Under new guidance issued by the New York City Human Rights Commission, criminal background checks must now be the very last step in the hiring process.
Editor’s Note: Restorative Justice Week, November 20-27, sheds light on a “non-retributive approach to justice that emphasizes healing in victims, accountability of offenders, and the involvement of citizens in creating healthier, safer communities.” One of the best ways employers can help is to extend opportunities to people reentering the workforce after completing their sentences. This guest post from Ron Stefanski, who runs JobsForFelonsHub.com, explains how second chances benefit people with criminal records, the businesses that hire them, and the community at large.
One of the biggest issues facing the United States is the number of people who have criminal records.
According to the Brennan Center For Justice, as many Americans have criminal records as college diplomas. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2014 that the FBI has over 77 million people in its criminal database. Roughly 10,000 to 12,000 new names are added every day.
Quite simply, the numbers are staggering.
But what’s become even more concerning is the fact that most employers aren’t willing to give people who have criminal records a chance to earn a living.
Now I know, most organizations (rightfully so) want to protect their current employees from working with a dangerous person. But the fact is, many people who have even felony convictions aren’t dangerous. Many simply made a mistake and got caught.
The fundamental problem with our criminal justice system is that there isn’t enough focus on rehabilitation and reentry. People who have been convicted of a crime too often become outcasts in society. They simply aren’t given a second chance to succeed in their professional lives.
And without a job, they’re more likely to become repeat offenders.
How do I know?
Because I run a website, JobsForFelonsHub.com. Every month about 80,000 people visit the website, and roughly 60,000 of them are visiting for the first time. I get emails several times a week from people with felony records who are looking for job opportunities.
We’ve done our best to compile a list of jobs for people with felony convictions. But the truth is that these opportunities are few and far between.
I talk with these folks regularly. So I’d like to help you understand how valuable someone with a felony record can be to your organization.
1. They’ve Already Served Their Time
Many people forget that job candidates with records have already served their sentence. They committed a crime, were sentenced by a judge, served their prison term. In the eyes of the law, they were given a punishment for the crime and they did everything that was asked. Now most want to live a normal life. Instead of further punishing them, doesn’t it make more sense to allow them a chance to become a productive member of society? After all, it’s in everyone’s interest to help. A White House study from earlier this year found that not only does access to employment help people who have records, it also has “the potential to decrease recidivism and increase the economic viability of communities.”
2. They Work Extremely Hard
If you knew that the only way that you could survive is if you did well at your job, would you work really hard? Of course you would. And this is the exact situation that people who have records face. They understand that they don’t have a lot of opportunities in the job market and will do anything they can to go above and beyond expectations. Several recent studies confirm that people with criminal records perform as well or better than employees who don’t have records.
3. You’ll Genuinely Help Someone
People reentering the workforce after serving time are in a really dark and difficult place that most of us may never understand. Every day, they face with rejection in all facets of their life. Looking for a job? Looking for a place to live? Want to vote? In many cases, these rights have been stripped from them. By giving them a chance to work, you’re giving them a rare positive moment and opportunity.
4. They’re Loyal
Whether out of necessity or thankfulness, people who have a criminal record are extremely loyal employees. They know they have limited options when looking for work and they are incredibly appreciative of employers who are willing to give them that second chance. They’ve been told “no” so many times before. If you’re willing to take a chance with them, they’ll do everything they can to keep you happy and grow with the company. If you want to increase your retention, this pool of potential employees is a great place to look.
5. They May Be A Bargain
People who have a felony record may offer more productivity for comparatively lower wages. That’s not to say that companies should exploit this workforce. Keep in mind, though, that many people leaving prison have years of experience working before and during their time served. So you might actually find a candidate with more experience than the position calls for. Ultimately, candidates with felony convictions want jobs regardless of the wages. They’re looking for a chance to be accepted by a company and prove themselves through for full-time work, just like the rest of us. Employers who are willing to give someone a chance may be able to do so at a relatively low cost.
6. You May Qualify For A Tax Credit
What would your company do with an additional $1,200 to $9,600 just for hiring an employee? Or better yet, hiring multiple employees who entitle you to that same tax credit per hire? Many small business owners would really benefit from this tax break. Although it doesn’t apply in every scenario, a lot of companies can qualify for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC).
7. They Aren’t As Dangerous As You Think
When most of us hear the word “felony,” we think of heinous acts committed by hardened criminals thanks, in part, to popular culture depictions. But don’t believe everything you see on TV. Sure, there are some dangerous people in the reentry population. But for every one of those, there are roughly 1,000 others (many of whom have nonviolent convictions) who are just looking for a second chance.
Finding The Right Match
We’re doing everything we can to help through our website. We give people with felony records job information, housing information, legal representation assistance, and other resources.
But the one thing that we can’t do is force employers to give them a chance.
Some employers will read this and still insist on not hiring people who have records – particularly felony convictions. (Though they should consider that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission frowns on outright bans of people with criminal records.)
If you’re convinced that second chances matter, please visit our website and post a job on our job board, free. Every week we email these job postings to over 10,000 job seekers who have a felony conviction on their record.
I hope we can help you match your opportunity with the right person.
The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.