There is a big ballyhoo going on in California about the fact that most employment applications include a box to be checked if the applicant has ever been convicted of a felony.
The bleeding hearts say that this unfairly holds back felons who have paid their debt to society from gaining meaningful employment. They cry that these people’s rights are being trampled upon by hysterical, unforgiving, business owners and managers who have no sympathy for people who have made past mistakes.
The television news has told the stories of several ex-cons who have done their time and been rehabilitated, and claim that they can’t get good jobs, because every time an employer sees that little check mark in the box about being a felon, they are automatically passed over.
One case highlighted was that of a man who served six years for two home robberies, along with drug possession. He has been out of prison for fourteen years, has earned multiple firefighting and paramedic certifications, has not been in trouble with the law since his release, and yet, somebody else always gets the jobs he applies for.
There has been a push in California to bar potential employers from asking if an applicant has a felony conviction, and several cities and two counties now prohibit employers from asking about prior felony convictions.
California isn’t the only state where this has come up; currently New Mexico and Connecticut do not ask applicants for public sector jobs about any felony convictions in their past, and Massachusetts bans the question on any application form, be it for private or public jobs.
I’m sure that having to reveal a past felony conviction does has an adverse impact on some job seekers, and there is no question in my mind that there are people who have learned from their past experiences, but still suffer from them.
However, there is a flip side to that coin. Nationwide, there is a very high rate of recidivism for those who have served prison time. So not everybody does learn from their mistakes. In fact, a lot of criminals who do time never are rehabilitated, and they continue to break the law over and over again, until they go back behind bars again and again, in an endless cycle.
As an employer, don’t I have the right to protect my property, my employees, my customers, and my company from somebody with a criminal history? If I am going to hand somebody the keys to my shop, or my delivery truck, or maybe even my customer’s home, don’t I have a right to know if they have a criminal past? What about my rights? What about my customers rights?
An argument can be made that if an ex-con can find a good paying job, the chances of him (or her) re-offending is much lower. In fact, one study cited claims that the rate of recidivism by employed ex-convicts is reduced by as much as 50 percent.
Okay, but, what about that other 50% who do find employment, and still continue to commit crimes. Would you bet your business or your reputation on those kind of odds? Hell, I can do better than that in any casino in Las Vegas!
And another thing comes to mind, in the case of the fellow mentioned above, who served six years and is back out on the street. What about the victims of his two home robberies? Isn’t it possible that they are still suffering from the trauma caused by that criminal’s actions?
Has the passing of years erased the fear that they felt, or the sense of violation they had? What long term effects has that experience had on them, and maybe even their employment prospects? I wonder how many of them would be willing to hire somebody with a felony conviction, if they owned a business and had a job opening?
Should we, as a society, just forgive and forget, and hope for the best when an ex-con walks into our business looking for a job? Or should we have the right to know who is standing across the counter from us, asking to join our team? What do you think?
Tags: bleeding hearts, business owners, commit crimes, convicted of a felony, crime victims, criminals, drug possession, employers, ex-cons, felons, felony conviction, firefighting, gaining meaningful employment, home robberies, in trouble with the law, Las Vegas casino, paid their debt to society, paramedic, prison, public sector jobs, rate of recidivism, sense of violation, served prison time, television news