Are Felony Hiring Practices Fair?

Reentering the real world after spending time in prison can be difficult. Depending on the length of a sentence, an individual might find that the real world is wildly different and in many ways it is like starting over again completely. A successful reintroduction depends on finding a good paying job, which has become incredibly difficult in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Even large numbers of college graduates are moving home as a result of their inability to find a job.

With a felony on your record, finding any type of a sustainable job is nearly impossible.

For many of us, the idea of ex-convicts having difficulty finding a job is just an extension of their punishment. After all, they should have thought of these types of consequences before they committed a crime, right?

In a sense, maybe. It really depends on a person’s ideas about the purpose of prison. If this purpose is for those convicted to serve the allotted amount of time for the crimes they have committed and then return to society having learned a lesson, then those consequences should have a minimal impact after release especially if those felonies that have little or nothing to do with the position for which the person is applying.

In every job application there is always a small box that must be checked informing the employer whether or not the potential employee has committed a felony. Although many companies provide lines underneath this box for an explanation, a large number of them have a blanket exclusion policy already in place.

According to an article written by Rutgers University professor, Ann Buchholtz, this process has led to significant discrimination and large economic losses as a result of recidivism. Both problems have been brought up on a number of occasions in the courts and have often resulted in fines for large businesses.

Part of the reason for these large fines is because it is not legal for companies to have a complete blanket exclusion of people with felonies. The law wasn’t clearly defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission until about 2012. Companies are supposed to have a legitimate reason for not hiring certain employees. For instance, nobody expects a company dealing with sensitive personal information to hire a known hacker as a cyber-security professional or a child care facility to hire someone with a child-related felony.

However, there are a number of situations where companies, like Apple have raised some eyebrows. The company reportedly banned construction workers with felonies from working on the construction of their Plant 2 complex, citing fears that ex-convicts would increase the risk of security breaches. Apple fears that members of construction teams will implant devices that will allow competitors to spy and gain access to research and development project information.

California state senator, Mark Leno, questioned Apple’s decision and said, “There are certain positions where there is some nexus between the crime committed and the position offered. Construction does not appear to be one of those. In this situation, I would strongly suggest that this policy be changed.”

Hiring ex-convicts for positions in fields such as construction has been one way in which the state of California in particular has been working to cut its recidivism rate. Recidivism is a significant problem in the United States with nearly two thirds of released convicts ending up back in prison for either a parole violation or another criminal offense.

The vast majority of convicts who are released from prison are primarily interested in getting their lives back on track and readjusting to the outside world as quickly and easily as possible. Obtaining a steady job enables them to make a living, reduces the risk of increased felonies and increases their chances of success.