In this series, ICW team members have been sharing their work with you in each stage of our program — Earning Trust, Building Hope, Bridging Social Capital, and Sustaining Economic Mobility. Part one of our 4th installment comes from our Head of Marketing, Ian Kilpatrick.
In Personal Training, the first step towards increasing a clients’ physical mobility is to identify what part of the body’s system is restricting their ability to move freely. This same simple concept can be applied to understand Stage 4.
As you learned from Nolisha in stage two, our Students come to ICW battling some heartbreaking individual circumstances that limit the ability to trust, hope, and believe in a “normal” future. As she put it, they are facing a reality that “the average person could not survive,” a truth that our community is constantly mourning, challenging, and celebrating. While we know the origins of these barriers (though unique to each individual) can be traced back to America’s original sins, it would be irresponsible to not name some of the modern systems that limit our Program Participants’ freedom to move, economically.
The “Land of The Free” is home to 25% of the global prison population and each year 600,000 people are released from jails and prisons facing the daunting task of finding a job in order to fight their way out of the circumstances that likely led to their incarceration in the first place. While Massachusetts “banned the box” (the question on job applications that asks if you’ve been convicted of a felony and is still legal in many states) a decade ago, it’s estimated that 96% of companies administer background checks. The result is a reduced callback rate of 50% for people with a conviction history. Please note, this staggering statistic is only referring to the first stage in an interview process and doesn’t even take into account race, which has also proven in recent studies to reduce callbacks drastically (yes, even at companies that boast progressive DEI initiatives.)
Understanding this, it should be no surprise that the unemployment rate of formerly incarcerated individuals before the pandemic in 2018 was 27%, a higher rate than at any point in history. Breaking this stat down by race and gender paints an even more disturbing picture. The unemployment rate for Black women with a conviction history was 43.6% and for Black men, 35.2%, percentages that are close to double the rates of white counterparts with a conviction history. What most employers and society are essentially saying through their hiring practices, even if subconsciously, is that formerly incarcerated white folks deserve jobs post time served, but Black folks are a “risk.” One has to wonder how many Executives, Directors, or Managers actually know someone personally who has been incarcerated?
This is the point where our 3rd and 4th stages intersect in a powerful way. Every time a Trainer builds a personal relationship with a client they are actively challenging society’s opinion on their value as an employee. Every time a Trainer shares their story and fitness expertise with hundreds of employees from a major corporation, they challenge that company’s exclusive hiring policies. Together, we disrupt the callously restrictive system through human connection, care, and empathy. At ICW we provide the opportunity to work without all of these barriers and without them, Economic Mobility is able to thrive.
To take a deeper dive into Stage 4 head to Part 2 by Kristen!