New Just Opportunity: Creating Fairer Employment Practice for Justice-Involved Young Adults

LeadersUp Just Opportunity Report

“I want to be given a fair chance, based on my abilities and not judged for my past mistakes that I made, so I kind of want to be given a clean slate so that I can show the world or businesses or whatever that I am capable of doing the right thing and being a person of integrity.”


By spending upwards of $80 billion each year to manage the world’s largest criminal justice system, America remains the global leader in incarceration. Though it is often difficult to estimate in real-time how many young adults actually interact with our robust criminal justice system, studies report that as many as 1 in 3 Americans will have acquired some form of criminal record in their lifetime. The implications of this pervasive trend on employment is far-reaching, as lifelong barriers to economic mobility for individuals and their families result in insurmountable levels of poverty and disconnection.

LeadersUp has partnered with forward-thinking employer partners to address this problem head-on, and we are able to showcase that young adults who are justice-involved are much more than how they appear on paper. Through our hiring fairs, which effectuate access, exposure, and a two-way exchange between employers and young adults, our focus is on the need to identify new sources of talent potential in order to meet our national labor shortage. LeadersUp has been on the cutting edge of connecting the dots for employers and justice-involved young adults to achieve mutually beneficial wins in employment.

We author this report to highlight how negative perception and bias impact those most susceptible to repeated and systematic interaction with the criminal justice system and the role it has on their lifelong employment (and education) outcomes.

Overwhelmingly, this has broad implications for our nation’s ability to compete effectively in a 21st century economy where there is a widening talent divide that continues to hurt businesses. Finally, though the conversation often begins with incarceration, this report highlights that arresting youth, especially youth of color, can lead to profound disconnection. This is where perception change must begin, and we invite employers to be part of a coalition to advance fair chance practices for this untapped source of talent potential.

Preview the key insights from the report below. Complete the form to download the full report.


According to a report, approximately 30% of all youth interviewed reported having been arrested at least once by the time they had reached 23 years of age. Upon a closer examination of the study, nearly half (49%) of all black men, and 40% of all males in the study, had experienced a non-traffic-related arrest prior to their 24th birthday.

Research conducted in New York City found that having a criminal record reduced the likelihood of a call back or job offer from employers by nearly 50%.

It is estimated that at the national level the gross national product is reduced between $78 billion and $87 billion by policies that prohibit the hiring of workers with criminal records (Trone Private Sector and Education Advisory Council, 2017).

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 32% of arrest records in the FBI database lack any corresponding court data that provides accurate case disposition information.

The average cost of the most expensive confinement option for juveniles was approximately $407.58 per day, or $148,767 per year, or more than 4X the total cost of attending a private college and 12X more expensive than attending a private high school. #JustOpportunity

Some data indicates that without mass incarceration—especially pronounced in California where LeadersUp is headquartered—the U.S. poverty rate would have dropped by 20% between 1980 and 2014 #JustOpportunity