Henry E. Hudson: Little-known tax breaks can help former prisoners rebuild their lives

Henry E. Hudson: Little-known tax breaks can help former prisoners rebuild their lives

One of the most formidable obstacles facing a person released from a state or federal prison is the dim prospects for workforce re-entry.

Although many have impressive work histories, for those with minimal marketable skills it is a particularly daunting task. Along with perhaps the lingering effects of drug addiction and re-associating with the same old crowd, nothing seems to draw a recent releasee back to criminal behavior more than the inability to secure gainful employment.

This is particularly true of releasees who have reunited with their family and feel an obligation to prove to them that they are worthy of acceptance as a parent or spouse.

Employers are understandably reluctant to take a chance, even if a releasee demonstrates a sincere desire to turn his or her life around.

Many employers in the Richmond area are unaware of the tax benefits and fidelity-bond opportunities related to hiring individuals recently released from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons who aspire to be productive citizens.

Recognizing this critical element of post-release adjustment, federal courts in Alexandria, Newport News, Norfolk, and Richmond have made job readiness a high priority.

Persons sentenced by federal courts to a period of confinement with the Bureau of Prisons are typically required to serve a period of post-release supervision, which is similar to probation in state courts.

During this period, they are closely supervised by a U.S. probation officer who also serves as a resource to guide them in seeking employment opportunities. It is beyond dispute that the inability to obtain work is one of the primary barriers to successful post-release adjustment.

To further facilitate assimilation into the workforce, there are several federal benefits available to employers.

Participation in this program can reduce an employer’s federal income tax liability by as much as $9,600 per employee hired. There is no limit on the number of qualifying employees. In order to qualify for the tax credit, the employee must work at least 120 hours in the first year of employment.

Federal courts are aware that many employers do not want to assume the risk of hiring a convicted felon recently released from custody. To address that concern, the U.S. Department of Labor has established the Federal Bonding Program to provide fidelity bonds for at-risk, hard-to-place job seekers.

The bonds cover the first six months of employment and there is no cost to the job applicant or the employer. The U.S. Probation Office has relied on this program to successfully place many convicted felons into the Virginia workforce.

We are proud to report that the majority of these individuals have proven to be productive and trustworthy employees.

For more information about the benefits of hiring recently released detainees, you can contact Senior U.S. Probation Officer Charles Moore at (804) 916-2500.

Nothing seems to draw a recently released prisoner back to criminal behavior more than the inability to secure gainful employment.
By Henry E. Hudson
Richmond.com
Richmond Times-Dispatch
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