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“When it comes to employment, people with criminal records are at the back of the line, and the line just got that much longer because of the economy,” he said. “Employers are overlooking a valuable segment of the labor market.”

He said hiring former prisoners will help the economy, because the alternative is having the government support them through public assistance and shelter programs.

Businesses that hire former prisoners are eligible for a $2,400 tax credit. They also can be insured against theft and damage from those employees through a federal bonding program that is free to the employer.

Mrs. Solis added that workers with a criminal record tend to be more productive. It is more difficult for them to find jobs, and therefore, they have a greater sense of urgency.

“We’re losing out on a lot of productivity,” she said.