parole officers and partnered with
job coaches at the local Workforce
Investment Board’s One-Stop
Career Center, and together we
developed a 12-month training and mentoring program.
Meanwhile, Tony kept his
promise to work hard and
stay out of trouble. He
bought an eye patch,
got along well with
his co-workers and
was promoted several
I was so moved by
Tony’s experience that
I became an advocate of offering second
chances. I got involved
with a program run by
the Nevada Department
of Corrections that gave
worthy first-time, nonvi-olent felony offenders an
alternative to incarceration.
It was run like a Marine
Boot Camp. The people who operated it became adept at changing offenders’ attitudes and outlooks. I started attending their
training and graduation ceremonies. Over time, I hired more
than 300 of the program’s alumni.
I would always advise managers, as well as this group of prospective employees, that a program like this takes a lot of hard
work. Helping these individuals successfully transition into the
workforce requires a lot of coaching and mentoring—which in
turn necessitates training for managers.
The program ran for eight years. Attrition was less than
15 percent, and recidivism was under 10 percent. We learned
that, given the right support and encouragement, individuals with criminal backgrounds could become just as successful as other applicants. It wasn’t always easy, but it was the
right thing to do.
The Work Continues
After retiring from the gaming industry, I joined the board of Hope
for Prisoners (H4P), a Las Vegas nonprofit that facilitates reintegration services for people exiting various segments of the judicial system. Its founder and CEO is an ex-offender-turned-minister who
has organized training and transitional support services for more
than 1,800 individuals. The goal is to make the rest of these people’s
lives the best of their lives.
H4P’s success is due in large part to its unique partnership
with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department: Officials
and officers participate
in training and mentor-
ing with a goal of ensur-
ing that graduates of
the program never re-
offend. This program
model has attracted
and H4P has begun
to train members of
and public safety
agencies across the
U.S. on how to help
als, families and
Today, many of
the program’s grad-
uates are becoming
mentors to others. More
than three-quarters have
found jobs, and the rate of
recidivism among them is 6
The national tide seems to be
turning as well. The federal government, more than half the states
and numerous cities have adopted so-called ban-the-box legislation, which
prohibits employers from asking candidates about criminal convictions during an initial employment screening.
Many company leaders who have hired people with criminal
histories have found that they consistently come to work, have
a positive attitude and don’t want to do anything to jeopardize
their efforts to successfully re-enter society.
I know from experience that it isn’t easy to bring forth a proposal for a program like this to senior management. Those we
report to often don’t want to take on the added work and risk,
and those who report to us are often fearful about being around
people with criminal backgrounds.
Take it from me—it’s worth it. We as HR professionals feel
rewarded when we can satisfy our professional responsibilities
while giving back to our communities. We can do both by providing meaningful opportunities to those who have earned a second chance.
When I started in HR, diversity was defined in terms of race,
gender and age. But my career has taught me that achieving real
diversity means affording the opportunity to work to everyone
who is ready, willing and able to do so.
Arte Nathan is president and COO of Strategic Development
Worldwide, an HR and organizational development firm. He divides
his time between Las Vegas and the Adirondack Mountains in upstate
New York. He served as chief human resources officer for Steve
Wynn’s gaming companies from 1983 to 2006.