Businesses with difficulty finding quality employees might not know how to reach an untapped market of employees seeking work who struggle to find any. Hiring formerly incarcerated people can not only benefit a business but the economy and community, as well. Organizations that follow through with providing jobs for previously incarcerated individuals assist in leveling up their bottom line, positively altering the repercussions of decades of mass incarceration, and supporting the economy as a whole.

Business owner Nate Mell gives back to his community and economy by hiring formally incarcerated people for the ceramic design and manufacturing studio he founded and operates, Felt+Fat. Mell says that expanding his hiring options to those who have previously spent time in prison has proven one of the most beneficial decisions he has made for his company, and here is why: 

Incarceration in the United States at a Glance

The United States has the largest criminal justice system in the world. The country hosts an estimated three thousand prisons that take two-hundred and fifty billion dollars annually to operate-these expensive prisons house over two million people and function under an ineffective system. The United States desperately needs prison reform to reverse the current prison system's adverse effects that impact the nation's society and economy.

Recent data points towards a change in the winds. According to data published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2019, the U.S. incarceration rate fell to its lowest level since 1995. This downward trend could be attributed to a variety of factors, including changes in criminal law. For example, the First Step Act became law in 2018, focusing on prison sentence reduction and bail system reform. Earlier this year, the current administration directed the Justice Department to phase out its use of privately-operated, for-profit prisons. As more people are released from imprisonment, business leaders have the opportunity to contribute positively to the social and economic crisis and benefit from hiring previously incarcerated individuals.

Recognizing the Benefits of Hiring Formally Incarcerated People

The Throne Center for Justice and Equality recently released a report titled Back to Business: How Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Job Seekers Benefits Your Company. This report shows that there are currently one in three adults in the United States, or seventy million Americans, who have a criminal record. These individuals are going to or have at one-point reentered society and needed help finding a job, shelter, food, and other lively hood needs. The Back to Business report reflects in detail how businesses can play a prominent role in fighting the ills of decades of mass incarceration while at the same time opening the doors to a workforce made up of millions of people who have the potential to be excellent employees if given a chance.

According to Nate Mell, some of his most hard-working employees have criminal records. By giving potential candidates a chance not defined by their criminal record, Mell is leveling up the bottom line, doing good for his business, others, and community.

"My business is located in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia for a reason; I want to do good with my business and do good for others. I know what it is like to get support when times are tough, and I want to give the same support I received to others through my business. I have been extremely humbled and blessed to get to know and work with the people I have hired who have been incarcerated," said Mell.

About Nate Mell

Nate Mell is the founder and CEO of Felt+Fat, a ceramic design, and manufacturing studio serving both professional and at-home chefs. Nate Mell started the Philadelphia-based company in 2014 after graduating from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and working at the world-renowned Philadelphia Clay Studio.