Unlocking Potential: Virginia’s Bonding Program and Work Opportunity Tax Credit for Businesses by Chadwick S. Dotson, Director, Virginia Department of Corrections
January 10th, 2024

In today’s dynamic business landscape, employers are increasingly recognizing the untapped potential within a diverse workforce. Incorporating justice-impacted individuals into your team offers a strategic advantage—these individuals not only demonstrate a higher job retention rate than the general population but also bring highly trained skills in high-demand trades, which boosts their workforce readiness. While serving state prison sentences, many individuals choose to complete job training courses and earn national/industry certifications in desired skills including construction trades, the food service industry, agribusiness, maintenance and other valued occupations. They also participate in prison work assignments learning effective job habits and employment soft skills such as teamwork, reliability and accountability.  By embracing the strategy of employing justice-impacted individuals, businesses can help meet their demand for workers by tapping a more resilient and prosperous employee pool.

In the Virginia Department of Corrections, we are committed to public safety and believe that gainful employment for inmates after release is an important component of achieving long lasting public safety.  Employing justice-impacted individuals is a win for businesses, a win for the individual and a win for Virginia’s communities. As a Commonwealth, we must continually explore avenues to enhance innovation and competitiveness in supporting businesses to meet employment demands for growth.  Initiatives like the Virginia Bonding Program and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) further support companies who hire individuals facing barriers, providing opportunities for fresh starts while building a skilled and dedicated workforce that contributes to overall success.

The Virginia Bonding Program is a valuable incentive for employers hiring individuals who may be perceived as high risk due to their criminal history. This program mitigates risks for businesses and fosters a more inclusive work environment. The no cost federal bonds provided through this program serve as a form of insurance for employers, guaranteeing against potential losses related to employee theft, dishonesty, or other infractions. It is worth noting that in over 12 years of issuing bonds throughout the Commonwealth, there has been only one claim. This fact is yet one more testament to the benefit of employing justice impacted individuals.

By participating in the Virginia Bonding Program, businesses gain access to a pool of motivated and skilled candidates who are determined to reintegrate into society through gainful employment and are proven to have above average job loyalty.[i] The program not only breaks down barriers to hiring but also plays a crucial role in reducing recidivism by providing individuals with an opportunity to build stable and productive lives. In Virginia, the Department of Corrections administers the Virginia Bonding Program and issues individual bonds to employers upon request.

Complementing the Virginia Bonding Program is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), a federal initiative that provides tax incentives to businesses hiring individuals from specific target groups, including those with criminal histories. The tax credit is a minimum of $1,200 and a maximum of $9,600. By leveraging the WOTC, businesses can reduce their federal tax liability, making it a financially attractive proposition to hire and retain employees who may face barriers to employment. The WOTC collateral benefits extend beyond tax credits, contributing to the overall economic and social well-being of local communities. When citizens are employed, thrive, care for their families, and pay taxes, the community at large benefits.   Businesses that employ justice impacted individuals demonstrate their commitment to contribute to a thriving local economy, community outreach, public safety, and local inclusion.

Utilizing the Virginia Bonding Program and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a strategic business decision that can benefit employers; it demonstrates a commitment to economic and community development. By providing opportunities for justice-impacted individuals, businesses benefit from motivated employees, increased productivity and increased overall employee pride in their company. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation found that 85 percent of human resources professionals reported justice-impacted individuals performed as well or better than workers without a record. The same study revealed that 66 percent of employees would be proud to work for a second chance employer.[ii]

The Virginia Department of Corrections’ commitment to public safety is unwavering. Employing justice-impacted individuals is a win for businesses, a win for individuals and a win for Virginia’s communities – a victory we can all celebrate.

For more information about the Virginia Bonding Program, contact Kia Parson, Virginia Bonding Program Coordinator, at virginia.bondingprogram@vadoc.virginia.gov. For more information about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, contact Priscilla Skinner, WOTC State Coordinator, at priscilla.skinner@vec.virginia.gov.

[i] Dylan  MinorMember of the Department of Managerial Economics & Decision Sciences faculty until 2018, and Nicola  PersicoJohn L. and Helen Kellogg Professor of Managerial Economics & Decision Sciences; Director of the Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics & Management; Professor of Weinberg Department of Economics (courtesy). “Should You Hire Someone with a Criminal Record?” Kellogg Insight, May 10, 2019. https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/should-you-hire-someone-with-a-criminal-record#:~:text=Put%20another%20way%2C%20the%20turnover,many%20options%20to%20work%20elsewhere.

[ii] Second Chance Business Coalition. (n.d.). THE BUSINESS CASE FOR SECOND CHANCE EMPLOYMENT. chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://brt-second-chance-production.s3.amazonaws.com/Updated-SCBC-Business-Case-Aug-2022.pdf