Irish Penal Reform Trust

US: Workers with Criminal Records

29th August 2018

The BBC has reported a significant attitude change from employers regarding to the hiring of persons with a criminal record. In a recent US survey, it was revealed that approximately half of all human resource professionals were willing to employ a person with a criminal record, with 80% of managers claiming ex-offenders were better or equal workers to those who had no record.

In 2006 in the UK, it was noted that over 90% of companies worried whether or not employing an ex-offender would pose a risk to staff, customers or publicity. However, many who had taken a risk noted positive experiences. Years later, under the urging of Richard Branson, UK based Virgin Trains began to employ ex-offenders – an experimental recruitment process which has been largely successful.

In the above mentioned recent US survey, carried out by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute, it was found that managers and HR professionals extended job offers to workers not just in order to give a second change or make the community a better place, but because they felt they were hiring the best candidate for the job. Regardless of this, 46% of HR professionals and 68% of managers reported that their application process required applicants to disclose criminal history. 73% of companies also admitted to conducting criminal history checks, as well as 50% requiring drug tests and 46% educational verification.

Upon knowing criminal history, professionals reported certain factors which would likely increase their willingness to hire individuals with criminal records, such as: 

  • Consistent work history
  • Employment references
  • Job training
  • Certificate of rehabilitation 

While this can create greater diversity in the workplace, the survey revealed that more than a quarter of managers are not sure whether their company has a formal policy, informal policy, or no policy at all regarding hiring individuals with criminal records.

Having to disclose previous convictions can be a barrier to securing employment, which is crucial to breaking the cycle of offending. IPRT has been campaigning for robust and extensive Spent Convictions legislation to be introduced in Ireland since 2007, so that certain convictions are not required to be disclosed after the passage of a certain amount of time. You can find out more about our work on the issue and about the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 here.

See more: 

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.

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