How JPMorgan Chase is helping ex-cons land jobs

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JPMorgan Chase is broadening its efforts to hire ex-convicts for entry-level jobs while pushing for policy changes aimed at helping more former prisoners get back on their feet.

On Monday, the nation’s largest bank announced that it has launched a new policy center whose mission will be to help adults with criminal histories reenter the workforce. It also said that it is piloting a program in Chicago in which it is teaming with area nonprofits to help train and mentor those with criminal backgrounds for jobs at the bank.

“Giving more people a second chance allows businesses to step up and do their part to reduce recidivism, hire talented workers, and strengthen the economy,” JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said in a news release.

JPMorgan appointed Heather Higginbottom, a former U.S. deputy secretary of state for management and resources in the Obama administration, to run the new policy center.

The bank also said it is donating $7 million to organizations in Chicago, New York, Detroit, Seattle, Nashville, Tenn., and Wilmington, Del., that help put people with criminal backgrounds into new jobs.

About 10% of workers JPMorgan hired last year last year had histories of minor crimes, including disorderly conduct, drug possession and driving under the influence. They were put into entry-level positions processing transactions and servicing accounts and loans.

In a shareholder note last year, Dimon said that the bank has a “responsibility” to hire ex-prisoners.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans who are incarcerated return to their communities after they are released,” Dimon said in his 2018 letter. “Reducing recidivism is not only important to returning citizens and their families — it can also have profound implications for public safety."

JPMorgan had previously removed the check-box asking applicants whether they had a criminal background, and the new policy center will advocate federal and local governments for other ways to make hiring fairer for former convicts. The policy center is also advocating for changes in state and federal laws that would make it easier to expunge records and to reinstate Pell grants for prisoners so that they can receive training and education ahead of their release.

The bank has supported reforms proposed last year by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. that would ease restrictions on banks hiring workers who have been convicted of crimes related to breach of trust or money laundering.

The proposal would allow banks to hire people whose crimes are related to bouncing checks of certain sizes, small-dollar theft and one-time, minor offenses committed when they were young adults.

“Business must play a critical role in advocating for policies that unlock economic opportunity for more people in underserved communities,” Higginbottom said in a statement Monday.

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