Have A Criminal Record & Want A Job? Look Elsewhere.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A man is brought to jail by a New York City Police Officer on July 10, 2012 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

Consider these statistics: 65 million people in the United States have some form of a criminal record. About 1 in 3 black men have had a felony conviction, and less than half of all job applicants with a criminal record are called back after a job interview.

While it is illegal for employers to reject applicants based solely on their criminal record (rather than considering it as one of many factors), the practice is widespread. Oftentimes people with a conviction or an incarceration on their record struggle to find any employment—and the difficulty they have underscores the significant economic, racial, and sociological issues in the workforce today.

So far 10 states have passed "Ban The Box" legislation, which prevents employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal records. Target, the nation's second largest retailer, also announced earlier this year they would stop asking the question.

Kai Wright, editor of Colorlines.com, recently wrote an article for The Nation called "Boxed In: How a Criminal Record Keeps You Unemployed For Life." He joins The Takeaway to discuss why our society should be interested in the employment of people with a criminal history and the positive effects it could have.


Katie Hiler and Kai Wright

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Alex Kapelman

Comments [9]

Bob from PGH PA

At what point do we as a society "stop" punishing a person for their crime and allow/help them get on with their lives?? or do we just keep them down and contribute to their not being able to turn their lives around and become a useful member of society...because if we don't help them then they just "do what they do"! I am an ex-felon and RSO and I have a college degree and 30+ years work experience, my crime has nothing to do with me now or how I perform my duties as an employee or the type of person I have become after 12 years of treatment, counseling and working hard not to re-victimize...

Aug. 26 2014 10:59 AM
Maikil Herndon from maryland

Yeah target. It's about!! They cannot say that they didn't deny people because of criminal history because I actually impressed the store manager in the interview told them about my past was given a conditional job offer, bought the red shirt for orientation, then called the day before and denied by corporate. Luckily I have a wonderful job now thanks but no thanks target!!

Dec. 06 2013 09:44 PM
Citizen?? Who Knows!!

Criminal records will stop individuals from obtaining employment. I see this all to well in the African American communities, where most minorities have some sort of criminal record. Sometimes it is not just the men who have them, women also of the minority ethnicity have criminal records too. Some are even mothers of smaller children. With that written, most would like to think that society who calls for some of the younger or older generations with criminal records to get their lives together...would be willing to give them a chance. Talk is cheap, but actually putting forth the effort to help those who want and need the help...is where the action lay.

I have a family member who has a criminal record for something that was less than $500 OVER 5 years prior. This person went back to school to get a good education, graduated TWICE from college with a Bachelors and Masters Degree and even volunteer to teach others. The overall results are that SHE (a female) is working in temp jobs and a lot of times without employment because NO ONE/ company will hire her.

Come on people, the same stores yall shop in to support, the same musicians yall buy music to support or the same damn political parties yall voted for or supported...ASK YOURSELVES WHAT ARE THEY REALLY DOING FOR YOU. ARE THEY TRULY HELPING THE CAUSE OR TALKING ABOUT IT??

Nov. 30 2013 05:13 PM
sam from southampton, PA

I just wanted to make a correction to something your guest said today. He mentioned that convicted felons can not receive federal student loans. This is not true. I myself am a recovering addict and convicted felon, and I receive federal and state grants, and though I dont accept them because I dont need to, I am also eligible for federal loans through FAFSA. As long as you were not convicted of a drug offense while enrolled in school and receiving federal financial aid, you are still eligible to receive it. If you were convicted while in school and receiving aid, you may still be able to get more aid as long as you can prove you have entered and completed an acceptable rehabilitation program.

I think the information about what felons can and cannot due is often incorrectly stated and prevents convicted felons from even trying certain things. For instance I was told I was not allowed to vote in PA. I later found out through my own research that that is not true and PA passed a low allowing convicted felons to vote several years ago. Had I not looked in to it myself I would not have participated in the last two national and local election cycles. Making a statement like, "felons are not allowed to receive federal loans," discourages people from applying for school and trying to better their lives, and for a convicted felon that can be a very important thing.

Nov. 14 2013 08:05 PM
Ed P. from Arlington, Texas

It's idiotic to think that, in a complex modern society, there won't be a sizable minority of people who, when faced with an inflamed situation requiring a split-second decision, will make bad decisions. So that that minority doesn't grow ever larger, either among the minority itself or via its children, it's important that those making bad and sometimes violent decisions be forgiven and re-integrated into society (or, as is frequently the case among the convicted, integrated in the first place).

Most criminals stop being criminals when they get married and have kids. A decent family-wage job is an important first step in the re-integration process. Perpetual condemnation serves no purpose.

Nov. 14 2013 01:04 PM

"65 million people in the United States have some form of a criminal record." That's more than 20% of the country. Does this include shoplifting? Minor offenses (e.g. graffiti, public drunkenness)committed by minors? Exceeding the speed limit? Could we get a more detailed definition of "criminal record"? Thanks.

Nov. 14 2013 12:55 PM

As a male negro, I encourage other male negroes to NOT break the law.

NOT breaking the law will INCREASE your chances of getting a job.

If you are a negro with a criminal record, you have LESS of a chance of getting hired than a white person with no criminal record or even a white person with a criminal record.

In other words, if you give an employer a reason not to hire you (i.e., you are a criminal), then you probably won't get hired.

Again, as a rule, don't acquire a criminal record. It will hinder your career ambitions.

Nov. 14 2013 10:04 AM
BK from Hoboken

Am I hearing this correctly? Two candidates- same qualifications but one has a criminal record. I am breaking the law
If I choose to hire someone who is not a criminal?!
Some ongoing punishments of ex-cons (especially the limitations on voting) may be wrong, but here is some advice: don't be a criminal. You are going to have a hard time finding sympathy that an ex-con is unemployed when there are hundreds of thousands of kids paying for college, working hard and getting a degree and then still can't find work.

Nov. 14 2013 09:51 AM
Oh shut up

Not hiring someone who has a criminal record is a "violation of the law"?

How about, don't break the law a a job seeker, and then we can attack the problem of racial bias in hiring.

In other words, who in this day and age is SHOCKED to learn that a criminal record hurts your chances of getting a job?

Silly biased report.


Nov. 14 2013 09:49 AM

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