Friday, April 29, 2011

Criminal record barrier to job seeking for 21% of Americans

Reports the New York Times, "The pool of Americans seeking jobs includes more people with criminal histories than ever before, a legacy in part of stiffer sentencing and increased enforcement for nonviolent crimes like drug offenses, criminal justice experts said. And each year, more than 700,000 people are released from state and federal prisons, a total that is expected to grow as states try to reduce the fiscal burden of their overcrowded penal institutions."

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.

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.
RELATED: Licensing strictures boost ex-felon unemployment.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was, for a time, prevented from volunteering at my kids' school because I wrote a bad check fifteen years ago. It was a Class C misdemeanor.

Even though I was barred from volunteering, the school would still take a check from me.

(The decision to ban me from volunteering was reversed about a year later when the district's security office changed leaders).

Audrey said...

These numbers are astonishing! The ratio given in recent PBS segment of "1 in 31 Americans under some form of corrections control" does not begin to reveal how big the "criminal background" issue is when speaking of those considered "employable". The recruiters and employers of America have to adjust their thinking if this is to remedied. The drain of this runaway justice system on society is unbelievable. While I know some are employed, I would guess the majority of these people don't show up in the unemployment statistics as they were likely not able to receive unemployment. And those statistics don't take into account those who fall off the the unemployment rolls once benefits are finished. I've heard economists say the unemployment rates are double what's being reported but this would suggest its even higher with 1 in 5 Americans having criminal backgrounds.

Chris said...

In Canada 98% of convicts can apply for and get a pardon after only 7 or 10 years from the date they completed the terms of that conviction.

A full pardon allows these folks to seek jobs they otherwise could not.

The promise of a full pardon is also a very powerful goal to work towards, keeping the convict focused on staying out of trouble.

More and more jobs require a criminal record check, it is becoming even more difficult for convicts to climb the ladder.

I strongly support a redemption period or pardon reform.

Anonymous said...

yep, I can testify this story is true. I'm currently looking for a job, and keep running into the "clean background" wall. I just have to keep searching. But if it's gonna be, it's up to me. The extra searching is another consequence of my past actions but I wish employers would realize they are missing out on many good employees. After all, if an ex-con is smart, he/she will realize how valuable their freedom is, and will do all they can to protect it.

rodsmith said...

i'd suggest the state do something ...and quick. wont' be much longer and the so-called ex-cons will outnumber the goodie-goodies of the country and at that point they will probably TAKE IT AWAY!

Thomas said...

It is for this very reason that so many have supported legislation that has been introduced that will offer a real second chance to some first time, non-violent ex-offenders. The first effort was by Congressman Charles Rangel who introduced a version of his "Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act" in every session of Congress from the 106th in the year 2000 up until the last version, H.R.1529 to the 111th Congress which just ended.

The most recent legislation was the very similar but much broader H.R.5492 introduced late in the summer of 2010 by Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee. Unfortunately, this legislation met the same fate as its predecessor H.R.1529. Both died in committee at the end of the 111th Congress.

Both of these pieces of legislation will allow certain first time non-violent ex-offenders the opportunity to apply to the original sentencing court for expunction of their record. Note that I said apply for "consideration". There are certain qualifications that must be met. While this bill applies only to Federal felony offenses it does include a provision providing incentives to states that follow suit and modify their expungement laws to follow the guidelines in the proposed legislation.

A group of supporters has been in contact with Congressman Cohen's office and have been assured by Mr. David Greengrass of his staff that the Congressman intends to re-introduce the bill. Members of the group have submitted a revision of the bill for the Congressman's consideration and are desirous that they be included in any re-introduction.

Anyone wishing to participate in this effort is more than welcome to join us at where the content of the bill and the proposed revision may be viewed.

Hook Em Horns said...

I like the idea of a post conviction pardon once all incarceration and court supervision is completed. Every first time offender deserves this opportunity.

Anonymous said...

As an ex-convict from back in the late 60s I have had a very hard time finding employment equal to my education - multiple university degrees. A few years ago I was screwed out of a government job I had held for 15 years when all the security crap came into vogue. They ran new background checks and I was fired even though my criminal past from years ago was made known at the time of employment. I lost my health insurance at the end of the month following getting fired. My wife had early stage cancer. With no insurance COBRA was the only option. With no money and a seriously ill wife I decided my only option was to become the criminal the government said I was. Long story short, I got the wife the medical procedure that saved her life but picked up a new case. I made enough money as a criminal to fix the wife and pay my legal fees and entire probation cost. A new felony means nothing to me after decades of trying to become employed and a contributing member of society.

My lawyer became aware I was disabled (Yes I worked even though disabled) and got me on lifelong 100% disability and Medicare. I do absolutely nothing but consume at the tax payers' expense. Well the tax payers got what they voted for. Elect some more tough on crime politicians. One day we will outnumber the non-felons and we will take over. I sure as hell will not forget how I was treated for decades. All you ex-cons don't forget to register to vote as soon as you are off paper in Texas!!! Ex-cons can vote in Texas as soon as they are off paper, no waiting period!!! Hell if all us ex-cons would vote together now we could cause a major shift in policy. We could keep the felony and they keep the jobs but we get free everything!!! The illegal s from down south get all kind of free stuff. I shouldn't have to pay for Medicare Gap insurance, I am as a good an illegal alien. I was stupid enough to work for decades and pay taxes but no more. We need a political action committee to represent us in Austin. Another thing most of my University was paid for by the taxpayers. So check into free school if you are an ex-con. You can make crime pay if you stay off the dope and have a good lawyer.

Best to all my fellow criminals
The O G

Prison Doc said...

In my work with re-entering felons, this is the #1 problem I see, for re-offending is much more likely among those who are unable to work. I don't know how to stop the problem--the main article in my local Chamber of Commerce magazine this month was promoting the use of inexpensive background checks and not hiring anyone with a positive record. I've written on this site before about our "developing unemployable underclass" and I don't have much hope except for the mass of positive backgrounds to eventually force a change in thinking.

Anonymous said...

Lets lock up all the good folks and release and get jobs for the criminals. Why diddn't we think of this earlier?

jonas cord said...

i try to help people with disabilities get jobs, many have criminal records, most class A and C misdemeanors. One lady made a mistake 10 years ago and it was rather insignificant, but nonetheless, she was found guilty of a class A misdemeanor. She paid her fines, returned the property with restitution, and 10 years later, still can't get a job. Her question to me was so critical and insightful, "When have i paid my debt to society? I paid everything back, i returned the property, i paid restitution. when is my debt to society paid?" Answers?

DEWEY said...

"For first-time offenders, this point of “redemption” is reached 7 to 10 years after a conviction."
Since I was convicted in 1984, released in 1989, got "off paper" in 2000, I HAVE BEEN REDEEMED !!! So why is it still difficult for me to find a job??

PirateFriedman said...

Good to know I have some leg-up on the competition.

Anonymous said...

i think it is really great (not) that Project RIO was the first thing eliminated by the state. I mean, we were there to help them gain interview techniques and learn how to fill out an application.As a former RIO specialist,I can guarantee that 9 out of every 10 offenders that came into my classroom did NOT know how to accurately complete a job application.Some had never seen a job application before. Of course, some didn't even know how to spell. A few asked me what DOB meant. (Date of birth!)Glad they will be standing next to me in the unemployment line. At least I can get the job before then. o wait,there are NO jobs out here to get. Guess I will wait in the food stamps line with them!

PirateFriedman said...

Anon 4:25, sometimes it ain't about getting the job. You can also hook up with older high income women.

Audrey said...

Anon 2:25 Thanks for sharing with us how Project RIO employees really feel about us. This attitude is why Project RIO is unsuccessful and has to go. Surprise!

Audrey said...

Woops! My above comment was directed at Anon 4:25. I guess this falls under the category of those who don't even know how to spell (or type without mistakes?). In my life before being falsely accused and wrongly convicted I hired and fired people with your attitude. There is something I did learn while I was incarcerated for three years...there are a whole lot of good people locked up. Many quite literate and reading a book a day. Furthermore, when we did our slave labor right along side each other, they were some of the best workers I've ever seen in my life. And I've been working since I was 16 yrs old...that makes fourty years of work. Making arrogent generalities about that population is what got you in the unemployment lines in my humble opinion.