Bank CEO: People with criminal records should be hired. Columbus program proof it works.

May 18, 2022

  • Jamie Dimon, CEO and Chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The Columbus region’s job market is strong  — this year, there were more job openings than potential applicants — yet there is not equitable access to these opportunities.

There are worthy and qualified candidates facing unjust obstacles to securing a good job: people with criminal backgrounds.

Employers should send a demand signal to all qualified candidates that they will be given equal access to jobs, and then collectively take action to make it happen.

The good news is that employers can play a significant role in this process — and they are doing just that. Last year, JPMorgan Chase, one of the city’s largest employers, launched a community hiring program in Columbus with non-profits to expand our work helping people with criminal backgrounds get jobs. 

One year into this work in Columbus, we are sharing what we learned in the hopes that more employers will join the collective effort in opening their talent pipelines — which will have a reverberating effect in Columbus.

Strong businesses and strong communities are mutually dependent. Employees want to live in communities with affordable housing, transportation and access to opportunities for stable careers with good wages.

A healthy job market with demand for workers is crucial in any city, and hiring worthy candidates, including those who may have criminal backgrounds, is a critical valve to reach untapped talent. To support this, employers should take action within their own house and in the broader community.

We are clearing pathways for this population to work for us by making our hiring policies more inclusive and supporting targeted recruitment efforts with local non-profits.

Columbus is ideal for this approach.

Not only is it one of our largest employee locations, but it provides a steady demand for new talent across our business, ensuring that new hires can find career and upward mobility opportunities.

In fact, a recent survey 82 percent of managers feel that the “quality of hire” for workers with criminal records is as high as or higher than that for workers without records.

JPMorgan Chase has a meaningful portion of colleagues who have a criminal background—in 2021, 10% of our new hires in our company had a criminal record—and retention rates for this population are very high.

We are also tackling systemic barriers. For instance, we are holding clinics in many of our community branches, including in Columbus, to help those pursuing expungement of eligible criminal records, which can be a costly, complicated process. This can unlock life-changing opportunities for jobs and housing.

It will take enduring support across many sectors to provide people with criminal backgrounds with resources like legal services, job search support and mentorship. We couldn’t do this work without our partners—Center for Employment Opportunities, Goodwill Columbus, Columbus Urban League and The Legal Aid Society of Columbus.

Within the business community, last year we joined major employers to launch the Second Chance Business Coalition, representing 40 companies committed to hiring and advancing people with criminal backgrounds. We also actively engage on policy solutions across the country. In order to tackle some of these important issues, it truly takes a village.

Finally, it can’t go without saying: helping people who have served their time is the right thing to do. They deserve access to good jobs, which provide stability and build dignity. There is increasing understanding that when people with arrest or conviction histories have job opportunities, they are less likely to return to jail or prison.

It is a moral and economic imperative to help clear pathways for those who have a criminal background—and who are ready and willing to share their talents. We are committed to doing our part. 

We invite our fellow employers in Columbus to welcome job applicants of all backgrounds on the basis of their contributions.

A more inclusive economy—where everyone has access to opportunities—is a stronger one.

Let’s build this momentum together in Columbus.

This story originally appeared in The Columbus Dispatch