RICHMOND — Each year in Virginia, about 13,000 people are released from correctional institutions back into the community. A key component to successful offender reentry and a reduction in recidivism is how effectively these men and women can secure employment. Making this transition difficult is the barrier created by employers who view job seekers with prior criminal convictions as risky. The Federal Bonding Program was developed to remove some of that concern.
In 1966, the U.S. Department of Labor created the Federal Bonding Program to serve as a form of insurance for employers, easing some of their concerns about hiring ex-offenders while creating a smoother pathway to job placement. Fifty years after its creation, the program continues help open doors and break down barriers between ex-offenders and employers.
“Anyone with a prior conviction, whether it be a felony or misdemeanor, is bondable,” explained Kia Parson White, the Virginia Federal Bonding Program Coordinator at the Virginia Department of Corrections. “Even if they were convicted and didn’t serve time, as long as they are of legal working age, we can issue a bond.”
Federal Fidelity Bond Insurance provides a potential win-win situation for employers and the ex-offenders they chose to hire. The bonds are issued in $5,000 increments, offering employers protection against acts of theft, larceny, forgery and embezzlement. They do not cover liability for injuries. The bonds are valid for six months or until employment is terminated.
White says her office has issued more than 15,500 bonding eligibility letters to returning citizens since starting. Many offenders have participated in reentry programming where information is shared about the bonding process. To date, 135 bonds have been issued. Not one has been cashed in by an employer.
Once a returning citizen is offered a job and a start date is established, employers interested in requesting a bond can contact Kia Parson White or local workforce development centers. The bond is instantly available, involves no paperwork and comes at no cost to the employer.
“We issue Bonding Eligibility letters to our returning citizens. These letters let employers know that the individuals are bondable. In addition, these letters explain how the program works and who to contact,” said White.
In describing the response she has received from employers, White stated, “Employers I’ve spoken with have been extremely excited about the program and how easy it was to request and obtain a bond. We want to let more employers know about this service, which is free of charge. The goal is to remove this barrier to employment which in the end makes our communities better and safer.”
For more information about the Federal Bonding Program in Virginia, contact Kia Parson White at (804) 887-8262 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read more about the program online by visiting www.vadoc.virginia.gov and clicking on the Community Corrections page.