It is difficult for people with criminal records to find employment. In the United States, an estimated 65 million adults have criminal records. This is one reason why prisoner re-entry is such a challenge. People with criminal records often face discrimination when applying for jobs. They may be less likely to get an interview or be offered a job, even if they are qualified. This can make it hard for them to support themselves and their families.
It can be frustrating trying to find a job, many employers require background checks as part of their hiring process, and a criminal record can make it difficult to get hired. There are some things you can do to improve your chances of getting hired, even with a criminal record. One thing you can do is research employers that are willing to hire people with criminal records. You can also look into programs that help people with criminal records find employment. A conviction in one’s past shouldn’t be a life sentence to joblessness.
Discrimination By Employers
An analysis of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) estimates that between 22 and 24 percent of the U.S. population has an arrest record. This share has likely increased in recent years as more people are arrested and fewer can have their records expunged or sealed. Although most arrests do not lead to a conviction, an arrest record itself can serve as a barrier to employment.
There is evidence that employers discriminate against job applicants with criminal records. A study that sent matched pairs of job applicants with and without criminal records to apply for entry-level jobs found that those with criminal records received 35 percent fewer callbacks from employers than those without criminal records. Another study found that employers were significantly less likely to offer jobs to applicants with criminal records, even when the applicants were otherwise identical in terms of their qualifications.
In addition to direct discrimination by employers, people with criminal records may face indirect discrimination. That is, they may be screened out by policies or practices that are not explicitly discriminatory but have a “disparate impact” on certain groups, including people of color and those with criminal records.
The Impact of Criminal Records on Employment Outcomes
Having a criminal record can make it difficult to get a job. A study of men released from prison in North Carolina found that, after six months, only 27 percent had found full-time employment. Another study found that most people with criminal records were unemployed a year after their release from prison.
People with criminal records also tend to earn less than those without criminal records. A study of young men in Chicago found that those with criminal records earned about 40 percent less than those without criminal records. This loss in earnings can have lasting effects, as it can make it difficult to save money and build assets.
The impact of criminal records on employment outcomes is particularly pronounced for black and Hispanic men. One study found that, among young black and Hispanic men in Chicago, those with criminal records were twice as likely to be unemployed as those without criminal records. This is likely due in part to discrimination by employers, who may be more likely to view black and Hispanic job applicants with criminal records as “threatening” or “dangerous.”
The impact of criminal records on employment outcomes extends beyond the individual level; it also affects families and communities. A study of fathers in Wisconsin found that those with criminal records were less likely to be employed and more likely to live in poverty than those without criminal records. This is important because employment and income are key determinants of child well-being. For example, research has shown that children whose fathers are unemployed are more likely to have behavior problems and to do poorly in school.
Focusing on Prisoner Re-Entry
There are several reasons why having a criminal record can be a barrier to employment:
- Employers may not want to hire someone with a criminal record because they think the person might steal from them or hurt other employees.
- Employers may worry that their customers or clients will not want to do business with someone who has a criminal record.
- Employers may think that people with criminal records are more likely to be disruptive or violent.
There are laws in the United States that protect people with criminal records from discrimination in employment. However, these laws are not always followed. In addition, many jobs are not covered by these laws.
People with criminal records can take steps to improve their chances of finding employment. They can:
- Start with companies that have policies in place specifically addressing the hiring of individuals with criminal records.
- Search for companies that have started or participated in programs like “ban the box,” which delays questions about criminal history until later in the hiring process.
- Focus on your skills and qualifications first and foremost, and be honest about your criminal history if and when it comes up.
- Seek out support from family and friends, as well as organizations that help those with criminal records transition back into society.
- Get their records expunged or sealed. This means that the record is no longer available to the public.
- Get a certificate of rehabilitation. This is a document that shows that the person has been rehabilitated and is unlikely to commit another crime.
- Get a pardon. This is the formal forgiveness of a crime.
If you have a criminal record, don’t let it discourage you from searching for a job. There are many employers out there who are willing to give people with criminal records a chance. Despite the challenges, it is important to remember that many people with criminal records can find employment and lead successful lives. With some research and perseverance, you can find a job that’s a good fit for you. Do not let your past define your future.