For millions of U.S. job applicants with a criminal record, just making it past the screening stage of the hiring process is a challenge. New research shows that could be the employer’s loss. Studies have found they were no more likely than other employees to be fired or written up for misconduct or poor performance. What’s more, they were actually promoted at a slightly higher rate and to higher ranks than those with clean criminal records. One explanation as to why relates to the additional scrutiny a felon undergoes to secure employment. When taking into account the nature of the crime and time since conviction, along with any compensating skills and experience, could result in the selection being of above average employees. The other possibility is that, having received a second chance of sorts, felons are more committed to their work and getting promoted given the scarcity of employment opportunities elsewhere.

However, the problem is employers would just as soon not hire ex-offenders. They see exaggerated potential for workplace violence or theft, negligent hiring liability, and public relations nightmares. Because current law places the burden on employers to evaluate the risk that a particular ex-offender poses on the job, but gives them few tools with which to make that evaluation, employers would rather err on the side of caution and turn ex-offenders away. Yet our current system of employer evaluations is based on exaggerated fears and leads to ex-offender unemployment, which is likely to make our communities less safe, rather than more. It really takes employers who are willing to let go of their biases in pursuit not only of equality but of the best candidates.

A study on employers’ attitudes toward hiring ex-felons suggests that many are ready for change. Only 14 percent of human-resources managers won’t consider hiring ex-offenders, the report commissioned by the Society of Human Resources Management and funded by the Charles Koch Instituted says. The biggest reason is simple: 82 percent of executives say their ex-offender hires have been at least as successful as their average hire. Other common motivations were to help build communities and give ex-offenders a second chance.

It is commonly known by experts in the field that employment is an incredibly important factor in stabilizing someone’s life after release from prison. People need to have the steady activity and responsibility in order to avoid falling back into the same behaviors that landed them in the system. More importantly, they need a steady paycheck to get themselves housing, food and basic necessities in order to survive on their own. High recidivism rates indirectly impact all of us — they inflate prison populations, which overflow correctional budgets that are paid for by taxpayers. So whether or not we care about the ex-offender population, we need to care about recidivism rates overall.

Employment after release from prison has a huge impact on recidivism rates, so caring about recidivism means caring about ex-offender employment.

Ex Cons and Equal Employment
Ex Cons and Equal Employment, CT, NY, MA, RI


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