Governor Jared Polis, Daniel Yanisse, CEO of Checkr, and Jeff Wasden, President of the Colorado Business Roundtable, interview graduates of the Defy Colorado program. Credit: Drew Carlson Photography
Prison visit reviews in-prison entrepreneurship training programs and other reforms to reduce recidivism

With more than half of Colorado’s prison population returning there within three years of release, Governor Jared Polis led a delegation of Colorado business leaders to Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility to review in-prison and post-release programs that can reduce Colorado’s recidivism rate. The visit was organized by Checkr, the only background check company using artificial intelligence and machine learning to make hiring more inclusive and more efficient, and Defy Colorado, a nonprofit organization preparing currently incarcerated individuals for successful careers upon release through both traditional career paths and entrepreneurship.

During the day-long visit, Governor Polis and more than a dozen senior executives from companies such as United, Xcel Energy, Sage Hospitality, Colorado Business Roundtable and Blueboard met with Department of Corrections leadership and incarcerated individuals to see firsthand how Colorado’s focus on rehabilitation over punishment has helped it achieve a recidivism rate of 54%, or nearly twenty percentage points lower than the national average.

The delegation’s visit focused on the potential impact that fair chance hiring can play in reducing recidivism. Fair chance hiring gives each person an equal chance of being hired, even if they have a criminal record, and bases decisions on the applicant’s qualifications, like every other job applicant. Fair chance hiring has taken on greater urgency in Colorado, because it is now one of thirteen states that has “Banned the Box,” meaning that larger employers in Colorado can no longer inquire about the criminal history of job-seekers on an initial application. The delegation also met with recent graduates of Defy Colorado’s rigorous 8-month in-prison program focusing on reentry planning, employment readiness, entrepreneurship, and character development.

“The lack of employment opportunities available to people with criminal histories is one of the largest contributing factors to recidivism, but businesses can play a critical role in improving the criminal justice system and the economy,” said Daniel Yanisse, Checkr’s CEO and an organizer of the trip. “Fair chance hiring allows companies to reap the business benefits of employing these qualified individuals while increasing the nation’s GDP and lowering the tax dollars spent on keeping people incarcerated.”

“We are incredibly grateful for Governor Polis’ leadership in supporting programs like Defy Colorado that emphasize on preparedness for life after incarceration and help break the cycle of recidivism,” said Robert Omer, executive director of Defy Colorado and co-organizer of the visit. “Banning the box, fair chance hiring and other criminal justice reforms are essential to helping us reduce our prison populations.”

Checkr’s mission is to build a fairer future by improving understanding of the past. Our platform makes it easy for thousands of customers to hire millions of people every year at the speed of the gig economy. Using Checkr’s advanced background check technology, companies of all sizes can better understand the dynamics of the changing workforce, bring transparency and fairness to their hiring, and ultimately build a better future for workers. For more information please visit: www.checkr.com.