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Employment Outside Prison Walls

In October the U.S. Justice Department announce the early release of over 5,000 inmates from federal prisons. The odds are against those inmates as they leave prison and return to society. Their challenges range from substance abuse to lack of housing accommodation and unemployment. Despite these challenges, reentry into the workplace is a fact organizations can no longer ignore. The second chance act passed by congress in 2008, offers grants for support and services programs, including mentoring, and job training for those on probation. Meanwhile, reentry services to criminal offenders, and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) offered to employers, only solve part of the puzzle.

Workers with criminal convictions

Best Practices for Employers that Hire Workers with Criminal Convictions


While some states prohibit employers from asking about criminal backgrounds on applications, others do. As such, companies should review applications carefully and ask questions that would not screen out candidates unintentionally. Organizations who outsource background check services have to ensure the vendors’ information are correct. Background check vendors who do not update their information frequently with reliable source of data will only produce false record matches. Establish policies that disqualify prospective workers with criminal history based on the job requirements only. Someone with a theft conviction may not be a good fit for handling financial transactions, but has the skills to gain a position on the assembly line. To avoid any bias in decisions, companies are encouraged to engage a selection team to review candidates, rather than one person. Evidence on recidivism rates further suggests, individuals convicted of a crime are less likely to commit another offense as time lapse. Employers therefore, can offer skilled candidates with criminal backgrounds a chance to explain why they should be considered for employment. Most importantly, supervisors and managers should be trained on the adverse impact hiring policies may have on a particular protected group. Establishing appropriate background screening policies, and following best practices in hiring procedures are essential to keeping employers from legal pitfalls.

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