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Research Shows It Makes Sense to Hire Individuals with Criminal Records

by Jo Ellen Knott

Rand, a nonprofit research organization, published a research brief on January 9, 2024, that proves hiring individuals with criminal records is not risky and has benefits for the employer, the individual seeking employment post-incarceration, and society.

The brief titled “Resetting the Record: The Facts on Hiring People with Criminal Histories” provides established facts on the realities of hiring people with criminal histories and offers valuable insights to hiring managers, policymakers, and the world at large. Drawing from at least eight sources of published research, the brief addresses concerns about hiring formerly justice-involved persons and suggests that not hiring them leads to missed opportunities on both sides.

The brief busts the myth that there are not many people with criminal records looking for work. The fact is nearly half the men aged 35 in the labor pool do have a criminal record (46 percent). That percentage varies only slightly by race and ethnicity. “Among 33-year-old women, the percentage of those looking for work in 2018 who had a conviction for a nontraffic offense was between 22 percent and 52 percent for White women,” according to the brief’s author. With a tight labor market, disqualifying half of the candidate pool is not good business. Research also indicates that a significant portion of these individuals become successful employees once given the opportunity.

Another misconception is the idea that once a person has a conviction he or she will reoffend while employed. It is a harmful misconception that is simply not true. The risk of reoffending decreases over time, with approximately 75 percent of individuals with a first conviction avoiding subsequent convictions within 10 years. This suggests that blanket judgments based solely on past convictions may not accurately reflect an individual’s potential for rehabilitation and success in the workforce.

When an employer assesses the risk of reoffending, there are much more reliable indicators to consider other than the type of crime committed. Factors such as time elapsed since the last conviction, the individual’s age, and the number of prior convictions are more predictive. Therefore, employers should adopt a refined and more balanced approach to evaluating candidates with criminal histories, considering multiple factors rather than focusing solely on the nature of past offenses.

Some factors to consider are job performance, training achievements, and testimonials. Those indicators provide a good understanding of an individual’s potential for success in a new job. Employers who prioritize these indicators may find that individuals with criminal records can be valuable assets to their business.

Society benefits when businesses hire former justice-involved individuals because those individuals have lower rates of reoffending, thus reducing the amount of taxpayer dollars directed towards maintaining jails and prisons. An excellent way to encourage businesses to hire people with criminal records is to offer wage subsidies and insurance.

The research brief suggests that employers can tap into a diverse talent pool while contributing to positive social outcomes by overcoming common misconceptions about the formerly incarcerated and adopting evidence-based hiring practices. Through informed decision-making and support from policymakers, hiring managers can help create a more inclusive workforce where individuals with criminal records are given the opportunity to create and sustain a new way of life.

Job seekers who have been justice-involved in the past are encouraged to share the Rand Research brief with prospective employers.   

 

Source: Rand

 

 

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