We recently talked with Justin Hein about his 5280 Fellowship Professional Project. Each year, Fellows are asked to examine one area of brokenness in their industry and create a project to address it. This year, Justin drafted a research report on fair chance hiring for individuals with a criminal background as part of his role as manager of support engineering at Checkr.
How did you decide on your professional project and topic?
Formerly incarcerated individuals, or those with a criminal record on their background, often struggle to find meaningful employment opportunities. Multiple studies support that this lack of employment is a key indicator of whether someone will return to prison. I believe that as the image bearers of a God who works, denying a person the ability to work solely based off of their history is both impeding their ability to fully live out the cultural mandate and antithetical to the mission of a Christ who has given and expects us to give abundant grace.
Why was this important to you?
During the 5280 Fellowship, we watched a video featuring Karla Nugent from Weifield Electric, and the video featured a Weifield employee who said "Weifield gave me a chance when no one would give me a chance. I have a criminal record, and Weifield made a way." At Checkr [my employer], that’s a sentiment that we have, as well. We try to hire 5% fair chance talent, and we are really deeply involved in this fair chance community and trying to give people a second chance or even a first chance. I felt like the church hasn’t really addressed this well; I know Christians who have started businesses, and I know Christians who work in human resources. We have influence here; we can actually bring people out from criminal history into work and give them meaningful employment.
How did your project take shape?
I interviewed three Christian leaders across government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations to gain perspective; I researched the business justification for fair-chance hiring for employment and lowering recidivism; I set up bi-weekly meetings with Checkr's Fair Chance Development Manager to identify additional information sources and connections, and I joined the BounceBack External Expansion committee at work to be in closer proximity to our Fair Chance leaders. Through this work, I compiled a 15-page report that starts with my story and experience learning about this issue, moves into a three-part dissection of the "parable of the wandering sheep," breaking down the various stages of engaging with our justice-involved neighbors, and concludes with a summary and call-to-action.
Who do you hope to impact?
I really hope that God allows me to influence Christian business leaders and individuals in the faith community who can minister to their congregants and say "Have you considered [fair chance hiring]? It’s great that you give to the church; can I suggest another way to bring influence to your community? Not just by tithing but by actually welcoming people in and taking some risk?”
God is still revealing my next steps here, I just knew in my heart that it felt like something I had to do. I had to write this, and it’s come together beautifully and I’m really proud. I love that I got the opportunity to talk to individuals who are already doing this work: Andy Magel, Dan Kaskubar, and Pamela Pilarcik. I’m proud of shining a light on the fact that these are the people who are out there doing the work. This isn’t just something in our community that should exist – it does exist.
Editor’s note: Justin’s report is available for download at https://justinhein.gumroad.com/l/grace-conscious-hiring.
Dustin previously served as the director of communications for Denver Institute of Faith & Work, with prior communications and marketing experience at the University of Colorado Boulder and Wycliffe Bible Translators. He holds an M.A. in Communication from the University of Colorado Denver and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida. He and his family attend Storyline Church in Arvada.