Astonishingly, "Almost 65 million Americans have some type of criminal record, either for an arrest or a conviction, according to a recent report by the National Employment Law Project, whose policy co-director, Maurice Emsellem, says that the figure is probably an underestimate." That's more than 21% of the US population, according to the 2010 Census. I'd never seen that figure calculated before.
The story adds that "Employers once had to physically search court records to uncover the background of people they were considering hiring. But the Internet and the proliferation of screening companies that perform background checks have made digging into a job applicant’s history both easy and inexpensive for prospective employers." The story also mentions recent research analyzing long-term re-offense rates, such as the analysis discussed on Grits here, citing:
several new studies by criminologists are beginning to turn that assumption on its head, providing a far more encouraging picture of actual risks posed to employers by those whose crimes lie well in the past. Called “redemption research,” the studies find that the risk that an ex-offender will be re-arrested decreases substantially over time, eventually becoming indistinguishable from that of someone of the same age with no record.RELATED: Licensing strictures boost ex-felon unemployment.
For first-time offenders, this point of “redemption” is reached 7 to 10 years after a conviction. For older first offenders, it comes significantly earlier. For some crimes and for offenders with multiple prior convictions, redemption takes considerably longer.
The studies have been cited in some lawsuits over criminal background checks. Taken collectively, they indicate that “it is no longer accurate to say that individuals with criminal records are always a higher risk than individuals without a criminal record,” said Shawn Bushway, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University at Albany, one of several researchers who have conducted redemption studies.