More than 600,000 former state and federal prisoners reenter communities each year. Individuals with criminal records often have trouble finding employment and since they may be “starting over,” their resources are extremely limited. The jobs they find tend to be low-wage or temporary, making it difficult to achieve financial stability. The EITC and the CTC can provide additional support for eligible former prisoners; improving their ability to secure long-term employment and reducing the risk of recidivism. Income from jobs worked in prison does not count for the tax credits.
In addition, nearly three million children have a parent who is in a U.S. prison or jail. Tens of thousands of children stay with a relative or enter foster care when a parent is incarcerated. The EITC and CTC can provide these caregivers a much-needed financial boost.
- Legal aid offices
- Organizations that serve relatives of people who are incarcerate
1. Reach out to reentry-focused organizations.
Enlist state and local prisoner reentry programs, including rehabilitative programs and post-release transitional programs. These programs often provide job training and job placement assistance for former prisoners to secure employment upon their return to the community. Outreach campaigns can train staff working with prisoner reentry programs about the tax credits so that they can incorporate information into their services.
Encourage reentry advocacy groups and faith-based organizations to display tax credit posters in highly visible areas, such as laundry mats, gas stations and convenience stores. Groups can also host an event to highlight the support systems needed for former prisoners reentering society.
2. Partner with parole agencies and corrections officials.
Work with parole agencies and corrections officials to help ensure individuals who are approaching release from prison are aware of the EITC, CTC, and free tax filing assistance upon their reentry into the community. Some parole agencies help link parolees to job training programs. Encourage corrections officials to include tax credit information in financial education classes. Some new inmates may be eligible to claim these tax credits based on work completed prior to entering prison.
3. Educate local public defenders and legal aid office staff.
In addition to providing legal representation, such offices may appoint case managers to assist clients in finding community resources. These legal offices can provide information about the tax credits and where to find free tax filing assistance.
4. Ensure that relatives caring for children of a parent who is in prison are aware of their eligibility for the EITC and CTC.
Work with organizations that serve relatives of inmates. Some communities operate programs for children of incarcerated parents, such as emergency childcare, day care, and part-time summer camps. The National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated is a national organization that provides support for families of prisoners and has a directory of state, and local programs.
5. Let employers know about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC).
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) can reduce employers’ federal income tax liability by $2,400 to $9,600 for every qualified new worker hired from one of eight categories, including ex-felons. New employees must be hired within one year of the last date on which he or she was released from prison. Get additional information here.