 70 million Americans with arrest and conviction records for serious misdemeanors or felonies out of well-paying jobs and often sentence them to a lifetime of poverty. According to the report, states average 123 mandatory bans and restrictions that block ex-offenders from specific industries and jobs and prevent them from pursuing certain occupational, business and property licenses. And there are another 112 mandatory restrictions at the federal level. In total, there are 6,293 insurmountable hurdles to employment in this country for this group, which is disproportionately made up of Black and Latino men.

“People leave jail or prison with debt from their incarceration, then face dramatic hurdles finding work that pays,” Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance for a Just Society, said in a press release. “A history of racism in the United States means that people of color are more likely to be poorer than their White counterparts. They are also more likely to be incarcerated and to face harsher sentences. The impact on communities of color is devastating when so many people are cut off from good jobs after their release.”

Key recommendations:

  • Scrap lifetime bans for employment, especially when they are unconnected to the prior offense.
  • Pass “Ban the Box” measures that would prevent public and private employers from asking about conviction history before extending job offers.
  • Reform legal financial obligation policies, from court fees to those levied during incarceration.
  • Increase minimum wage to at least $15 and completely eliminate tipped wage.
  • Award local, state and federal contracts to companies that offer high wages to the formerly incarcerated.
  • Remove restrictions that ban people with conviction records from safety net programs.