Changes for Criminals Seeking Employment

Monday, July 13, 2009

While still on the campaign trail, one of the many promises Barack Obama made were he to be elected was to break down employment barriers for those with a criminal record.

According to report from SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, more than 80% of employers perform pre-employment background checks. With growing technological advances, tracking and tracing criminal records has become easier than ever.

  • In 2006, nearly 81 million criminal records were on file in the states, 74 million of which were in automated databases.

  • Another 14 million arrests are recorded every year.

Most employers are unwilling to hire an ex-offender. FCRA laws allow felony records to be reported from the 18th birthday on. Even if person who committed a felony crime at the age of 18 hasn't committed a crime for 20 years they are unlikely to find employment.

Most people would probably agree that there should be some point in time after which ex-offenders should not be handicapped in finding employment. The question is when, precisely, should this occur?

Currently, employers have no empirical guidance on when it might be considered safe to overlook a past criminal record when hiring an ex-offender for a particular job. Employers generally pick an arbitrary number of years for when the relevance of a criminal record should expire: five or 10 years, for example. It goes without saying that different types of employers will have different sensitivities about the potential employee’s criminal record. Those serving vulnerable populations like children and the elderly would be particularly sensitive to a prior record involving violence, while a bank hiring a teller would be particularly sensitive to property crimes. A hiring crew for a construction company might be far less sensitive to most prior records.

A huge study is being funded to test exactly when the turning point for criminal offenders exists. Though the study is ongoing, preliminary results are profound. Criminals have been found to significantly lower their probability to commit another crime, the probability can get as low as an average citizen who has never committed a crime.

The study can be found here.


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