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Impact on Employment and Recidivism

February 23, 2019 posted by Steve Brownstein

Impact on Employment and Recidivism
Reducing the Number of Available Jobs
Criminal convictions have after-effects that extend far beyond the direct punishment imposed in the
courtroom. These effects, commonly known as collateral consequences, disproportionately affect
people who are low income and black or Hispanic, who are also more likely to come into contact with
the justice system. These collateral consequences touch many facets of life, including voting, housing,
education, health, and—most relevant to this discussion—employment.
Finding a job is a tall order for many, but people with criminal records face unique challenges.
People who have been involved in the justice system struggle to obtain a driver’s license, own a reliable
means of transportation, acquire relatively stable housing, and maintain proper identification
documents. These significant obstacles prevent them from successfully re-entering the job market. The
issue is compounded when the number of available jobs becomes more limited because of the
proliferation of criminal background checks.
Local regulations and statutes play an important role in reducing the number of employment
opportunities for people with criminal records. State and municipal regulations imposing restrictions on
employment vary widely. A national repository of state-level data lists 45,142 local regulations that
present different collateral consequences for justice-involved people.
49 Notably, 62 percent of the
regulations restrict employment or limit eligibility for occupational licenses.
50 Interestingly, only 12
percent explicitly mention background checks as a requirement.
Background checks and licensing requirements that do not take crime types into account further
reduce employment opportunities. For example, 47 percent of local employment regulations restrict
people convicted of any felony from being hired, yet felonies run the gamut from low-level offenses to
serious crimes.
51 Reexamining whether all felony charges make people with criminal records unfit could
alleviate some employment burdens. Notably, regulations could focus on crimes of violence, including
“person offenses”—a type of crime considered to pose the highest risk to public safety. But only 16
percent of local exclusionary regulations specify “crimes of violence” instead of all felonies.
While drawing conclusions based upon this repository alone would be premature, a preliminary
review reveals discrepancies between the crimes committed and the type of job or license for which a
person can qualify. These regulations and discrepancies limit the number of jobs that would be 
accessible to people with criminal records, jobs that such people otherwise could qualify for and be able
to perform comparably to people without records

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