The federal agency that supervises parolees as they reintegrate into Washington, D.C., has launched an aggressive media campaign that asks business leaders to articulate what it will take for them to hire offenders, reports the Washington Post. In a taped segment, which is posted on the agency’s Web site and YouTube channel and will air on local television stations, officials from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency discuss incentives available to businesses that hire individuals who have spent time in the criminal justice system. The agency also asks for comment from employers.
There are also six radio segments in the works that will include interviews with both employers and offenders. “We don’t know what the response is going to be; what we’re trying to do is crowd source the issue of hiring offenders,” said Leonard Sipes Jr., a public affairs specialist with the agency and host of the program. “This project is about tapping into the knowledge of the business community and finding out what their bottom line is  they know better than anybody else what they need, what they want, who they’ll hire and who they won’t hire.” At any given time there are about 16,000 people in Washington under the agency’s supervision. The unemployment rate of the group has dropped from 50 to 47 percent over the past six months as the economy has improved, but the area presents big challenges. “The District of Columbia is a very difficult market to operate in,” Sipes said. “It has one of the highest per-capita rates for having a bachelor’s degree and advanced degree, it’s a city that attracts people from all over the United States and all over the world.”