ICYMI: Business Roundtable Co-Hosts Event at The Wharton School to Advance Second Chance Employment

April 18, 2024

At the beginning of Second Chance Month, Business Roundtable co-hosted an event on “The Business Case for Second Chance Employment” with JPMorgan Chase & Co., Eaton, the Second Chance Business Coalition and the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Coalition for Equity and Opportunity. The event took place at The Wharton School. 

Photo: “Business Perspectives on Skills-Based Employment and Second Chances” Panel; (L-R): JPMorgan Chase & Co. General Counsel Stacey Friedman, Kelly Chief Diversity Officer Keilon Ratliff; SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.; and The New York Times Economics Reporter Talmon Smith (moderator).

During the full-day forum, business leaders, academics, government officials and individuals afforded a second chance convened to discuss the business case for providing employment pathways to people with a criminal record. The event also explored labor market trends and the business community’s role in promoting the benefits of second chance employment. 

With nearly 80 million Americans having a criminal record, employers have an opportunity to hire and advance qualified talent among this population. The conference’s central theme was encouraging employers to consider hiring and promoting people with criminal records and detailing the benefits of offering prospective employees a second chance.

Photo: The event kicked off with remarks by Damon Phillips, Professor of Management at the University of Pennsylvania; Dane Linn, Senior Vice President of Corporate Initiatives at Business Roundtable; and Heather Higginbottom, Head of Policy & Research at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Damon Phillips, Professor of Management, University of Pennsylvania: “The program that we have here, it’s called Wharton Works, which is working opportunities for reentry knowledge and skills … [A]mong the activities we have is we work with MBA students. About three dozen of them are sharing business skills with people who are either currently incarcerated or have returned home.”

Dane Linn, Senior Vice President, Corporate Initiatives, Business Roundtable: “When 85% of HR professionals and 81% of business leaders report that individuals with criminal records perform the same as or even better than employees without criminal records, businesses also know that they have a smart strategy for building a modern and capable workforce.”

Heather Higginbottom, Head of Policy & Research, JPMorgan Chase & Co.: “We [at JPMorgan Chase & Co.] are committed to advancing a more inclusive economy. And for too many Americans, the very existence of a criminal record is a permanent barrier to employment. That’s not good for business. It’s not good for communities. It’s not good for families, and it’s not good for individuals. That’s why we want to take action and try … to advance more progress in eliminating those barriers.”

Panel discussions during the event explored topics including the role of business schools in expanding second chance hiring and redefining second chances. Below are highlights from each panel. 

On Business Perspectives on Skills-Based Employment and Second Chances:

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, SHRM: “We just have these demographic realities that tell us we don’t have the luxury of excluding people, candidates from the workforce. We’ve got to figure out how to include people, and that’s really what served as the basis for this real focus on [skills-based hiring]. So, whether you have a degree doesn’t really matter.”

Stacey Friedman, General Counsel, JPMorgan Chase & Co.: “Think success breeds success. And the reality is today, the hires of JPMorgan, 10% of our incoming hires in the United States last year had some sort of record.”

Photo: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick T. Harker and The Wharton School Dean Erika James

On Economic Perspectives on Second Chance Employment:

Patrick T. Harker, President and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia: “The challenge … is making sure people have the right skills and we get people off the sidelines in various ways into the workforce. Because still, it may not be the number one complaint I hear from business today, but it’s still in the top three, is I need more people.”

Erika James, Dean, The Wharton School: “One in three Americans unfortunately have a criminal record in society. And some estimates show that its cost to the economy is as much as $87 million annually lost in the GDP.”

On Veterans and Second Chance Employment:

Jim Seward, Executive Director, Veterans Justice Commission; Colonel, U.S. Army: “Many of our veterans were falling through the cracks, and the commission was really founded [and] recruited to look at the issue of studying the nature and extent of veterans in the justice system and developing evidence-based policy recommendations that focused on health, safety, and justice [of] not just the veteran, but the spouse to family members. When some veterans do commit crimes, sometimes their family members are the victims.”

Mark Elliott, Head of Military and Veterans Affairs, JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired): “One of the things that we do know is that second chance efforts are clearly good for the economy. They’re good for the employers, but … it’s good for those individuals. And I count our veteran community as part of those individuals that we're trying to make things better for.”

Photo: Panel on “Veterans and Second Chance Employment”; (L-R) Jim Seward and Mark Elliott

On Building Local Second Chance Ecosystems Through Community Partnerships:

Justin Berman, Board Chair, My Journey Matters: “… We start with the premise that all of our kids are entrepreneurs … I wish more people were open-minded because these are great, great people that want to work that are hungry and … have the skills to be successful, and they want to be successful.”

Patricia Blumenauer, Chief Operating Officer, Philadelphia Works: “Employers need help hiring. There are a ton of openings and not enough talent for those openings … What can we offer through public funding to sweeten the pot to help an employer along this journey towards making the stronger hiring practices for folks who have been justice impacted?”

Assata Thomas, Executive Director of the Office of Reentry Partnerships, City of Philadelphia: “Our overarching mission is to set clear vision and direction to improve the city’s approach for improving reentry culture … We start our work pre-release because I believe from a personal perspective, that a person should begin reentering before they are released, and so the day one is incarcerated, they should be [preparing] to come home.”  

Jason Whyte, Founder, President & CEO, National Reentry Workforce Collaborative: “… We’re not simply seeking to find employment for X number of people, but we’re trying to build the ecosystem so that it’s sustainable, and it requires resources for that to happen.”

On Changing the Narrative and Redefining Second Chances:

Wallace Peeples, Chief Marketing Officer, REFORM Alliance: “We can do better. And I think that should be a lesson to us all … You’ve probably got some power at some position. That means that you too, can do it. So, to me, the most important thing is to remember, there’s something that we can all do.”

Shawn Bushway, Senior Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation; Professor, University at Albany (SUNY): “People who successfully complete programs are demonstrating that they’re different than they were when they committed the crime. People change, and there are ways for them to demonstrate it coming out of prison in community rehabilitation, etc.”  

Bill Heiser, Senior Director of Pathways and Mobility, REFORM Alliance: “If we are able to reach [companies] with the right messages around the value this population provides, there’s a chance to really move companies and dispel some of the fears that are ultimately underlying the sentiments in the reservations about hiring." 

Jeff Korzenik, Chief Economist, Fifth Third Bank: “What I’ve seen work [with larger companies] is kind of a divide and conquer strategy. Just as with smaller companies, you need buy-in from the top, preferably a CEO … who has to prioritize it and hold people accountable. Then you have implementers who do the background checks and implement those policies.”

James Cadogan, Executive Director, NBA Social Justice Coalition: “It can't just be a moment. We were formed out of a moment. We were born out of a moment … The goal is to make sure that our institutions that we build within the NBA community sustain over time, [so] that we can continue to push reform, year after year, after year, after years. Player cohorts come and go as executives across the league office or teams go. If we build a culture where people are concerned about social justice issues and understand how they can make a difference, that's powerful.”

Photo: Panel on “Changing the Narrative: How Companies and Thought Leaders Are Redefining Second Chances”; (L-R): WHYY Vice President of News and Civic Dialogue Sarah Glover (moderator); Joeann Walker; James Cadogan; and Wallace Peeples.

On the Role of Business Schools in Addressing Second Chance Employment:

Aedan Macdonald, Founder & Executive Director, Justice Through Code, Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, Columbia University: “If 10% of people graduating from Wharton and Darden and Columbia Business School now care about fair chance hiring, this looks a lot different in 10 years in terms of pathways to jobs.”

Sandra Navalli, Adjunct Assistant Professor and Managing Director, Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, Columbia Business School: “Approaching this in a thoughtful way, doing our due diligence [and] all the conversations and prep work before we even started talking to the prison facilities was really key. But that is all enabled by funding … I think all those tools that you have at your disposal to garner support from your dean’s office, your development people and your donors are really key to do this work on a sustained basis.”  

On the Intersection of Entrepreneurship and Second Chance Employment:

Mike Butler, Site Director, Fountain Fund: “What we are in the business of is just human beings — giving people their dignity back in regard to capital … But these entry positions, you can’t get to another place, you can’t elevate without being educated. So, entrepreneurship plays a role because there’s no telling what you can do with that. There’s no telling how far you can go with that. You just need the opportunity for it.”

Discussions during the event reinforced the responsibility of business leaders, educators and policymakers to provide employment opportunities for Americans reentering the workforce. To watch the event’s panels, click here

To learn more about efforts supported by Business Roundtable to advance and grow second chance hiring programs and opportunities through the Second Chance Business Coalition, click here


During Second Chance Month in 2023, Business Roundtable co-hosted an event on the business case for second chance employment at Columbia Business School. In April 2021, the Roundtable joined forces with four partner organizations to launch the Second Chance Business Coalition. Today, the coalition comprises 50 large employers, many of which are Business Roundtable companies.

For more on Business Roundtable Corporate Initiatives, click below: