The growing Ban the Box movement believes that the incredible difficulty that people with a criminal record have in finding employment are bad for our society. Research into the problem shows that by blocking these people from working is holding our economy back, missing out on tax revenues, punishing innocent children, and worsening a host of social problems.
But, it’s not just society that is hurting. Employers who do not even consider people with criminal records run the risk of missing out on talent that could give them a competitive edge.
How Big is the Problem?
There are over 70 million people in the United States with a criminal record. Every year nearly 700,000 people come back to their communities after having been incarcerated.
Men with criminal records make up approximately 34% of the unemployment rate. Keeping these people out of the workforce reduces the gross national product by as much as $10 billion a year.
A 2011 study found that by employing just 100 formerly incarcerated persons in average wage jobs, this group would see lifetime earnings increase by $55 million, pay income tax contributions of $1.9 million, increased sales tax revenue by $770,000 and save the criminal justice system more than $2 million a year.
Most employers screen out anyone with a criminal record at the very start of the job application process as employers often view people with a criminal record as unnecessary risks.However, these risks are often not substantiated by facts. Many people who are unable to get jobs were never actually convicted of a crime. They were arrested, but were either acquitted or no charges were ever filed.
People with criminal records who find gainful employment are significantly less likely to have any further trouble with law enforcement or to go back to jail or prison.
Interestingly, 76% of all discrimination against people with criminal records happens at the time of the job application submission. But, if an employer is able to know the nature of the criminal record and offense, they are significantly more likely to hire the person, in some circumstances as high as 84% more likely.
The context matters a lot to employers, but most do not have a way to capture the context. Instead they make a blanket decision to pass on all candidates with a criminal record.
This is why the Ban the Box movement believes employers need to change their policies. They are missing out on great candidates they would otherwise hire because they fail to look at the context of the criminal record.
Understanding the Facts
Companies that have taken part in Ban the Box or Fair Chance Business pledges have reported great results. Companies such as Facebook, Coca-Cola, Koch Industries, PepsiCo, and Xerox have pledged to give individuals with criminal records a fair chance to participate in the American economy.
Studies have found that workers with criminal records tend to have less absenteeism and are more productive than people without criminal records.
Employers tend to avoid hiring people with criminal records because of perceived risks. But, the truth is employers are missing out on solid talent and dedicated workers by not giving people with criminal records a fair chance.