The Second Chance Act was passed in 2008 with a the intent to assist those persons being released from Federal prison by offering a support system to assist with reintegration into society (notes found at http://www.upublish.info/Article/The-Second-Chance-Act–HR1593—-What-does-it-Really-Mean-for-the-Federal-Inmate-/208806). The Second Chance Act expanded the federal government’s role in the provision of reentry services by creating grants for states to implement prisoner reentry programs. The Act authorized up to $330 million for prisoner reentry programs during fiscal years 2009 and 2010. The overwhelming majority of the spending authorization is for the operation of state and local programs. (How effective is this Second Chance Act – go to http://www.heritage.org/Research/Testimony/Second-Chance-Act-How-Effective-are-Prisoner-Reentry-Programs).
Is there a need for such a program? Isn’t it enough to provide tough sentencing guidelines, more money for police, and to get criminals off the street? These are all seen as deterrents to crime. However, according to Christine Beech (see her story written just this week at http://www.postbulletin.com/newsmanager/templates/localnews_story.asp?z=12&a=464560), in this past year the Minnesota Department of Corrections released 7,994 offenders from state prisons. And in Christine’s county the recidivism rate is 47 percent in a five-year period. What this means is that almost half of the people who are arrested and brought to the County Detention Center will be released and arrested again within five years. Every year in the United States, more than 700,000 inmates are released from federal and state prisons to return to their families and communities (data retrieved from http://www.prisonfellowship.org/o4l-home).
There are layers of environmental pressures which make simply offering a program or a handout ineffective. Consider the neighborhoods from which offenders come, and then must return, as well as family life (if any), pressure to earn a living and being rejected for job opportunities due to one’s past record.
We know that there is truly only one means by which a life completely transformed, and that is by the power of the gospel. So is there evidence that people with a faith-background are more inclined to offer “second-chance” opportunities to such a population? We know of programs like Prison Fellowship, which is committed to radical lasting change, knowing that the Bible promises a “new” life (see their website – http://www.prisonfellowship.org/out4life-vision). But even Prison Fellowship needs local partners, similar to what Christine described above. What about local businesses here in our area. Will managers with a strong faith perspective demonstrate behaviors consistent with their faith declaration, and should it be expected that this will occur? Does a Christian in a leadership position feel compelled to offer employees who commit terminal offences “second chance” opportunities because of their faith perspective?
With all the previous research conducted considering this new perspective on a redemptive approach to leadership, the author made a presentation to a group of faith-based business leaders to gauge the influence of Christian worldview on decision-making in the workplace. The focus of the presentation was to challenge the leaders to consider a theology of the workplace, and how this framing of their faith would look in terms of practical demonstrations. The author was given permission to survey this group of faith-influenced business leaders specifically related to their opinion on whether they would consider offering “second-chance” opportunities to employees who commit terminal behavior (non-violent, noncompliant conduct or aberrant behavior outside of the cultural norm) (Bucci, 2007), and whether such a practice had shown any signs of being effective. The survey instruments asked questions about both current employees with terminal behavior, and the hiring of new employees, but ones with criminal records or a history of drug abuse. The results were surprising.
The researcher looked for consistency between the expressed influence of the managers’ faith as a key factor in decision-making and their efforts to offer employees who commit terminal offences “second chance” opportunities; as well as offering “second chance” opportunities to and released ex-offenders like former prisoners and those with previous drug problems. The researcher sought to compare complimentary statements which reflected a demonstration of this expression of faith. Due to the nature of the data a traditional approach was abandoned in favor of using nonparametric data analysis tools. Non-parametric methods are widely used for studying populations that take on a ranked order, as with the data collected here from this sample of Christian managers. The results of the survey are available from this author, and were presented at the Christian Business Faculty Association Annual Conference in October of 2008.
The survey was given to a group of local business owners, community leaders and non-profit leaders in a meeting of a faith-based Business organization, similar to a Rotary club. The survey results indicated that these managers are strongly influenced by their faith as a guiding principle in their decision-making (M = 3.975). This corresponded closely with (but not equally as strong) the compelling desire to offer employees who commit terminal offences “second chance” opportunities. The survey results indicated that there was a positive moderate relationship between those manager saying they feel compelled to offer employee who commit terminal offences a “second chance” opportunity because of their faith perspective and managers who say they have offered “second chances” to an employee instead of firing them for terminal offences.
The managers have previously seen their faith-guided decision making have a moderately positive relationship with their faith expression. However, the data suggests that because a manager’s faith guides their decision-making it does not necessarily mean that a manager feels compelled to offer second chance opportunities to their employees. The expression of the manager’s faith in guiding their decision-making could be evidenced in other areas in which the manager is more comfortable expressing their faith. There is no way to determine if managers operated outside of a prescribed policy according to these results. It can be seen according to other results that managers have offered second chances to their employees instead of termination, but this could be in accordance with the discipline policy in place.
Again, there is no means to determine whether the manager has had an opportunity to hire the identified typed of workers, or whether the manager’s organization even allows for such hiring. But according to the survey results, there was no relationship between these two statements: Statement 19 which says, “I feel compelled to offer second chances;” and Statement 11 which says, “Our company has hired (terminated workers, drug addicts, or former convicts).”
This desire to offer “second chance” opportunities then seems to break down when it comes to the hiring of former drug addicts and criminals. This is not an activity that is being pursued in these managers’ organizations, nor are these managers seeing this activity if practiced as an effective strategy for their organization. Perhaps the organization does not or cannot hire former criminals due to the type of persons with whom they will be working or the situations in which they will be working. These restrictions may be outside of the manager’s control. Although the group of managers was skewed strongly Protestant, managers from different faith backgrounds were consistent in feeling compelled to offer and in offering of second chances to employees exhibiting terminal behavior. An interesting statistic was the strong representation of leaders from non-profit organizations in the survey. More than one-third (37%) of managers in the survey group were leaders in non-profit organizations. However, managers from different types of working environments had still acted consistently in allowing faith to guide their decision-making, and in feeling compelled to offer and in the offering of second chances to employees exhibiting terminal behavior.
Some potential limitations of this research are as follows:
· * This was a convenience sample. The researcher hopes to expand both the number and diversity of the sample population in future research on the same topic.
· * There would be a great difference in evaluating offering of second chances to employees with whom you have worked versus those unknown applicants from outside the organization.
You are aware of my passion and interest in redemptive leadership. I personally know of the transforming power of Jesus Christ, and although I am not perfect I continually pursue Christ, and focus on His life-giving redemption in my research. In considering the potential of redemption in the workplace, a series of propositions was developed and then a survey conducted as mentioned here of a group of business professionals with clearly stated values which might also be supportive of providing redemptive opportunities through their expression of faith on-the-job. It was thought that if any managers might consider implementing such a redemptive approach, it would be those managers who have publically declared that their faith unequivocally guides their decision-making.
Yet these managers have not seen the fruit for their efforts with restorative ‘second chance’ initiatives. It is a positive sign that they remain strongly committed to these values. But many side-bar comments and notes indicated that although the premise of following this path of redemptive leadership is a reflection of their faith commitment, many were skeptical of the practices working. The researcher has challenged the leaders to pursue more actively a “theology of the workplace,” and the future looks very promising for further cooperation on shared leadership projects. It is the hope of this researcher to develop a solid foundational premise and methodology for going forward with work on the prospects for demonstrating a value proposition in the use of redemptive interventions with terminal employees and released ex-offenders.
Below is a link to another wonderful program where people are doing more than talking about the problem, but taking action – http://www.emum.org/WhatWeDo/PrisonerReEntry.cfm.