Thirty years ago, Richard Bronson was a partner at the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont – the infamous setting for the Martin Scorsese biopic “Wolf of Wall Street”. He subsequently went on to set up his own financial services firm, which at its peak employed 500 people and generated $100 million dollars a year in revenue. However, they also employed the dubious business practices Richard learnt at Stratton – and eventually he was arrested for securities fraud.
After spending 22 months in federal prison, Richard found he had nothing. No job, no money, no prospects. Despite being from the corporate world and having a college education, he struggled to find employment. It struck him what other former inmates must go through, and how hard it must be for the people he was imprisoned with – many of them young men of colour who didn’t finish high school.
The vast majority of prisoners say it is difficult or impossible to find a job after being released, and two-thirds of released prisoners will be arrested within three years. Studies show that being able to find stable employment massively reduces reoffending – it’s the silver bullet for recidivism. When you consider that 70 million Americans have some form of criminal record (where Richard’s company gets its name), it becomes clear that helping the formerly incarcerated find work isn’t just about second chances – it’s about building a fairer and safer society.
“Many employers have come to realise that not only is hiring the formerly incarcerated the right and fair thing to do, but that they actually make excellent employees.”
Following a stint as Director for Defy Ventures, a non-profit working on re-entry, Richard decided to set up 70 Million Jobs – an employment website and agency aimed at helping people with criminal records. Bronson describes it as a “safe haven”. For example, applicants can create video resumes where they can show future employers their drive and how personable they are – particularly useful for individuals with glaring gaps on their written CVs.
70 Million Jobs has already amassed a community of more than one million active job seekers, leveraging their relationships with almost 500 non-profits, community-based organisations, government agencies and correctional facilities. They work with some of the country’s largest employers and have helped thousands of deserving men and women land a job. They also recently launched the Commissary Club – an exclusive social network for people with criminal histories.
“Our goal is to achieve ‘double bottom-line returns.’ That means build a big, successful business and do massive social good. Thus far, we’re achieving both goals.”
Our Knowledge Partner, the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, is proud to partner with Richard and 70 Million Jobs as they work to build a more fair and equal society – and provide real second chances to millions of Americans. Read more about their work here.