Hiring employees with criminal backgrounds: what you need to know. More than 650,000 people are released from prison each year and companies are committing to changing recruiting practices to include opportunities for those with criminal backgrounds.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently launched Getting Talent Back to Work, a national pledge for business leaders to commit to giving opportunities to qualified people with criminal backgrounds. It follows January’s passing of the First Step Act, which improves rehabilitation and re-entry opportunities for the more than 650,000 people released from prison each year.

“This is a group we, as business leaders, cannot afford to overlook as 1 in 3 adults in the United States currently has a criminal background,” said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., CEO of SHRM. “Not only is it the right thing to do—to give a deserving person a second chance—but it is becoming imperative as businesses continue to experience recruiting difficulty at an alarming rate.”

More than 80 percent of hiring managers indicated workers with a criminal background are a high-quality hire equal to or even more effective than those without a criminal history, according to research by SHRM and the Charles Koch Institute. More than 70 percent of those same hiring managers found extreme value hiring those with a criminal background because of diminished costs associated with hiring from within that population, as well as mitigating risk to effective operations.

Hiring managers are able to see beyond the organizational benefits of hiring people with a criminal background and point out larger societal benefits, like the opportunity to improve the community around them and the intrinsic value of giving people second chances at employment.

Associations and companies representing more than 60 percent of the U.S. workforce have already joined SHRM in taking the Getting Talent Back to Work pledge. Competition for talent is tight and employers can’t afford to overlook a third of the population because they have criminal backgrounds. A strong recruiting process will ensure only the most qualified candidates from a truly diverse pool, regardless of background, are considered for open positions.

“Our nation just took a major first step toward helping people who want an opportunity to transform their lives—now we’re pledging to take the next step,” said Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel of Koch Industries. “Koch is incredibly proud to offer second chances to qualified people with a criminal record and now, thanks to SHRM, more businesses will have the tools needed to hire these individuals. By taking this next step, we can create stronger families, a more robust workforce, and safer communities for all.”