Life After Felony Conviction How It Can Haunt You Getting Job
Georgia just became the latest state to ban the box. Republican Governor Nathan Deal signed an executive order on 23 February doing so because the policy will, in his words: “improve public safety, enhance workforce development, and provide increased state employment opportunities”. These policies are gaining momentum around the country because people are realizing how persistent joblessness translates into economic losses with far-reaching consequences. In 2008, the reduced job prospects of people with felony convictions cost the US economy between $57 and $65 bn in lost output. At the individual level, serving time reduces annual earnings for men by 40%, meaning families too often fall into a poverty trap.
(Marc Mauer, Thinking About Prison and Its Impact in the Twenty-First Century) In fact, the vast majority of laws and regulations concerning exoffender employment are exclusionary in nature, banning individuals with criminal records from entire industries, restricting licensing boards from granting occupational licenses to ex-offenders, and mandating employers perform criminal background checks on applicants for certain types of jobs. (Miriam J. Aukerman, The Somewhat Suspect Class) In reality, just one federal law limits an employer’s ability to discriminate against ex-offenders.
Perhaps more so than other industrialized nations, the United States has proven particularly inhospitable to ex-offenders, imposing a vast network of both formal and informal sanctions to ensure people with criminal records continue serving a life sentence long after their prison terms are complete. Advocating for the employment of ex-offenders is a delicate task. no matter the proposal, there are bound to be risks and rewards, winners and losers. But with more than sixty-five million Americans with criminal records,344 the time has come for comprehensive federal reform that empowers ex-offenders to turn their lives around through greater employment opportunities.
Johnathan J. Smith, Banning the Box but Keeping the Discrimination?: Disparate Impact and Employers’ Overreliance on Criminal Background Checks, 49 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV. 197, 211 (2014).
Sandra J. Mullings, Employment of Ex-Offenders: The Time Has Come for a True Antidiscrimination Statute, 64 SYRACUSE L. REV. 261, 261–62 (2014)
Joe LaRocca, Erase the Box, Endanger Customers, NAT’L RETAIL FED’N (July 27, 2011), Legislation in Louisiana
Marc Mauer, Thinking About Prison and Its Impact in the Twenty-First Century, 2 OHIO ST. J. CRIM. L. 607, 607 (2005); Walker Newell
Miriam J. Aukerman, The Somewhat Suspect Class: Towards a Constitutional Framework for Evaluating Occupational Restrictions Affecting People with Criminal Records, 7 J.L. SOC’Y 18, 24 (2005)