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Criminal Justice Reform

A growing number of chambers are championing Criminal Justice Reform efforts that reduce crime, improve public safety, develop the workforce pipeline, and build thriving and inclusive regional economies. Smart Justice addresses criminal justice issues holistically by examining the connections between crime and opportunities for education, employment, mental health and addiction support, housing and social inclusion. Chambers are uniquely positioned to build cross-sector coalitions that address key issues such as corrections reform, diversion and prevention, sentencing reform, justice reinvestment, education, and employment.

ACCE Resources

  • Chambers Get Smart on Justice - Chamber Executive magazine (Spring 2016). Learn why and how chambers are addressing smart justice.
  • Fair Chance Hiring (webinar) - Tina Wirth from the JAX Chamber worked with businesses and nonprofit partners to launch “Project Open Door” in their region with Lori Vogel from Operation New Hope. Andy Johnston at the Grand Rapids Chamber works with Heather Garretson at Talent 2025 to increase the skilled labor pool in Western Michigan through fair chance hiring (Feb 2018).
  • Smart Justice and Fair Chance Hiring (Quickpoll) - Provides statistics of chamber involvement in smart justice reform efforts, including engaging businesses in fair chance hiring (June 2017).


Reentry & Employment: Fair Chance Hiring


Within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners are rearrested. Employment is a key factor in reducing recidivism. Many chambers are helping their members grow their talent pool by hiring people with criminal records.

Articles & Research

Chamber Examples

  • The Greenville Chamber of Commerce hosted a Workforce Forum and Re-entry Job Fair, where businesses learned the biggest issues facing businesses in hiring, highlighting the work being done by local agencies, and pushing the policy fixes they believe need to be made.
  • The Indy Chamber launched the ReEntry Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDi), which adresses the likely connection between entrepreneurship and reducing the rate of re-offending by providing technical business training and education to incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated individuals.
  • JAX Case Study: Project Open Door
  • Los Angeles Area Chamber
    • The LA Chamber conducted focus groups during March-June 2016 with 17 HR/Talent Acquisition Directors from trusted L.A. businesses to learn more about hiring practices regarding formerly incarcerated individuals and those that have criminal records
    • The Los Angeles Area Chamber was charged, as part of a taskforce co-chaired by a Chamber staff member, with developing a plan to launch public-private partnerships to help Prop 47-eligible—a California ballot initiative passed in November 2014 that reclassified several non-violent, non-serious felonies as misdemeanors—residents access employment and training services, mental health, healthcare, housing and substance abuse counseling. See the Report here.
    • See more Los Angeles Chamber Smart Justice Samples

Programs & Tools



Sentencing Reform

Sentencing and corrections reform has not been a traditional business issue, but in many states spending on corrections is one of the top line expenses. As stewards of taxpayer dollars, state and local governments must take a critical look at all spending and reevaluate the return on investment. Several states, including Oklahoma City, Kansas, Texas, Kentucky, and Arkansas, have passed sentencing and corrections reform in recent years to curb costs and maintain public safety.

Prevention & Diversion

  • Restorative Justice in U.S. Schools - Report by the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center which shows how restorative justice practices are implemented in schools, and lay the groundwork for future research, implementation, and policy (Feb 2016).


Rehabilitation: In-Custody Education & Job Training



Please email ead@acce.org to learn more about chamber-led Smart Justice opportunities.

Chamberpedia Home |Education and Workforce Development | Criminal Justice Reform

Page Created: 10/2/2017

Last Updated: 05/01/2018

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