Fortune Society’s Castle III

More than 2 million New Yorkers have a criminal record, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. But all too often, their past remains a barrier to accessing economic opportunity, even after fulfilling their justice system obligations.

People with an arrest or conviction record face significant obstacles to securing employment, accessing education, and finding safe and affordable housing. That makes it challenging for them to build stable lives.

“Everyone deserves the dignity of a second chance,” said Jane Silverman, Executive Director of Community Development Real Estate at JPMorgan Chase. “If you think about someone who experienced domestic violence or addiction, factors leading to [their] incarceration can be complex, especially for those who didn’t have the resources they needed to succeed.”

Creating more second chances can reduce recidivism, build stronger communities and strengthen the economy. JPMorgan Chase is committed to helping create second chances in New York and nationwide by removing barriers to employment and economic opportunity through policy advocacy and our hiring practices, as well as partnerships like the Second Chance Business Coalition.

Cleaning the slate

Many individuals have the opportunity to expunge or seal their records, but do not pursue it because the process can be complicated, costly and time-consuming.

New York’s Clean Slate Act makes it easier for this population to access opportunities like housing and employment by automatically sealing certain conviction records after a waiting period with no additional convictions. The act passed last year with the firm’s support and takes effect in November 2024.

The change can have real impact: The New York City Comptroller’s office estimated more than half a million New York City residents would be eligible to have their record automatically sealed under the New York Clean Slate Act.

That could lead to a collective $2.4 billion increase in annual wages, according to the comptroller’s office. Statewide, the Brennan Center estimated New Yorkers’ conviction-related annual lost earnings at $12.6 billion.

JPMorgan Chase supports federal and state efforts to adopt Clean Slate legislation and make it easier for this “waiting workforce” to put its records behind them and find meaningful employment. With support from JPMorgan Chase, Clean Slate laws have passed in Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware, Colorado, Louisiana and New York. The firm is supporting similar efforts in Texas, Ohio, Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri and Oregon.

In addition to supporting policy reform, like Clean Slate legislation, JPMorgan Chase has hosted free expungement clinics since 2021. At the clinics, the firm’s pro-bono lawyers and legal aid organizations we work with help community members begin the expungement process.

A fair chance in hiring

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have some kind of arrest or conviction record, creating significant barriers to employment for millions of working-age adults, according to the Brennan Center. The cost of leaving this population on the sidelines of economic opportunity is borne by individuals, their families, communities and the economy.

JPMorgan Chase is working to remove some of the barriers to employment for people with records, beginning with our own hiring practices. In 2018, the firm “banned the box,” removing a question about criminal backgrounds from job applications. As a result, nearly 10% of JPMorgan Chase’s new hires in the U.S. have previous arrest or conviction records that don’t affect their roles—that’s more than 3,000 people in 2023.

JPMorgan Chase is also a founding member of the Second Chance Business Coalition, a group of 50 major employers committed to supporting second chance hiring and advancement practices. 

A SHRM survey showed 85% of HR professionals and 81% of business leaders believe workers with criminal records perform as well or better than workers without criminal records.

Still, a Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that of more than 50,000 people released from federal prisons, 33% found no employment during the four years after their release. And those who find work often earn reduced wages. A felony conviction reduces a person’s annual earnings about 20%, and misdemeanors can reduce earnings 15%, according to the Brennan Center. 

A home to build on

For the more than 600,000 people released from state and federal prisons each year, limited economic opportunity exacerbates another struggle: finding safe, affordable housing.

Lacking stable housing only makes it harder to navigate the difficult re-entry process and secure employment. People leaving incarceration face many obstacles in finding a safe, affordable place to live, from housing discrimination to the financial challenges of paying a security deposit, rent and fees shortly after release.

That’s especially true given two types of housing formerly incarcerated people may benefit from—housing affordable to extremely low-income renters and supportive housing—are in short supply in New York.

Developing housing designed to support people leaving incarceration can be challenging, especially when projects face opposition from community members. But some developers are finding ways to expand access, with financing from JPMorgan Chase’s Community Development Banking team.

Center City Courtyard—CSD Housing

When the 164-unit Center City Courtyard is completed by CSD Housing and HELP Development Corp. in 2025, it will create 95 new supportive housing units in Rochester, New York. Of those, 26 will be reserved for formerly incarcerated residents, 27 for individuals with substance abuse disorders and 42 for formerly homeless veterans. The remaining units will be set aside for renters earning at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI).

JPMorgan Chase provided a $36 million letter of credit to help finance the five-story building’s construction. Residents will have access to supportive services at the apartment building, as well as a courtyard, lounges and a fitness center.

Castle III—The Fortune Society

Fortune Society, based in Queens, New York, provides services to more than 11,000 people with incarceration histories each year, including assistance in securing housing. The organization offers a mix of long-term and transitional housing for formerly incarcerated people. It will be able to serve more residents, after breaking ground on a new development in June 2024.

Castle III, in East Harlem, will have 82 units, with 58 set aside as permanent supportive housing for formerly incarcerated people. Residents will have access to resources that can help them build lives in the community, such as physical and mental health services, substance use treatment and recovery support, family services, education and job training programs.

All Castle III’s rental units will be affordable to people making 30% to 60% of the AMI. JPMorgan Chase provided a $14.2 million construction loan to partially finance the 15-story building’s development.

“Fortune’s leadership and track record speak for themselves,” Silverman said. “We want to work together because of our shared missions and each of our track records and reputation in the industry.”

“These projects will be so much more than buildings for so many,” Silverman said. “They will be safe, stable and affordable places for people with a record to call home. They will be places of rebuilding, reintegrating and generating hope. It’s a first step in welcoming our neighbors back to our community.” 


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