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N.H. worker shortage makes job searches easier, pay higher for incarcerated people on work release

 A photo of a help wanted sign in Gorham, New Hampshire. Baristas and front of house workers are handwritten as a specific ask on the sign.
Alli Fam

Amid the worker shortage, incarcerated people on work release in New Hampshire are finding jobs a little faster and getting paid a bit more.

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Some incarcerated people in New Hampshire qualify for work release, which means they live in transitional housing units in Concord or Manchester, and work for private businesses or public agencies.

Before the pandemic, it took about two or three weeks for these workers to find a job. Now it's about a week or two, says Nick Duffy, who oversees transitional housing units for the Department of Corrections.

"I think the major difference we've seen pre-COVID and post-COVID is wages seem to have gone up," Duffy said. "I think pre-Covid we were looking at an average of $13 an hour, now it's $14.50, $15 an hour."

Duffy says the federal government has programs to help businesses of all sizes hire people on work release from prison.

There's the Federal Bonding Program, which would cover the first six months of employment at no cost to the applicant or the employer, and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which encourages employers to hire people convicted of felonies.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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