A second chance for the formerly incarcerated

Several city agencies, a nonprofit, and the Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted a special panel to talk about recidivism and a job fair for formerly incarcerated people.

If we lived in a truly fair society, we would suffer one time for one mistake. But I can think of countless examples of how either we continue to punish ourselves or society continues to remind us of our past. In terms of mistakes and the challenges of overcoming them, none might be as challenging as a criminal record.

Thursday's event was called Confronting Recidivism: The Bold Way. there were employment opportunities, a panel, and men and women looking for a chance.

Recidivism refers to those who leave the criminal justice system and then return. The numbers locally and nationally range from 40 percent to more than 60 percent. A job and support system dramatically reduce those numbers.

Deputy Correction Commissioner James Walsh said that programs like these are excellent investments when you consider the cost of incarceration.

Some with records have found work but millions are still looking. They longer that search is the more at risk they are.

Truth be told, a lot of men and woman who have already paid their debt to society are still sitting on the sideline. I talked to a number of people who came to the event. One was a 48-year-old white woman who could pass as an office worker. But she attended while on work release. She is serving her third bid in prison.

The reality of this is that these issues don't discriminate by race or by class. It impacts us all. The goal is that functions like this will help destigmatize the issue.