In 2017, the Prison Fellowship, a nonprofit organization that advocates for justice reform, launched the first national Second Chance Month campaign to advocate on behalf of formerly incarcerated people looking to re-enter the workforce.
The campaign used storytelling, events, media and government resolutions to affirm that “people with a criminal record have the dignity and capacity to make important contributions to society.” The Prison Fellowship has continued to celebrate Second Chance Month since, and President Biden declared April Second Chance Month in March.
For R/GA global CMO Ashish Prashar, helping formerly incarcerated individuals enter into the workforce is personal.
He was sentenced to a year in prison at 17 years old, but when he was released, he was lucky to have a supportive family that leveraged their connections to land him a job at News Corp. as a journalist, he said.
“[The editor] never asked me what I did. Instead, he asked me what I wanted to do with my life,” Prashar said. “I was 19, and he led me into the world of journalism with no experience because [he] saw a kid who made an error. Because of him, my life transformed.”
Nearly 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record and face nearly 44,000 documented legal restrictions after being released, limiting access to education, jobs, housing, voting and other benefits. Black Americans are disproportionately impacted.
While in states like New York it is illegal to ask about criminal records, discrimination can still occur during through background checks, which reveal any past convictions.
“Often people who are formerly incarcerated don't have the same tools that as everyone else,” Prashar said. “Understand that [they] can have emotional and physical trauma that we could not understand.”
Prashar paid tribute to Second Chance month by sharing his own experience in a four-tweet thread.
When the prison door shut, my future shrank. I was a teenager who made a mistake, and was now sentenced to a year in prison. Little did I know that one day I'd be the global CMO for @RGA#SecondChanceMonth— Ashish Prashar (@Ash_Prashar) April 2, 2021
He ends the thread with a commitment to “make fresh starts happen” for other formerly incarcerated individuals and encourages them to apply to R/GA. Prashar also advocates for other companies to do the same, working with organizations including Just Leadership, Exodus Transitional Community and Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO).
“Rather than continue the dehumanization, we need to work together to dismantle the prison system and hire those people,” Prashar said. “We have so many great opportunities from junior to senior levels that people could be hired in right now. They should be open to everyone.”